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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.
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