Project work is a method that can provide a wide range of benefits to both teachers and students. First of all it offers a stimulating break from the routine and invigorates the relationship between students and teacher as they are actively involved in solving a practical task, doing some research that materialize in an end-product, the final result of any project work activity.
Project work can be carried out individually or in groups. The most appropriate way to form a group is according to the individual abilities of each student. A group should contain a mixed ability range, i.e. strong students can be “used” as mentors for the weaker ones. This must not be interpreted as a disadvantage for the strong students as it is known that we learn better by doing and by teaching others, thus strong students can serve as mentors to enhance their own learning, as well as helping their group-mates.
Advantages of using project work:
- allows students to become active participants in the learning process as a great part of the project is based on their own research and personal experience;
- helps students develop confidence in working with peers, as they work in groups and they help each other;
- produces a supportive working environment;
- allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the topic (travelling vocabulary);
- encourages students to ask questions and challenge assumptions within the group but also outside it;
- gives students the opportunity to experience a variety of roles, i.e. strong students can become mentors of weaker ones or they can exchange ideas within the group;
- can result in high quality group projects;
- allows students to benefit from the different perspectives and the expertise of their peers;
- provides students with skills that are important in the real world such as communication, cooperation, problem solving, negotiation and conflict resolution, leadership, communication and time management etc.
Assessment for Learning
Choosing a project work activity requires a greater organizational effort from the part of the teacher. If the activity is not minutely planned it can be very time-consuming and without substance. Therefore, if the teacher does not establish clear tasks and assessment criteria, as well as a well-defined plan, the activity can prove to be a real disaster.
Project work – example
The title of the project work activity was “Let’s travel around Europe!”, working in groups, the sixth grade students could choose among five countries in Europe (Romania, UK, France, Spain and Italy) according to their preferences, to their previous knowledge about the country or having in mind the fact that many students have family members who work in some of those countries and they have direct information about them.
In order to be as clear as possible, taking into consideration the age of the students, I have chosen to state the criteria under the form of some simple questions:
1. Where is this country situated?
2. What is the national flag of this country?
3. Why should a tourist visit the capital city of this country?
4. What can I visit in the rest of the country?
5. What are the main tourist attractions of this country?
6. What are the most beautiful natural landscapes?
7. What are the most important festivals, celebrations and traditions?
8. Imagine that you are visiting this country and you send a postcard to your family (or to a friend). What will you write about?
In a project work activity both process and product are highly important, thus the product as well as the processes involved in the project work are being assessed.
The teacher assesses the process of accomplishing the tasks, at different stages, stressing the idea of group cooperation. At the first stage, each student brings a first draft of his/her work, the teacher assesses it without making any corrections on the student’s paper. The teacher ticks the mistakes encountered on the student’s feedback sheet, thus giving him/her the chance to make a self-correction.
The next stage of the assessment process is concerned with the end-product of the project work activity and with its oral presentation.
The purpose of any teaching activity is to improve learning and for that assessment cannot be directed towards the end-product exclusively, but also to the students’ performance throughout the process of completion.
The ‘assessment for learning’ concept refers to the formative assessment; it is designed to provide directions for improvement and adjustment for individual students as well as for the whole class. Thus, the teacher should use errors as effective means of instruction being interpreted not as failure but as something that they still need to improve on.
The students need to be actively involved in the assessment process and in keeping records of their growth and achievement. The process of engaging in self-assessment, auto-correction and peer-correction increases students’ commitment to achieving educational goals.
The teacher needs to give effective feedback by showing ways to improve their skills and correct the errors. The students’ feedback form is designed to fulfill the requirements of the concept of assessment for learning.
The assessment for learning tries to make students independent learners that have the ability to seek out and gain new skills, new knowledge and new understandings. They are able to engage in self-reflection and to identify the next steps in their learning.
STUDENTS’ FEEDBACK FORM:
Advice to the student
Parts of the task are incomplete: look again at the instructions
The draft does not respect the instructions: look again at the instructions
This work does not appear to be yours, try to be more original
You should write some more ideas
You should give more description
The draft is too long
The draft is too short
You should check the organization of your work (paragraphs)
You need to add an introduction
You need to add a conclusion
Your work contains a lot of repetition
You need to check the grammar of your work
You should check the word order
You should use a more varied vocabulary
You should check you are using the correct words.
You should check the spelling of the words
You should check and improve the punctuation.