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27436244 - Volume 18 Number 4 Summer 2007 pp 530564...

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530 Volume 18 Number 4 Summer 2007 pp. 530–564 i Transporting Pedagogy: Implementing the Project Approach in Two First-Grade Classrooms Nancy B. Hertzog University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign In one first-grade classroom, children are planting beans in dif- ferent cups preparing to experiment with the amount of water and sun they will need to germinate. In another classroom, stu- dents are coloring in a worksheet on the life cycle of a seed. Both of these activities were completed in the same school. Both teachers were following the district-mandated curriculum for first grade that included a science unit on “Seeds.” Which one of these activities would one expect to find in a gifted program? Which activity allows for higher level thinking? Which activ- ity has a greater opportunity for displaying students’ interest in experimentation or the plant life cycle? Which activity fosters curiosity and the love of learning in young children? During the last 20 years, gifted education has promoted pedagogy that connects learning to students’ interests, provides opportunities for students to pursue topics and investigations that are meaningful to them, and encourages creative and criti- cal thinking. In sum, gifted education has been the forerunner of curricular reforms that have embraced higher level thinking skills, problem-based learning, and inquiry processes of learning. The participating teachers in this study implemented the type of
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Copyright © 2007 Prufrock Press, P.O. Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714 summary Hertzog, N. B. (2007). Transporting pedagogy: Implementing the project approach in two first-grade classrooms. Journal of Advanced Academics, 18, 530–564. This study explores how a project-based approach, based on gifted education pedagogy, was implemented in a public school program where the majority of students were from low-income families. The 2 first-grade teachers in this study were able to change their teaching practices to include more strategies commonly found in gifted programs such as brainstorming, creating surveys, and collecting data. The teach- ers also indicated a greater comfort level with a child-centered and project-based approach to curricular units over the course of the study. In addition, classroom observations indicated students were better behaved when engaged in project and small-group activities, as seen in classroom observations. This paper also highlights several challenges to implementing project-based approaches in the early childhood class- room. Teachers in this study perceived barriers to implementing the project approach that they had been taught in their professional devel- opment course. They felt constraints from their school context, as well as from their own beliefs and assumptions about their students. They often had difficulty assuming the role of facilitator and releasing con- trol of learning to the students. However, as the teachers in this study implemented the new approaches, they were able to overcome many
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