Theoretical and Empirical Aspects of Project Activity at Modern Russian School
With new changes being made in Russian education, new standards made it necessary to include elementary students in “Project Activity.” This learning method dates back to the 1920’s. America introduced it to Russia who bought into it. Russia only participated in this pedology for about then years before reverting to traditional teaching methods.
Over the years, research has demonstrated that project learning has many benefits, but not many researches have delved into looking at possible negative outcomes of project-based learning. Furthermore, there has not been research that has considered how successful project learning would be over a large geographical area or population.
Evgeniya Gerasimova, Olga Savvina, Valentina Telkova, Roman Melnikov, and Elna Trofimova (2015) of Yelets State Ivan Bunin University wanted to find the pros and cons of implementing the project method in today’s schools. In doing this, they hoped to learn more about the etymology and progression of project learning.
First, they spent two years studying research which brought about a greater awareness of the problem to which they set out to solve. They learned that by the 1930’s, project learning or “The Complex Education Method,” only lasted about ten years. At that time, the data indicated that project learning did not fully prepare students for colleges and universities. This method was discontinued until in the mid 1990’s. At this time, the idea came back into discussion but remained controversial. Now, project learning is once more becoming a curriculum component in Russian schools. By studying the history, origins, and progress of project learning, the authors were able to plan and distinguish the key components for their study. This was the first phase of their study.
Next, the authors conducted experiments in the form of contests to which students completed math projects as part of a competition. These contests were conducted each of four consecutive years. As each set of contests were conducted, plans were improved and criteria for assessment was set. Student strengths and weaknesses were analyzed.
Finally, by conducting math project competitions, the authors were able to develop conclusions as to the success for project learning. They used data from the four project contests to determine if project learning is a sufficient teaching method.
In selecting students for the experiment, student ages were noted. This was due to the fact that students’ range of understanding depend on cognitive development. Students in grades five through eleven were included in the contests over four consecutive years. Over the course of these years, 219 students participated in the math project. Contestants created a project or experiment, integrated technology, and effectively presented and defended their findings.
Students were judged by their presentation of the key points and by their responses to the questions that were asked to them. Judges looked for projects that covered the math curriculum and the students’ ability to take that curriculum and expand on it by demonstrating new techniques and knowledge. Projects that offered new concepts (not yet covered in the curriculum) were also accepted. These carefully chosen judges were experts in mathematics. After analyzing all of the projects, the judges worked together and chose the projects that demonstrated the highest level of thinking and the most interesting work.
First place prizes were awarded to three tenth graders, an eleventh grader, and a fifth grader. Findings indicated that for the most part, students did not acquire new learning through the project. They picked familiar topics and made no new discoveries. Through these results, the authors. concluded that project learning is not sufficient enough for teaching new concepts and that traditional methods should remain in place. Based on their findings, they concluded that projects should only supplement regular classroom instruction.
Gerasimova, Savvina, Telkova, Melnikov, and Trofimova (2015) studied the effectiveness of using math projects as a form of educating students between grades five and eleven. Students participated in a math project contest by which they completed their own study while using the scientific method. They presented to highly experienced and qualified math judges. Results of the math project contest were collected over four years (four project contests).
Results indicated that students did not demonstrate new learning though their projects. According to the authors of this research, student interest and quality projects diminished over the years. It was noted that topic selection and depth of understanding were capped by the knowledge and education of the teacher and of the student. Repeated projects also became a concern to which they were not sure how to address.
- Gerasimova, E., Savvina, O., Telkkova, V., Melnikov, R., & Trofimova, E. (2015). Theoretical and empirical aspects of project activity at modern Russian school. Elsevier Ltd. Rostov-on-Don, Russia. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.11.589