Much like John Dewey, William H, Kilpatrick believed in progressive education, or as Kilpatrick referred to it, the project-based approach.
I may sound silly admitting this but I did not realize there was so much research behind project-based learning. As well, the popularity of it all around the world. I guess I did not ever correlate
Dewey’s idea of progressive education to project-based learning. After reflection, I can see how the two are closely connected. In saying that, Dewey’s (1938) idea of progressive education includes an “emphasize on experiment, experience, purposeful learning, freedom and other well-known concepts of progressive education….(p.3).”
Whereas, Katz and Chard (2013), define project-based learning as “an extended in-depth investigation of a topic, ideally one worthy of the child’s attention, time, and energy” (p.98). With that, you can see how they can be related. Katz and Chard (2013), also admit
that projects can be done as a class, in a small group, or even individually. Prior to reading this article, it was my belief and understanding that older grades should more so focus on the idea of project-based learning. I had not really thought of or knew the benefits of implementing project-based units in younger grades. Most of my teaching experience includes teaching grades ¾. OF course, I have engaged my students’ very small and very structured projects here and there, but nothing too large, or purely inquiry based. I think my worry has always been that students need, especially at age 3/4, much more guidance and instruction, or as Katz and Chard (2013) refer to is as, systematic instruction. As well, the time it takes to do project-based learning has always been a concern for me. I usually asked myself… What if this takes to long? What if it does not hit the outcome I need it to?
However, after reading the article, I think I need to allow my students to explore more on their own, and let THEM become more of a facilitator when it comes to project time in the classroom. As Katz and Chard(2013) put it, “the teacher’s role is more consultative than instructional. The teacher facilitates the progress of the work by guiding and monitoring the children’s progress” (p.99). As well, I learned about the many benefits of project-based learning that students can experience in terms of academically. Katz and Chard(2013) also talk about the theoretical rationale of project learning.
The four learning goals, knowledge, skill, dispositions, and feelings are all skills we need to work on in the classroom as it is. For example, for feelings, a sense of belonging is HUGE in a classroom. Who wants to be in a classroom where they don’t feel they belong. Project-based learning can help students achieve this goal, whereas one might not realize it can.
I also appreciated how this article describes how to implement a project approach, as well the phases the approach consists of. Most of the steps leading up to the project including selecting the topic solely depending on the child. Katz and Chards (2013) state that “many factors contribute to the appropriateness of a topic. Much depends on the characteristics of the particular group of children, the teacher’s knowledge, and experiences related to the topic of his or her interests, in it, the local resources available, the larger context of the school and community, and the various mixes of all these factors” (p.103). This is my favorite aspect of the project approach. Students are able to be part of the deciding factor of their learning! When reading this I was trying to figure out how this would look in a young elementary classroom. As I continued reading, I realized that there was an example of what the project approach looks like in a kindergarten room. The topic was the experience of buying shoes. The teacher still had to organize everything, however, children were still able to choose one of five groups, all relating to buying and owning a shoe. She even had an opportunity for the parents to come in. What a great idea. I am always looking for new ways to engage parents in
my students learning. After the project was completed, “the children became interested in new kinds of play. They wanted to explore the bus travel that had begun during the shoe project as some customers “came to town” to buy shoes using the local transit system” (p.111). After reading this, I definitely have a more clear picture of how I can use this type of learning in my grade 3 classroom.
Overall, I have a better understanding of the benefits of project-based learning. In the future, I am going to try to be less worried about systematic instruction (within reason), covering curricular outcomes, as well as the time it takes to complete a project. I will more optimistic about all the possibilities and doors that project-based learning can open for our students.
Katz, L., & Chard, S. (2013). The project approach: An introduction. In J.L. Roopnarine & J.E. Johnson (Eds.), Approaches to early childhood education. New York: Pearson.