Interdisciplinarity, a ”Must” When Teaching English through Projects

After year 2000 the demands on educational results and didactic approaches have changed and the British Council publication “Innovations in learning technologies for English language teaching”, explains how the arrival of digital technologies in the classroom has helped learning process. Technology is now an important part of language learning throughout the world regardless of the learners’ level because computers are here in abundance in all their modern forms. Traditional computers can be found in labs, teachers and students walk around with laptops or tablet PCs, and all people have a mobile phone in their pockets.

Most of today’s greatest influential teachers embraced this method and analyse it from a theoretical and practical point of view. So Legutke and Thomas define project work as “a theme and task-centred mode of teaching and learning which results from a joint process of negotiation between all participants. It allows for a wide scope of self-determined action for both the individual and the small group of learners within a general framework of a plan which defines goals and procedures. Project learning realizes a dynamic balance between a process and a product orientation. Finally, it is experiential and holistic because it bridges dualism between body and mind, theory and practice.” American theoretician of the first half of the 20th century W. H. Kilpatrick defines project work as „hearty purposeful act”.

The WBL method exploits the means offered by the easy access to the internet and by this abundance of modern technology and it is a shift away from the traditional teacher-centred lessons, emphasizing long-term, student-centred learning activities that integrate real-world issues. This method also motivates students to engage in their own learning, to pursue their own interests, to look for their own answers to questions and to be responsible for their way of solving problems. WBL also provides opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, so students can integrate in their English language learning the content of other school subject. Teachers also can build up different relationships with their students, because they must fill various roles: coach, facilitator and co-learner and because today’s students refuse to respond to the old traditional inflexible student-teacher relationship. In WPBL classes teachers and students build, discuss, and negotiate the plans, the drafts, the prototypes and finished products, this way facilitating learning, providing opportunities for all people involved to build relationships not only within but also out of school premises. Their final product can be shared to the entire school, to other learners, students, parents, to the community, etc, getting the opportunity to be involved in global collaborative internet projects.
A project is an in-depth investigation done by an individual, a small group or by the whole class on a topic worth learning more about through completing the information they already have or finding answers to questions about a given topic. The goal of the project is to learn more without necessarily finding the right answer.

The WBL means a complex and flexible framework with features that characterize the teaching and learning interaction. Students can feel highly motivated, actively involved in their own learning and very responsible about the quality of their work and result if the teachers implement WBL successfully.

Another advantage for the students is the development of internet skills related such as reading, writing and researching, improving through this method their abilities of selecting, presenting and communicating information, and their organizational skills. The project can and must keep them responsible and self-motivated, since they work with a topic they have chosen. Students explore the web sites in advance, decide what they wish to investigate through brainstorming and make a mind map. Once the subtopic has been selected by the students or a group of students, they plan an appropriate timeline and activities that are presented to their teacher. Students can use Web for searching for information, for finding and talking to field experts and they can exchange ideas and information with each other all the time. The results can take form of a web page presentation, document files, etc. so the entire class can discuss or suggest future improvements. These activities encourage them to practice life skills such as problem solving, communications and collaborations, making decisions and using modern technology, improving student-student, student-teacher, student- course content relationships.

Web Project-based learning is centred on the learner and empowers learners to make in-depth investigations on worthy topics. The students become more autonomous as they create personally meaningful artifacts that are representations of their learning.

Problem-based learning is student-centred because students learn about a topic through the solving of problems and generally work in groups to solve the problem where, often, there isn’t just one correct answer. In short, “it empowers learners to conduct research, integrate theory and practice, and apply knowledge and skills to develop a viable solution to a defined problem”.

The difference between problem-based learning and project-based learning is about whom sets the learning goals: the teacher or the students. The students who complete problem-based learning set jointly the learning goals and outcomes with the teacher. In project-based learning the goals are set by the teacher and the teaching is quite structured. Project-based learning is often interdisciplinary and takes longer, whereas problem-based learning is more likely to be about a single topic and it spans on a shorter period.  “Project-based learning often involves authentic tasks that solve real-world problems while problem-based learning uses scenarios and cases that are perhaps less related to real life”. In the end, these methods are about active learning that it is an important part of the 21st Century classroom activities.

Implementing PBL into English classroom is a must in today school and the author and teacher Andrew Miller thinks that PBL is not about project but about the material and concepts learned through the projects.

Project Based Learning specialist Peggy Ertmer thinks that there are five key building components for developing and implementing PBL in the classroom. These five keys are:
1. Real world Connection – The teacher introduces to the students a real-world problem that applies in their everyday life he or she asks questions about the given topic and the students give answers and raise new questions.
2. Core to Learning – The step where the material is presented and learned. Based on the answers, the teacher requests his students to research their theories, to work in groups and to find the solution.
3. Structure Collaboration – The teacher must provide the guideline on how to work together. Students have the freedom of dividing the tests, finding the information and of a final presentation.
4. Student Driven – In PBL the teacher is more a facilitator and grants the necessary structure and guidelines to the students, but they are responsible for finding a solution and for presenting it to the rest of the class.
5. Multi-faceted Assessments – Although the teacher is a facilitator, his role remains a traditional one: to check in with his students to make sure that the project are progressing. Throughout the project, each group of students is observed and asked questions by the teacher, so they can prove they have understood their roles. The teacher questions them about their research and findings to determine whether they understand the material. All these inquiries are part of an assessment of students

1. Legutke, Michael and Thomas, Howard. Process and Experience in the Language Classroom. 1991. London: Longman, 1993.
2. Kilpatrick, W.H. (Ed.) (1933). The Educational Frontier. New York: Century Co., p. 162.


prof. Maria Mocanu

Liceul Tehnologic Dumitru Mangeron, Bacău (Bacău) , România
Profil iTeach:

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