Teaching is not exactly an easy task. Having a successful class is hard to accomplish and we are always asking ourselves what we can do in order to achieve our goals inside the classrooms. The school where I work is not an easy one. Even though all the students belong to a high socioeconomic level most of them present deficit or a cognitive problem which make really hard the teaching process. So the questions is how can we teach more effectively?
In the school where I work there are three hundred students who are divide it into 15 courses in which there are no more than 25 students per course, which you may think is easier to work with. However, that is not the case. As English is divided into advanced and regular students, having all the regular students in every single class is an ordeal. Each level uses a different text book, depending on the level. Advanced learners are been prepared for examinations like: TOEFL, PET or TOEIC and regular students use the book English in mind and go through the different units. The problem is that this type of students is the ones who are not very good following a normal structure of the class. They get bored very easily and as the classrooms are a bit noisy because it is possible to hear what is going on in the other classrooms, students present concentration problems which make them interrupt the classes. However, they are the type of students who are very imaginative, who want to make things by themselves. They do not want to be inside of a classroom listening to the teacher for hours, they want to create knowledge, therefore, what I believe is that in this school not all methods of teaching are appropriate for the students, but one: "Project Based approach".
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Project Based approach is an instructional approach built uponÂ authentic learning activitiesÂ that engage student interest and motivation. It is a method that builds on natural curiosity, it also enables student's interaction, problems solve communication, etc. This is a method where students can work cooperatively. They can have group work, debates, create discussions among them. And what I believe according to what I have experienced working in this school is what this students need. Through this method the students will be able to develop their language skills to the experience of problem solving activities; they will also be able to improve their communication and social skills. This method is exactly what this students need in order to success in life. The good aspect of this approach is that this method uses real world situation which engage the students during the process. It makes them feel closer to what they are learning. They have an active role in the learning part. The teacher in this case is only a facilitator and guide who encourages them and evaluates them, he is just an instructor who transmits information and organizes activities for practice and more that of a guide and a facilitator; it is a critical role, nevertheless. The teacher in this case must know how to be good lieder. He needs to know how to help the students in order to move in the same direction, therefore, having a good teacher is essential in this type of method and I am not sure if in this school that type of teacher exists.
Project learning is also a method that needs lots of resources in order to fulfill all the activities which is perfect for this type of school because they do have all the resources need it for this type of methodology.
As in all methods there are good things and bad things. The positive things about project based are that it offers a wide range of benefits to both students and teachers. "It Increased attendance, growth in self-reliance, and improved attitudes toward learning" (Thomas, 2000). Which in this case it is very helpful for the students because been motivated to attend to classes because this are fun or entertain it's a plus especially in this school where students are always trying to miss classes. This method also offers opportunities to develop complex skills, such as higher-order thinking, problem-solving, collaborating, and communicating (SRI, 2000). As this method make the students to work in group it improves their communication skills through the collaborating work. They learn how to work with others and how to be understood which is something that in this teaching context do not happen very often.
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Thomas (2000) defined the issues about the positive side effects of project based learning for students "as the development of positive attitudes toward their learning process, work routines, abilities on problem-solving, and self-esteem". Similarly, Green (1998) emphasized that "participants in project-based learning learn better and are more actively acting in their learning that in this teaching context". I agree with these authors when they say good things about this method like he positive attitude the students present towards the activities and how fast they learn. And the most important thing about this methodology is that "project-based learning provides students with opportunities to implement their freedom in their learning environment, they give up their habit of waiting for step-by-step instructor-based commands" (Lenschow, 1998). And this is exactly what happens with this type of students who already feel free inside the school and try to do whatever they want because they feel they have the right to, but they do not, this method will allowed them to express themselves freely.
On the other hand we have the negative aspects of the method. Unfortunately this method as it works with projects means that it needs more than a couple of days for each of them. Heckendorn (2002) explained that "projects in project-based learning require much longer time to complete, are complex in nature, and situated in real life"
It might also present some disciplinary problems. As the students do not have the normal structure of the class as they are used to, applying this method could be a bit disturbing, because these students have lots of behavior problems. And given them the freedom this method required may cause lots of problems inside the classrooms and among the students.
Another negative aspect of the method is that as we know every time we put students in groups there is always someone who works more than others. And in my school lots of my students are that type. And if we are evaluating projects, the evaluation process would be a bit difficult when we do not know if all the students worked at the same level. The students may also "reported negative experiences due to their perception of social loafing" (Lam, Cheng & Ma, 2008)
Another negative aspect is that s teacher we are supposed to be constantly learning. This new approach to teaching is another thing teachers will have to learn in order to produce the most successful students. And we also need to put in a lot of time, as well as much support and monitoring.
Having said all that I would like to add that this method is great in many aspects. And even though project based learning is relatively for a long time presented learning methods it is still new or low use in the schools. I personally believe that this method should be taught to all teachers who want a change in education. There are more positive aspects than negative and that shows that this method really works. In my personal point of view and from the school where I am working, this method would work perfectly well. I believe that this is exactly what this type of students need.