Project-Based Learning1An Analysis of: “The Negotiated Project Approach: Project-Based Learning without Leaving the Standards Behind” Mitchell, S., Foulger, T., Wetzel, K., & Rathkey, C. (2009). The negotiated project approach: Project-based learning without leaving the standards behind. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(4), 339-346. By: Kelly Hughes Touro University College of Education In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For EDU 710B March, 2010 Abstract
Project-Based Learning2 The purpose of this paper is to explore how a teacher collaboratively negotiates theimplementation of a project with her students, while at the same time, addresses grade-levelstandards. Researchers examined and investigated the strategies used by a veteran first gradeteacher to integrate standards into project topics, investigative activities, and final presentations.The strategies the teacher used to promote student participation in project planning andindependent problem solving were also examined. This collaborative approach to implementingprojects allows teachers and students to work together for project planning and learning.
Project-Based Learning3 An Analysis of: “The Negotiated Project Approach: Project-Based Learning without Leaving the Standards Behind” The Project Approach has emerged as a promising practice which allows educators to meetthe varying needs and interests of their students, while at the same time, meet the required grade-level standards. Projects in this study are defined as in-depth investigations that involve students indesign and investigative activities which then culminate in a final product or event. There has beenmuch research conducted to support the benefits of using the project approach in the field ofeducation. Some suggest that the project approach develops children’s higher-level thinking skillssuch as problem solving, planning, and self-monitoring (Brown and Campione 1996). Students whoengage in this approach of teaching and learning are skilled at transferring conceptual ideas across avariety of learning situations (Brown and Campione 1996; Scardamalia and Bereiter 1991). Thedisposition and self-esteem of students can also be positively affected. Katz (1994) found thatstudents involved in project based learning demonstrated curiosity, reflections, and concern forothers’ perspectives. Due to a sense of ownership of their work, student’s develop feelings ofconfidence and self-esteem as they feel increasingly competent and sense their potential forlearning. Questions addressed in this study include (1) How does the teacher negotiate topics,investigate activities, and final presentations with the children? (2) How does the teacher encouragethe children to solve their own problems during project work?Methods This study was designed as a single-case study because to the best of the researchers’knowledge, the teacher’s practices observed had not been studied in the past. As a result, this was astudy in which a real-life situation could be examined for the purposes of theory and discoverydevelopment (Yin 2003). The teacher selected as the focus participant of this study was chosenbecause she was regarded in her school as an “exemplar” teacher, particularly with respect to her
Project-Based Learning4use of project-based teaching methods. The researchers were particularly interested in observing“how” the teacher involved students in planning, implementation, and evaluation of their ownlearning. Data sources included field notes, teacher interviews, videotaped observations, andtranscribed teacher, and student interviews. An initial planning meeting was held between theresearchers and the teacher. At this meeting, the teacher identified specific teacher practices andstudent behaviors she felt were related to her successes with project work in her classroom. Thesepractices were drafted into an observation instrument used to guide the researchers’ observations onstudent and teacher behaviors. The teacher also identified an upcoming four-week project and sixclass sessions that represented all stages of the project. Each of the three researchers was assignedto conduct two, two-three hour observations during which they would take copious notes on teacherpractices and student behavior, as well as videotape the session for further use by all researchers. Toincrease data credibility, the teacher was asked to meet with the researchers following eachobservation to ensure researcher subjectivity and trustworthiness of results (Lincoln and Guba1985a, b).Results Much like the literature on project based learning describes, the students who participated inthe Biome unit project were offered an opportunity to work at higher levels of thinking as theyplanned, self-monitored, and celebrated their learning. What differentiated this particular project inthe focus participants classroom from a typical project was the existence of negotiated planningbetween and among the students and teacher. In this study, this planning was described as the“Negotiated Project Approach.” In this approach, the teacher integrates the standards into thestudents’ interests, rather than vice versa. This unexpected finding is unique to the project-based
Project-Based Learning5research, given that previous studies have tended to find that teachers plan projects that will meetthe standards (Helm and Beneke 2003; Katz and Chard 2000). Another distinctive quality of this research was how the teacher encouraged the children towork together to solve their own problems. This promoted independence and resulted in value beingplaced on the role of mistakes in the classroom to benefit all students in the classroom, not just theone making the mistake.Discussion This analysis supports those who believe that teachers can negotiate plans for project workthat integrate grade-level standards. Project-based learning encourages students to become activelearners by taking part in the planning and implementation of their own project. As a result,students feel a sense of pride and ownership of their work, and are more likely to become investedin the process of learning. Because this research was based on data collected from one classroomenvironment, the generalization of the findings to other classrooms is somewhat limited. Remainingquestions include (a) would these same methods work in another classroom setting under thesupervision of a different teacher? (b) Does a teacher’s years of experience play an important role ina successful outcome when using the project-based approach? (c) What kind of support is necessaryin order for a teacher to successfully implement the project-based approach in her classroom? Asthis study demonstrates, the negotiated project approach can help children meet their learning goals,boost their self-esteem, and motivate them to investigate authentic problems. These findingssupport the idea that providing teachers with such support would be well worth the investment.