Project pedagogy in the Gimnasio Moderno is understood as a pedagogical approach focused on learning and framed within the Active School, Interactionism and social Constructivism. In the project approach, students’ motivations, interests, prior knowledge and questions are valued, and they are placed at the center of a constant dialogue with other learning communities. This stimulates the investigative spirit, personal academic concerns, leadership and the deep desire to provide solutions to communities that need them in the local and global environment.
In project pedagogy, curiosity, the social construction of knowledge, critical thinking, social and environmental awareness, collaborative work, interdisciplinarity, research, the ethical use of information and technologies, and academic thoroughness naturally converge.
These projects are based on questions that are discussed among all the members of the group of students; the teacher will carry out the role of mediator so that they are sure of the task they will undertake. As noted by the BIE Institute:
“Project Based Learning (PBL) prepares students for academic, personal, and career success, and readies young people to rise to the challenges of their lives and the world they will inherit”. (p. 17)
ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF PROJECTS PEDAGOGY
In the Gimnasio Moderno and according to Steinberg (2002) and Lenz (2015), the following essential elements can be recognized when planning a project within this pedagogy:
- The student’s ability to produce knowledge that has personal or social value. When something is said to be authentic, it usually means that it is real or genuine, that it is not false. In the education sector, this concept indicates to what extent the learning or the task is “of the real world”. Authenticity increases student motivation and learning.
- Problem or question that poses a challenge. The core of a project is a problem that needs to be investigated and solved, or a question that must be analyzed and answered.
- Structured path. The project should challenge the student to acquire and apply research knowledge and methods from various areas of learning (STEM, Thought Language and Society, Aesthetics, Body Development, Life Project). Such student interactions with information, knowledge, teachers and experts should allow the student to consolidate higher order thinking skills, as well as develop their autonomy, and learn to efficiently manage time to avoid bad practices such as improvisation or procrastination.
- The research process takes time, so a project will last longer than a few days. In the GM the projects will last one or two trimesters. Projects must use various sources of information: they will combine searching for sources on the internet, libraries, databases, with interviews of experts, field trips and experimentation.
- Applying learning. It is pertinent that students develop projects in which they intend to solve problems that are related to real life and to the needs of specific communities. The project requires self-management, autonomy and efficient time management skills. The application of learning implies the use of technological and communication tools (ICT) in an ethical and responsible manner; as well as interpersonal skills: effective communication, conversation, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving ability, creativity, ethics, time management.
- Student opinion and choice. Having an opinion on a project generates a feeling of ownership in the students, they care more about the project and work more. If students cannot use their judgment when solving a problem and answering a key question, the project is perceived simply as an exercise or as a follow-up to a series of instructions.
- Active exploration. Requires the student to carry out field work for a significant amount of time. Active exploration allows students to fully appropriate the contexts and environments of their research.
- John Dewey, whose ideas continue to fuel thinking about Project-Based Learning (PBL), wrote: “We don’t learn from experience. We learn by reflecting on the experience. ” During a project, students — and the teacher — should reflect on what they are learning, how they are learning, and why they are learning. Reflecting can take place informally, as part of classroom culture and dialogue, but should also be an explicit part of the project journal, scheduled formative assessment, discussions of some points of the project, and public presentations of learner work . Reflecting on the knowledge and understanding of the content acquired helps students to consolidate what they have learned and to think about how to apply it in other aspects.
- Interaction with adults. It allows the student to meet and observe adults with experience and professional training in the different relevant knowledge.
- Public product. A product can be something tangible or it can be the presentation of a solution to a problem or the answer to a key question. First, as with authenticity, the public product adds a high degree of motivation to PBL and encourages high-quality work.
