(image by Juan Pablo Bravo, from The Noun Project)
Lately I have seen many schools that presume of working only by projects. I use this methodology (or method, we won’t go into it now) very often. I am in a school where students do projects for a couple of hours each day approximately.
But I don’t understand this habit of saying that everything is done by projects. To begin with, when you scratch a little, questions and shuffle projects (if you have them open), you realize that some parts of what they call projects we call laboratory practices, manipulative math exercises, classical play performances…. a project, as I understand them, has a final product or a clear guiding question and all the research and activities that students do are aimed at getting the product or answering the question.
There are parts of the curriculum that are much better done by projects, that’s for sure! And it has to be said loud and clear. There are skills that can hardly be learned otherwise. But let’s be honest, there are also other parts of the curriculum, other competencies and contents that are difficult to learn by projects.
We give concrete examples. Let’s take a technological competition. Design and build simple technological objects that solve a problem and evaluate the suitability of the result. I have no doubt that this competition will be achieved much more easily with a project work where the final product is this object. Logically, according to the object we choose, we can work with contents also included in the curriculum: Materials, objects and technologies, Electricity, Machines and mechanisms…
But let’s take another concrete example. Let us jump, for example, to the artistic field. Perform vocal and instrumental music with the basic elements and resources of musical language. I’m sure we can prepare a project for them to play music. But, first, the students will have to learn the musical language. In my opinion, musical language cannot be learned with one project or two. There is constancy, gradual introduction of different structures…. Will someone justify to me that this can be done by projects? I’m sure you will. But I can think of a few much better methodological options to do this in more depth.
I could follow with other examples. I have worked on more than one occasion on mathematical fractions with students. Calculate the lowest common denominator, the highest common factor… Honestly, I can think a project where, once these concepts are known, they can be applied. But to learn them, I have always used manipulative and computer tools without developing any project (without having a final product or a guide question to answer).
Perhaps the problem is the definition of the project. Perhaps the problem is mine that I understand by project something different than these centers. But honestly, I prefer a center that uses many different methodologies. A centre that, when appropriate, because it is considered that this way the learning is deeper and more significant, works by project. When it’s convenient, works for challenges. When it’s convenient, gamifies. When it’s convenient, uses the Flipped classroom. When it’s convenient, works with learning by problems. When it’s convenient, the students takes tests. When it’s convenient, the students does laboratory work. When it is convenient….
As I said in the title, let us use various methodologies, please. Methodologies always at the service of learning.