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[xmca] Project Based Learning (some examples from Dewey)

As a late contribution to Andy's project based learning
question, I was just reading in The Metaphysical Club (by
Louis Menand) about some of the examples of Dewey's projects
at the Laboratory School, and was struck by how simple and
easily accessible they were:
"One of Dewey's curricular obsessions, for instance, was
cooking.... The children cooked and served lunch once a week.
The philosophical rationale is obvious enough: preparing a
meal (as opposed to, say, memorizing the multiplication table)
is a goal-directed activity, it is a social activity, and it
is an activity continuous with life outside school. But Dewey
incorporated into the practical business of making lunch:
arithmetic (weighting and measuring ingredients, with
instruments the children made themselves), chemistry and
physics (observing the process of combustion), biology (diet
and digestion), geography (exploring the natural environments
of the plants and animals), and so on. Cooking became the
basis for most of the science taught in the school. It turned
out to have so much curricular potential that making cereal
became a three-year continuous course of study for all chidren
between the ages of six and eight--with (on the testimony of
two teachers) 'no sense of monotony on the part of either
pupils or teacher.'" (Menard, p. 323).

The principle behind this, for Dewey, was the unity of
knowlege, that is, the understanding that knowledge is not to
be separated from activity. I find these examples to be
instructive in their simplicity and closeness to the student's
lives -- most of these activities are located within the walls
of the school. 

Seemed like good food for thought.