Additionally, in this section it is pertinent to clarify the roles of students and teachers as follows:
Students. They are at the center of the teaching-learning process and are the main actors in their own training process. They actively participate in the construction of the project and intervene significantly in the decision-making, implementation and evaluation processes of the projects. They are the main character of their own learning process, they work as a team with their peers, teachers and experts. Students develop their creativity, autonomy and responsibility, being aware of their role as investigating agent and transformer of their environment. The researcher students of the Gimnasio Moderno are methodical and strive, first, to always seek the truth, it means that the students investigate reality, facts and data. Secondly, the students interpret the data obtained in order to describe or explain it. Their activities motivate them to appropriate or even expand the existing knowledge. Third, the researcher students of the Gimnasio Moderno apply the new knowledge in a practical way and disseminate it or present it to the academic community to which it belongs, as well as to the beneficiary community to which such knowledge is relevant or useful. (Calvert & Martin, 2001).
Teacher. The role of the teacher in project pedagogy is to mediate the student’s learning processes. A teacher who, by his/her example, teaches his/her students to appreciate and use uncertainty, because he/she recognizes in it a new opportunity for learning as also recognizes the intellectual and personal growth that it may provide. The teacher in the Gimnasio Moderno must design his/her own strategies for the development of significant skills, abilities and learning in students.
Teacher helps students to question themselves, to correct themselves, to efficiently organize resources, time, and materials for the development of the project.
The teacher of the Gimnasio Moderno is a leader, since he/she guides the researcher students through constant reflection, evaluation and group discussion and provides them with the necessary to optimize their processes. Likewise, the teachers of the Gimnasio Moderno strengthen and streamline the evaluation processes in order to generate reflection, autonomy and academic thoroughness in students.
To define and support precisely the pedagogy for projects for the Gimnasio Moderno, the following authors and their proposals were taken as references. According to Rincón (2006), project pedagogy “allows to articulate theory and practice; overcome in school life the insularity and aggregation of content that must be developed because it ‘has to be done’, but rather to ‘study’ them and thus ‘address in teaching what is interesting, what is the question, what you want to investigate because it is a problem with a sense of belonging, not only in the environment but also in disciplinary matters”. Furthermore, at the same time those significant educational processes are developed, a way of learning to learn is fostered and an autonomous citizen is emerging in a democratic society.
On the other hand, Hernando (2015) states that in the project-based educational approach, students are the main characters of their own learning. They are the ones who, based on their personal needs and interests, propose different ideas and strategies, which, once reflected in autonomous projects, will allow them to know, learn and appropriate in a significant way the knowledge from the different fields of knowledge, thus leaving aside the subjects. The projects must be framed in a local, national or international context, with the purpose of getting students to approach the resolution of this problem or question as citizens of the world, aware of the impact their decisions and actions have, not only in their closer contexts, but nationally and internationally; likewise, being students aware of the world around them can broaden their academic, social and cultural environments.
Elements such as curiosity, the social construction of knowledge, critical thinking, social and environmental awareness, collaborative work, interdisciplinarity, research, the ethical use of information and technologies, and academic thoroughness are important within this pedagogy, since they are considered key factors that seek to enhance the strengths of the students and put their interests, motivations and prior knowledge at the center of the pedagogical action in order to ensure that the learning obtained is meaningful for all members that are involved in the project.
ARTICULATION WITH THE PEI (Institutional Educational Project)
Projects pedagogy is contemplated in the PEI (Institutional Educational Project) of the Gimnasio Moderno, since they constitute the active School, since “this work strategy facilitates the insertion of the school in life”. According to Jean Vassileff (1997), projects pedagogy allows “the development of the projection capacities of the subjects that are training to achieve a transformation of their relationship with the world”.
Projects Pedagogy involves negotiated actions between students and teachers, rethinking their roles and making both interact in a teaching and learning process within the framework of cooperative actions and agreements. Projects Pedagogy reveals its potential to the extent that it enables the execution of meaningful learning, giving a place to the interests, needs, motivations and prior knowledge of students. Projects work calls for teachers and students to form interdisciplinary teams, where research is enhanced and school coexistence obtains a new meaning, the construction of knowledge and multicultural visions of the world.
