Using Competition to Improve Students’ Learning in a Project-Based Learning Course

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Arantes do Amaral, J. A., Meister, I. P., Sperduti Lima, V., & Grinevicius Garbe, G. (2023). Using Competition to Improve Students’ Learning in a Project-Based Learning Course: The Systemic Impacts of the Data Science Olympics . Journal of Problem Based Learning in Higher Education, 11(3), 1–24.


In this article, we presented our findings regarding an online project-based learning course, delivered to 64 students from the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the second semester of 2021. The course had the goal of teaching Project Management by means of a competition (the Data Science Olympics). Our goal was to investigate the systemic impacts of the competition on learning. Data was collected by means of a questionnaire and from comments posted on the teams’ websites. We followed a convergent parallel mixed methods approach. We analyzed the data using a causal loop diagram to connect the insights gained with quantitative and qualitative results. Our findings were as follows: 1)The use of competition in a project-based learning centered course helped the students to develop project management and data science skills, and fostered metacognition and knowledge sharing opportunities. 2)The Data Science Olympics increased the students’ intrinsic motivation to learn. 3)The project-based teaching practices (scaffolding the students’ learning, giving meaningful feedback to the students, and managing the activities) facilitated the students' learning. 4)The problems the students faced throughout the Project (dropouts, communication problems, lack of commitment, difficulty scheduling online team meetings) impacted negatively on the students' motivation.


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