>Message: 4
>Date: Fri, 04 Sep 2009 12:00:51 +1000
>From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
>Subject: Re: [xmca] Project Based Learning
>To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>Message-ID: <4AA074D3.7030009@mira.net>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252; format=flowed
>xmca-ers, I sent the same message about project based 
>learning to a friend here in Melbourne who gave me such a 
>comprehensive answer, I thought I should share it:
>Dear Andy,
>Project-based learning (PBL) is what you are, of course, 
>referring to. With an array of pedagogical origins extending 
>back many centuries (well, further, of course, in a 
>philosophical sense) and passing through numerous iterations 
>(including Dewey and the school of American pragmatism), the 
>espoused theory of PBL has been less nuanced than its richer 
>practice which invariably blends with other (even 
>oppositional) teaching strategies and methods.
>*A critique of PBL and other minimal guidance approaches*
>Minimal guidance techniques whereby learners discover or 
>'construct' essential information (including project-based 
>learning, discovery learning, problem-based learning, 
>inquiry learning, experiential learning and constructivist 
>learning) can constitute an inefficient and ineffectual way 
>to teach and learn. After at least 50 years of advocacy 
>associated with instruction using minimal guidance, there is 
>still no solid body of research supporting such techniques. 
>Not only is unguided instruction normally less effective, 
>there is also evidence that it may have negative results 
>when students acquire misconceptions or incomplete or 
>disorganised knowledge.
>Cognitive load theory (Paul A. Kirschner, John Sweller, and 
>Richard E. Clark in their above critique of minimal 
>guidance) suggests that the free exploration of a complex 
>environment may generate a heavy working memory load that is 
>detrimental to students’ more strategic and sharply focused 
>learning. As learning, by definition, means a change in 
>long-term memory, the problem with minimal guidance is that 
>the load on working memory makes it difficult for long-term 
>Students’ working memory is thus burdened by requiring them 
>to sort through irrelevant information while locating 
>information that is relevant (a problem compounded, of 
>course, by the Net and superficial fact-gathering). And 
>working memory cannot be used efficiently to commit relevant 
>information to long-term memory if assessing the relevance 
>of material. Indeed, it is possible to search or work on 
>projects for extended periods of time with quite minimal 
>alterations to long-term memory.
>*A criticism of this critique – steps toward a synthesis*
>The main criticism is that critiques of PBL, etc. *do not 
>adequately bring to the fore the need to move beyond the old 
>antithetical either-or* *of teacher-centred didactic 
>instruction _versus_ student-centred learning*. There is 
>obviously always the danger of glorifying one end of the 
>educational spectrum and casting the other end into total 
>darkness. As suggested by terms such as 'guided discovery', 
>elements of both instructional guidance and inquiry-based 
>learning are not mutually exclusive.
>This blend of the best elements of what are often presented 
>as clear-cut alternatives is, of course, consistent with the 
>work of educators who seek to progress a 21st century 
>teaching and learning practice, founded on a more intimate, 
>complex, dialectical interplay of *both* students’ 
>independent inquiry, problem-solving and practical project 
>work *and* increased depth of students' knowledge and 
>understanding of concepts, facts, laws, principles and 
>theories, as imparted by teachers.
>Long developed by many teachers in practice (even if their 
>espoused, 'pure' theories contradict this), this dialectical 
>interplay is obviously at the basis of techniques such as 
>scaffolding, cognitive apprenticeships and Vygotsky’s zone 
>of proximal development. Important, of course, to teaching 
>in the ZPD (as "the distance between the actual 
>developmental level, as determined by independent problem 
>solving, and the level of potential development as 
>determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or 
>in collaboration with more capable peers") is the precise 
>determination of what the student can really manage and 
>develop on his or her own. But this, in turn, obviously 
>depends on the guided instruction of a teacher or a more 
>knowledgeable peer or new, data-rich kinds of 
>technology-assisted collaborative learning.
>*Beyond the old dualisms in education*
>This educational practice is obviously quite distinct from 
>the two hitherto dominant and contrasting paradigms of 
>overly-didactic instruction _versus_ constructivist 
>inquiry-based learning. It is thus not inquiry-based 
>learning or PBL _per se_ (all of which contain useful 
>insights into how best to engage and motivate many students) 
>but rather the persistence of false dichotomies in education 
>that is the problem to be resolved, notwithstanding the many 
>instances of creative synthesis.
>Educational theory and practice has, of course, long been 
>bedeviled by false dualisms. (*This is _partly_ an Anglo 
>problem, of course – but this cultural and linguistic 
>question is another issue altogether*). Anyway, these 
>dualisms are also out of sync with most students who would 
>benefit greatly from an education system and from schools 
>that did not pose practical activities, projects and meaning 
>against abstract and theoretical studies but instead more 
>systematically and creatively combined new forms of 
>practical project work and independent inquiry and even 
>greater depth of scientific and philosophical knowledge and 
>Hope that this is of use!
>-Nic (nicholas.abbey@optusnet.com.au)
>0402 152 634
>*As for the technique of PBL, have a look at:*
>•         Mitchell, S., Foulger, T. S., & Wetzel, K., 
>Rathkey, C. (February, 2009). The negotiated project 
>approach: Project-based learning without leaving the 
>standards behind. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(4), 
>339-346. Available at 
>•         Boss, S., & Krauss, J. (2007). _Reinventing 
>project-based learning: Your field guide to real-world 
>projects in the digital age._ Eugene, OR: International 
>Society for Technology in Education.
>•         And from 

>one or more of the following may be of interest:
>* *
>*Resources and research*
>*Autodesk Foundation 