Although in projects pedagogy it is necessary to recognize certain stages or states that allow all actors to control and account for processes, constructions and learning, these should not be limited to some steps that must be strictly carried out, since there is a risk of leaving out of the proposal determining elements of this pedagogy such as creativity, collaboration, problem solving and the development of cross-skills. For this reason, in the Gimnasio Moderno the following implementation route is proposed, expressed in the following stages that must be considered when putting this pedagogical proposal into practice.
Phase 1: Active Exploration and Initial Inquiry. The teacher creates a space for the questions and personal interests of each student to arise, in order to carry out a first investigative approach to the concerns and needs previously evidenced. Thus, the project starts from the previous knowledge.
Phase 2. Definition and collective planning of the project.
Starts from a respectful and academic dialogue between the students and the teachers, which takes into account the interests, questions and realities of the students, the identification of the problem, the formulation of the guiding questions, the objectives of the project and the learning objectives. A work schedule will be agreed with clear and reasonable dates, and work groups are organized, which will preferably be couples or three people per group. As recommended by Jolibert and Rincón, contracts for personal and group activities should be established with the students. In this phase, according to Rincón (2006), an attempt should be made to answer the following questions collectively and by consensus: What are you going to do to learn (topic)? What do you want to learn about this topic (subtopics)? Why? How? When? Where? With whom (guests, collaborators), or with what resources? What is the project going to be called? and How is the project going to be evaluated? In this phase, a first approach to the final product is made.
In this phase the projects should consider the contributions made by the Curricular Support Group (GAC), in order to have a look at the project from the different learning areas: STEM, Thought Language and Society, Aesthetics, Body development, Life Project
Phase 3. Determination of learning content and skills to develop. In this phase and jointly between the teacher, the students, the environment (local, national and international), the community and the experts, it will be worked on the knowledge and skills to be developed, as well as the project evaluation rubric.
Phase 4. Execution. In this phase, all previously agreed tasks that allow the construction of significant knowledge and learning experiences for students are developed, which must be mediated by reflection and formative evaluation processes. This phase is enriched as the project develops, that is, the teacher and the student-researcher will find themselves with the need to address certain knowledge and skills. It is recommended to make use of didactic resources, activities, workshops, and didactic sequences that allow the student to investigate and apply new knowledge that provide the theoretical bases and academic thoroughness necessary for the project and the construction of significant learning and the skills of the 21st century.
Phase 5. Socialization of the project. In this phase, the moments of socialization or representation of the final product are considered, regardless of the nature of this product, according to the different areas of learning. During socialization, the presence of expert peers and members of the school community is vital so that they can participate in the process of formative evaluation and feedback of the result. It is advisable in this phase to present the results of the project to the beneficiary community.
Phase 6. Formative and authentic evaluation. The formative evaluation will be understood as a process that will be developed in a cross and progressive way in all the phases of the project. This will allow students and teachers to have information about the competencies and skills developed by the students. It should also allow establishing levels of development in relation to the learning achieved, the quality of the product (regardless of what it is), and its insertion in a learning community. All this through rubrics that consider self-evaluation, co-evaluation and single-evaluation.
The execution of the previously explained phases, depending on the project and its level of complexity, will take place over a trimester, a semester or a year. At the end of these feasible times, all projects will be finished. Within the previously described phases, the presence of experimental activities, excursions, workshops, talks, conferences, specific readings, among other activities that allow students to develop specific and cross skills, should be considered.
According to Ausubel (2000), “With the expression «meaningful learning» we are referring, first of all, to a distinctive type of learning process and also, although in a secondary way, to the significant result of learning -the achievement of a new meaning- (…). At the same time meaningful learning as a process supposes both that the student adopts a meaningful learning attitude and that the material he learns is potentially significant for him, which means that it is linkable with relevant ideas in his cognitive structure”. The new meanings that the student acquires are the product of a non-arbitrary, non-literal, active and integrating interaction between the new instructional materials and relevant ideas already existing in the student’s knowledge structure.
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