Main Article Content


Many researchers and institutions in the field of education are striving to align the different levels of the education system to the growing needs and requirements of society. A meaningful part of these attempts has been concentrated on a systematic introduction of the competence-based education approach. Some countries adopted it and reshaped the school systems accordingly. Introduced in Italian secondary schools in 2010 by the Ministry for Education, the competence-based approach has been only partially adopted in classes. Our research aims at investigating solutions to support its adoption for teachers in Italian secondary schools. As student projects are frequently proposed in computer science classes, the project-based learning method was identified as a potential solution and investigated in an empirical study including two parts: (a) An action research training course on project-based learning; (b) A collective case-study involving six student projects. The empirical study highlighted some critical issues to be dealt with to foster the adoption of the competence-based teaching approach. Results confirmed a weak commitment of teachers to the competence-based approach, but also that exploiting student projects towards the project-based learning method may encourage teachers to adopt a competence-based approach, provided the projects are carefully designed and subsequently managed. To this end the paper offers a schema to check if a project is compliant with the project-based learning approach and some guidelines to support teachers in their activity during the student projects.


Didactics Competence-Based Education Project-Based Learning Active Learning Teaching Method Student Project Key Competence Subject-Specific Competence

Article Details

How to Cite
Giaffredo, S., Mich, L., & Ronchetti, M. (2022). The project-based method to promote competence-based education. A case study in teaching computer science in Italian secondary school. Journal of E-Learning and Knowledge Society, 18(1), 107-115.


  1. Barron B., Schwartz D., Vye N., Moore A., Petrosino A., Zech L., Bransford J. (1998). Doing with Understanding: Lessons from Research on Problem and Project-Based Learning. J. Learn. Sci., 7(3), 271–311. Doi: 10.1207/s15327809jls0703&4_2
  2. Bottani N. (2007). L’istruzione scolastica a un bivio di fronte alla voga travolgente e stravolgente delle competenze (in Italian). In D. S. Rychen, L. Hersh Salganik (Eds.) Agire le competenze chiave. Scenari e strategie per il benessere consapevole, Franco Angeli.
  3. Chiozzi, G., Giaffredo, S., & Ronchetti, M. (2015). A framework to support the introduction of teaching by competence. In Proc. of Global Learn (pp. 474–480).
  4. Cohen L. (2007). Experiments, quasi-experiments, single-case research and meta-analysis. In L. Cohen, L. Manion L., K. Morrison (Eds) Research methods in education (6th eds).
  5. Council of the European Union (2018). Council Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  6. Delamare Le Deist F., Winterton J. (2005). What is competence?, Human resource Dev. Int., 8(1), 27-46.
  7. European Parliament & Council of the European Union (2006). Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning. Official Journal of the EU (2006/962/EC), L 394/10-L 394/18.
  8. Eurydice (2012). Developing key competences at school in Europe: Challenges and opportunities for policy. European Commission. Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  9. Giaffredo, S., Mich, L., & Ronchetti, M. (2015). Computer Science Competences in Italian Secondary Schools: A Preliminary Study. In Proc. of Int. Conf. on Informatics in Schools: Situation, Evolution and Perspectives ISSEP (pp. 4–12). Ljubljana (Slovenia). Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  10. Giaffredo S., Mich L., Ronchetti M. (2017), From the project-based learning method towards the competence-based approach to education. In Proc. of the 6th Computer Science Education Research Conf. (CSERC ’17) (pp. 56–65). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. Doi: 10.1145/3162087.3162099
  11. Giaffredo, S., Mich, L., & Ronchetti, M. (2018) Student projects towards project-based learning for teaching computer science in secondary schools. Proc. DIDAMATICA 2018 (221-230).
  12. Giaffredo, S. (2018), PhD Thesis, Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  13. ThePBLmethod4aCBapproach-TeachingCSinItalianSecondarySchools.pdf
  14. Hazzan O., Lapidot T., Ragonis N. (2011). Guide to Teaching Computer Science. An Activity-Based Approach. Springer.
  15. IEEE, Standard Association (2021). P1484.20.2 Recommended Practice for Defining Competencies, Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  16. Kilpatrick W. H. (1918), The project method: the use of the purposeful act in the educative process. Teachers College Record, 16(4), 319–335.
  17. Kingston, S. (2018). Project Based Learning & Student Achievement: What Does the Research Tell Us? PBL Evidence Matters. 1(1), 1-11. Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  18. Köller O., Parchmann I. (2012). Competencies: The German notion of learning outcomes. Making it tangible: Learning outcomes in science education, 151-168.
  19. Linck B., Ohrndorf L., Schubert S., Stechert P., Magenheim J., Nelles W., Schaper N. (2013, March). Competence model for informatics modelling and system comprehension. In 2013 IEEE Glob. Eng. Educ. Conf. (EDUCON) (pp. 85-93). IEEE. Doi: 10.1109/EduCon.2013.6530090
  20. Magenheim J., Neugebauer J., Stechert P., Ohrndorf L., Linck B., Schubert S., Schaper N. (2013, February). Competence measurement and informatics standards in secondary education. In Int. Conf. on Informatics in Schools: Situation, Evolution and Perspectives (pp. 159-170). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  21. Micheuz P. (2016). Curriculum Issues, Competence Models and Informatics Education in Austrian Secondary Schools: Challenges Now and Ahead. In Int. Conf. on Stakeholders and Information Technology in Education (pp. 26-36). Springer, Cham. Doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-54687-2_3
  22. MIUR (2010). La Riforma della Scuola Secondaria Superiore (in Italian). Last retrieved on 5/6/22, from
  23. MIUR (2012a). Direttiva n. 4 del 16/01/2012: Adozione delle Linee guida per il passaggio al nuovo ordinamento degli Istituti tecnici - secondo biennio e quinto anno (2012). Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  24. MIUR (2012b). Direttiva n. 5 del 16/01/2012: Adozione delle Linee guida per il passaggio al nuovo ordinamento degli Istituti professionali - Secondo biennio e quinto anno (2012). Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  25. Mulder M. (2017). Competence-based vocational and professional education. M. Mulder (Ed.). Dordrecht, Springer. Doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-41713-4
  26. OECD – Organisation for Economic, Cooperation and Development (2005). Definition and selection of key competencies: executive summary. OEDC – Paris (France). Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  27. Paul Hamlyn Foundation (2012). The Teacher’s Guide to Project-based Learning: Work that matters.
  28. Prince M. J., Felder R. M. (2006). Inductive teaching and learning methods: Definitions, comparisons, and research bases. J. of Engin. Educ., 95(2), 123-138.
  29. Ronchetti M., Valerio A. (2016), OPLÀ, a tool for helping teachers with problem-based learning and competence-based education. In INTED2016 Proceedings (pp. 4509–4517). Valencia, Spain. Doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.2126
  30. Ronchetti, M. (2017). Competence-based Education in the Italian Context: State of Affairs and Overcoming Difficulties. In M. Mulder (Ed.), Competence-based vocational and professional education bridging the worlds of work and education (pp. 407–427). Springer, Cham. Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  31. Thomas J. W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning. Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  32. Weinert F. E. (1999). Definition and selection of competencies: Concepts of competence. Munich: Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research. Last retrieved on 5/6/22 from
  33. Winterton J. (2009). Competence across Europe: highest common factor or lowest common denominator? J. Eur. Ind. Train., 33, 681–700.

DB Error: Unknown column 'Array' in 'where clause'