Nearly every teacher uses projects as some point to reinforce a lesson or give students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned. While projects can be valuable classroom tools, they do have some disadvantages. Projects work well as assessment tools, but not every student will benefit from every project assigned. Many other disadvantages can be remedied, though, so projects will increase comprehension and overall student learning.
Teachers Can Measure Learning
Most districts require that teachers have objectives in their lesson plans. These objectives state exactly what students should be learning in a unit. A way to accurately measure whether students did learn the material and what the teacher deems important for that unit is to assess students. Projects are a way teachers can easily assess students. Paper-and-pencil tests are restrictive, yet projects usually allow students to be creative with sharing their learning. For instance, students might create a poster board that demonstrates their knowledge of mammals, or they could create a classroom presentation about the benefits of following the Food Pyramid Guidelines. A project shows a teacher that students have met the lesson's objective, and she can share that information with her administrator.
Projects Allow Collaboration
Many projects allow students to work together to show what they have learned. Because students work on many solo activities throughout the day, giving them a time to collaborate will likely be a welcome change of pace. According to Cathy Middlecamp of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, collaboration allows students to complete more work in a shorter amount of time. Plus, if students are confused about a concept, it is likely that their partners will help explain concepts to them, which facilitates a deeper understanding.
Not Every Student Works
The problem with having students collaborate, though, is that students who really do not know much about the topic might not participate as much. Oftentimes, higher-achieving students feel like they are carrying the weight of an assignment when they work together. To fix this, Spencer Kagan, author of "Cooperative Learning," suggests holding every student accountable by giving everyone a specific role in the project. For instance, one student can be in charge of recording information, while another can be the primary presenter of information to the class.
Projects Don't Respect Differences
While projects do help get students away from traditional paper-and-pencil tests, they still might not reach every learning style or intelligence level. For instance, if the bulk of your projects are presentations, your more-introverted learners might find these difficult. Their grades could suffer. Instead, plan a variety of projects, or even let students choose what kind of project they'll do, Diane Heacox, author of "Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom," suggests. For instance, students could choose from a presentation, a research paper or even a skit that demonstrates what they have learned.
- "Cooperative Learning"; Spencer Kagan; 1994
- "Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom"; Diane Heacox; 2002
- Wisconsin Center for Education Research: Students Speak out on Collaborative Learning
- students image by Ivanna Buldakova from Fotolia.com