Date of Conferral







Darci J. Harland


Project-based learning (PBL) is an instructional strategy used to develop higher order thinking skills (HOTS) with a range of student populations. Although all students need to build HOTS for success in the 21st century, PBL studies with deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students were nearly absent; therefore, it was unknown how PBL could be used to develop HOTS with this population. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the lived experiences of teachers of the deaf using PBL to build HOTS with DHH students in the dimensions of pedagogy, product, and process. A self-designed conceptual framework called project-based learning and innovation for teachers and students (PB-LIFTS) was used to discover HOTS in PBL units. The central research question explored the lived experiences of teachers of the deaf designing and implementing PBL to build HOTS with DHH students. A sample of 4 licensed high school teachers of the deaf with a high level of comfort using PBL and at least 5 years of experience participated in this study. Data came from multiple interviews, learning objectives, and e-mailed journal responses. Following procedures for interpretative phenomenological analysis, emergent themes were applied in PB-LIFTS to reveal levels of HOTS that were shared with the teachers to gain their perspectives. Results showed that the teachers used social constructive pedagogy to build HOTS using PBL with academically diverse deaf high school students. This study may promote social change in deaf education by encouraging the adoption of PBL strategies to develop HOTS needed for success beyond high school. In addition, this study may support future research related to assessing HOTS in PBL using PB-LIFTS which could be flexibly adapted and applied in units across disciplines.