Research on the Project Approach in Canada

1. Darlene Williams. (1998). Documenting Children's Learning: Assessment and Evaluation in the Project Approach. Unpublished Master's Thesis.

Assessment and evaluation of students' work have always seemed overwhelming responsibilities for teachers. Models of education which advocate a didactic style of teaching have typically relied on standardized, criterion-referenced and paper-and-pencil tests to assess and evaluate student achievement. Given the move toward more student-centered classrooms, which emphasize process as well as product, alternative assessment and evaluation methods are needed. One student-centered way of teaching is the Project Approach. While involved in project work, children have an opportunity to engage in purposeful and relevant activities to further their understanding of the topic of study. The purpose of this study was to examine how assessment and evaluation could be carried out within the context of a third-grade project on "Building." The study examined suitable tools and techniques for assessment and evaluation. These involved discussion by the teacher and the children together, helping both to engage in a collaborative process as they discussed standards of work. Features of project work also studied were those which were particularly helpful to the teacher in assessing children's progress in ways not possible through systematic instruction-for example, the assessment of children's personal interest in different aspects of the work, children's particular expertise and how it can be applied to facilitate all children's learning, and the willingness of children to solve problems and rise to challenges in the context of a study of importance to the whole class group.

2. Lorraine Leskiw. (1998). A Study of the Engagement of Children's Minds in the Project Approach. Unpublished Master's Thesis.

This study investigated the engagement of children's minds in a project on the "Playground." The participant-observer role allowed for a close relationship with the children and gave the researcher considerable understanding about the development of the project as a whole. The researcher observed the children at work and talked with them about what they had done and about their ideas for the work they still wanted to do. When interviewed, the children were able to talk about the various factors which contributed to their sense of engagement with the project work. Various aspects of motivation, involvement, self-direction, and satisfaction with work were studied and discussed in relation to selected research literature on motivation. The children were able to articulate the nature of their enjoyment of project work. They mentioned the sense of responsibility they felt when they were asked to contribute to the learning of other children with their own study. They talked about the culture of the classroom in terms of the values of helping others, respecting alternative views, and being responsible for completing work. They gave the impression that in contrast with systematic instruction, they found project work offered them a greater sense of their own competence and potential as learners.

3. Fern Reirson.(1998). The Research Process through the Project Approach. Unpublished Master's Paper.

The Project Approach can provide teachers and teacher-librarians with an approach to teaching children the Research Process through an in-depth study of a topic. The Project Approach by Katz & Chard (1989) and the Research Process (Focus on Research, Alberta Education, 1990) provide frameworks for inquiry-based learning that overlap and complement one another. Educators hold important roles in supporting learners throughout the Research Process and the Project Approach. A project on "Paper" provided an authentic example of how the Project Approach and Research Process align themselves. There were many areas of overlapping interest for both project teacher and teacher-librarian, each coming to the Paper Project from their respective traditions and perspectives. The study showed how the Project Approach can provide teacher-librarians with another approach to inquiry- or research-based learning. The teacher-librarian valued the work of uncovering what the children knew about paper and their experiences with it. As she listened to the children, she was able to respond more knowledgeably to their interests. On the other hand, the project teacher gained experience in teaching the research skills involved in using literary sources of information and finding a variety of ways to help children develop their interest in information retrieval.

Frameworks for Inquiry-Based Learning


Project Approach

Research Process

Phase 1


Phase 2

Information Retrieval

Information Processing

Phase 3

Information Sharing



4. Sharman Armfield. (1998). Early Literacy and the Project Approach. Unpublished Master's Project.

This study examined the opportunities afforded through the Project Approach for young children's language learning in a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten mixed-age class. Speaking, listening, reading, and writing were all documented and discussed, especially in relation to the real world contexts offered by a project. The author discussed ways in which the classroom environment supported the children as they talked, read, drew, and wrote. The value of children drawing in conjunction with their writing was also discussed. The topics of study were: hospitals, the airport, light, birds, bicycles, trees, and rocks. There were many different opportunities for language use in the context of project work. The children discussed their experience, their investigations, and their findings. They undertook functional writing of letters, requests, reports, and explanations. In addition, they used expressive language as they wrote stories and poems to record the more memorable aspects of the project work. The quantity and variety of language experience was found to be very beneficial to the children involved in this project.
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