>In a comprehensive synthesis, John W. Thomas, Ph.D., 
>examines the research base for project-based learning.
>*Buck Institute for Education *http://www.bie.org  Buck 
>Institute offers training and a handbook to guide middle 
>school and high school teachers in incorporating 
>project-based learning into the curriculum. The Web site 
>also includes resources and research on PBL effectiveness.
>*George Lucas Educational Foundation *www.edutopia.org* GLEF 
>provides a summary of project-based learning research, along 
>with a gallery of project examples (in print and video 
>*The Multimedia Project: Project-Based Learning with 
>Multimedia *http://pblmm.k12.ca.us/PBLGuide/MMrubric.htm* 
>Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project, federally funded project 
>which ran from 1996-2001, is described in detail and 
>explained in the larger context of a systemic school reform 
>initiative in Silicon Valley. Site includes array of 
>resources, including implementation strategies, 
>award-winning project examples, and evaluation published by 
>*National Foundation for the Improvement of Education 
>*http://www.nfie.org/publications/ctb5.pdf* Connecting the 
>Bits (2000) includes a chapter on "Project-Based Learning 
>and Information Technologies."
>*The Project Approach *http://www.project-approach.com* 
>Maintained by Sylvia Chard, professor at University of 
>Alberta and co-author of Engaging Children's Minds: The 
>Project Approach (2000).
>* *
>*References *
>_Project-based learning research_. Edutopia. 
>www.edutopia.org* Intel® Teach to the Future. (2003).
>_Project-based classroom: Bridging the gap between education 
>and technology_. Training materials for regional and master 
>trainers. Author. Jarrett, D. (1997).
>_Inquiry strategies for science and mathematics learning_. 
>Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. 
>_Project-based instruction: Creating excitement for 
>learning_. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational 
>Laboratory. http://www.nwrel.org/request/2002aug/index.html* 
>SRI International. (2000, January). _Silicon valley 
>challenge 2000: Year 4 Report_. San Jose, CA: Joint Venture, 
>Silicon Valley Network. 
>http://pblmm.k12.ca.us/sri/Reports.htm* Thomas, J.W. (1998).
>_Project-based learning: Overview_. Novato, CA: Buck 
>Institute for Education. Thomas, J.W. (2000). _A review of 
>research on project-based learning_. San Rafael, CA: 
>Autodesk. http://www.k12reform.org/foundation/pbl/research*
>Michael Glassman wrote:
>> Maybe it would be important to define Project Based
Learning.  I assumed that Andy was talking about the type of
learning for instance promoted by Reggio Emilia (for younger
children) and Perhaps the (early at least) Dewey school at the
University of Chicago (which seemed to have influenced Reggio
Emilia).  In this form of Project Based Learning it is the
students who initiate the project, based on their everyday
experiences (this is where Reggio Emilia brings Vygotsky in a
little bit I think).  Whether the project continues is based
on the continuing interests of the students, with the teacher
serving as a facilitator.  For older students the projects
usually have a connection (but are not determined) by needs in
their world and the community.  For younger students the
interest is more hedonistic.  One early childhood project I
wrote about was in an infant and toddlers class, based on
construction, and it went on for months is a very fascinating
>> Is this what you meant Andy?
>> Michael
>> ________________________________
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of
>> Sent: Thu 9/3/2009 11:51 AM
>> To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Project Based Learning
>> Hey Andy:
>> I have been in schools that utilize this and have seen
mixed results. When
>> a very powerful PTA assists in the organization of a
project and parents
>> spend their time tying up loose ends I have seen $25,000
>> built!  Students were incorporated into the project in
various ways and
>> then they earned school credits based on portfolios that
documented both
>> their participation as well as the progress of the project.
 I have also
>> seen gardens become overgrown and left untended.
>> Here is a great website that provides insight into a
specific project
>> based learning initiative:
>> http://www.urbanboatbuilders.org/
>> A very worthwhile endeavor for helping to build social
skills, teamwork
>> and a sense of craftmanship.
>> Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
>> Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
>> 09/03/2009 10:26 AM
>> Please respond to ablunden; Please respond to "eXtended
Mind, Culture,
>> Activity"
>>         To:     "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
>>         cc:
>>         Subject:        [xmca] Project Based Learning
>> Can anyone give me an opinion on the value of Project-Based
>> Learning. Does it work (in other than privielegd schools)?
>> What are the main criticism?
>> Andy
>> --
>> Andy Blunden (Erythrós Press and Media)
>> http://www.erythrospress.com/
>> Orders: http://www.erythrospress.com/store/main.html#books
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>Andy Blunden (Erythrós Press and Media) 
>Orders: http://www.erythrospress.com/store/main.html#books
>xmca mailing list
>End of xmca Digest, Vol 52, Issue 9
Greg Thompson
Ph.D. Candidate
The Department of Comparative Human Development
The University of Chicago
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