A play, a set of sketches, an exhibition — each of these are ways of doing projects in school, instead of simply writing up a report on a topic.
But teachers in the city primarily stick only to the basic and not very innovative methods of report writing and presentations as project work, according to findings of a study and workshops conducted by the the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education.
The Centre has just concluded a first-of-its-kind development and study of Project Based Learning (PBL) modules and strategies to help teachers apply these in classrooms.
The study was conducted with 43 teachers across 12 school groups in the city. The guidebook produced at the end of the study contains pedagogic strategies for teachers to follow while developing projects in class.
“True PBL occurs when the project is central to the teaching-learning process, has a major driving question, and engages students in self and peer assessment,” said Chitra Natarajan, a professor at the centre, who undertook the study along with research scholar Sourav Shome. “Projects should be integral to the learning, not an application of what has been learnt.”
PBL can easily be adopted in schools. For instance, if students are learning about energy sources in class, then the teacher can put forth the following central research question to students: “What energy sources can we come up with instead of electricity?”
Students would then do some reading around the topic, make presentations, construct models, hold exhibitions or come up with other ways of showcasing what they have learnt.
“The project should be the means for learning a concept, it should not come after the lesson has been taught in class,” said Natarajan. “And there isn't just one outcome in a project - students can do one of any number of things, not simply write up a report.”
Natarajan said that while at the outset teachers were
confused or unsure about true PBL, they had “gained hugely by the end”.
The government introduced continuous comprehensive evaluation in schools this June, of which projects form part of the assessment for schools, making such workshops particularly timely.
The Centre plans to conduct more such sessions with school teachers to dispel misconceptions surrounding PBL.
“Children need to be taught as if they can think and given enough autonomy; teachers need to remember this at all times,” said Natarajan.
The series of three workshops over a six-month period included group discussions, lecture sessions for the teachers, group activities, story board development of projects and explorations of the rubrics of assessment.
Now these teachers will share with their peers what they learnt, at a conference of science teachers in February in the city.
“My understanding of overseeing projects changed,” said Nandini Shetye, a teacher with the non-profit group Muktangan who attended the workshop series. “A project should be something that children do on their own, where they construct their own learning. Moreover, I learnt that we need not be limited by our subject boundaries but encourage inter-disciplinary learning.”