models, and taking field trips with the goal of determining the best kind of new bridge to build over the Ohio River. Students conduct research using a variety of sources, from the Internet to interviews with experts. They work on the project over an extended period of time — six weeks or more — because of the in-depth nature of the investigation. Like adults trying to solve a problem, they don't restrict themselves to one discipline but delve into math, literature, history, science — whatever is appropriate to the study. "One of the major advantages of project work is that it makes school more like real life," says Sylvia Chard, professor of elementary education at the University of Alberta and co-author of Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach , a popular guide for teachers and others on project learning. "In real life, we don't spend several hours at a time listening to authorities who know more than we do and who tell us exactly what to do and how to do it," she says. "We need to be able to ask questions of a person we're learning from. We need to be able to link what the person is telling us with what we already know. And we need to be able to bring what we already know and experiences we've had that are relevant to the topic to the front of our minds and say something about them." Chard doesn't like the term project- based because she says it implies a focus on projects to the exclusion of other legitimate learning methods. "Younger children will play and explore as well as engage in projects," says the The Project Approach Web site. "Older children's project work will complement the systematic instruction in the program." In-Depth Investigation Unit 3 - Page 154
She defines project learning as an "in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children's attention and effort." She advocates a three-phased approach: Phase 1 involves an initial discussion of a project topic, including children's firsthand experiences related to the topic. Phase 2 involves fieldwork, sessions with experts, and various aspects of gathering information, reading, writing, drawing, and computing. Phase 3 is the presentation of the project to an audience. The NAS' Alberts says one reason he believes project-based learning hasn't caught on more is that parents weren't taught that way. But many parents who witness the transformation of their children become ardent converts. "There's a visible hunger to learn," says Ingo Schiller, parent of two children at Newsome Park Elementary in Virginia. "When we sit down to dinner, the kids talk nonstop for 20 minutes, telling us what they did and what they saw. This is literally every day!" And conversations with teachers who use project-based learning in a meaningful way tend to use the same words: "excitement," "engagement," "enthusiasm." A Host of Benefits Enthusiasm alone isn't enough of a justification to advocate project-based learning, but the results of that enthusiasm argue in its favor, say educators and researchers who have studied or used project-based learning.
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 201 pages?
- Fall '10
- Educational Psychology, 21st century, Learning Guide, Learning Sciences International