From Changing Classroom Practice to Include the Project Approach by Ann-Marie Clark
Annotation: "Some Challenges to Implementing the Project Approach" discusses the difficulties that teachers may face while using projects in their classroom practice. Planning is stated as the main challenge. The author explains why planning project work can be difficult and states the difference between teachers new to the Project Approach and experienced practitioners. Some recommendations on planning and carrying out projects are also given.
Unlike more traditional models of direct instruction, which may suggest a teacher's script, or offer a list of activities and worksheets for a typical plan-teach-review-test format, there is "no single way to incorporate project work into a curriculum or teaching style "(Katz & Chard, 2000). It is up to each teacher to decide how much of the school day will be devoted to project work and how it best fits into the context of classroom constraints and the teacher's preferences.
Projects are easier for some teachers to implement than for others for a variety of reasons. These individual differences may be related to teachers 'prior teaching philosophies, practices, and experiences, or to institutional, collegial, or administrative contexts in which they work.
Furthermore, even though project work is organized around a three-phase structure of investigation, representation, and culmination, there are no specific directions to use such as a teacher's manual or a guide for writing lesson plans. If a teacher uses the language associated with the typical lesson plan required for teacher-generated activities, this practice may serve as an indication that she has not yet developed a full understanding of the processes involved in project work.
The preliminary planning that accompanies much successful project work involves the preparation of the mind of the teacher for the possibilities that could arise from the children's study of the topic. It is not the kind of objectives-driven planning that characterizes much direct instruction, where the objectives can be operationalized and pre-specified in considerable detail. Instead, planning for project work involves the imaginative anticipation of the prior experience level of interest that might reasonably be expected from a given class of children.
For teachers new to the Project Approach, thinking about how to plan for a project to unfold may seem difficult. The role of the teacher can appear to be obscure to the novice. Not only must the teacher become an imaginative anticipator of the work to be accomplished, but she must also learn to become a facilitator of the understandings to be gained by the children.
More-experienced practitioners know how to foster children's dispositions to wonder and ask questions, how to nurture children's dispositions to take initiative in planning and carrying out inquiries, and how to negotiate with children so that each child takes responsibility for what she or he does and learns. However, learning how to conduct this type of project work is a developmental process for both the teacher and the children. The teacher must find ways to encourage the children to become independent workers by having them decide what they will attempt to accomplish each day during the time set aside for project work. The teacher also must plan for where her assistance is most needed for the day.
Teachers with more experience with using the Project Approach typically report that projects take on a life of their own. Perhaps this is a sign that they have come to respect the children's interests, motivation, and curiosity-that they recognize the value of engagement for children's learning. Perhaps this is a testament to their skillfulness in guiding children through meaningful investigations and representations during the course of the project. Certainly, skillful guidance on the part of the teacher indicates a deeper understanding of the dynamic processes involved in good project work. However, how does a teacher learn how to conduct this kind of good project work?
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