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Project Work and Respect in the English Class

Project Work and Respect in the English Class

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A Good Match: Project Work and Learning (to) Respect

What makes project work so valuable in school practice? We know it is fun, it engages students, it brings about meaningful learning, it gives opportunity to LIVE interaction and documentation. A project is something, in process, leading to an outcome. Let’s say it crystal clear: it is truly student-centered since its main feature makes it to never be simply “about something”.

Corina Ileana Dumitrescu has understood that and explored its benefits in order to shed some light on the shadowy matter of “education for values”. As she points out in her review of literature and context of the research, values and attitudes are stipulated in the official curriculum but more often than not they are not part of the effective curriculum. That is, in school practice, the issue is bypassed. On the one hand, there is an ugly history of inculcation and education for values that comes from the traditional schools, mainly the ones in authoritarian regimes. So it is understandable that Romanian teachers are not very fond about revisiting the concept. On the other hand, education for values is more difficult to orchestrate, mainly in the “uniform school”[1] , and the literature basically agrees on that. So do the teachers. So values and attitudes are neatly declared in the curriculum but nobody bothers about how to transfer them into practice. And, as it is always the case with unplanned school issues: they happen if they happen, when they happen, not necessarily the way they should happen.

Could there be a solution? asks the author. Afterall, the youth’s lack of respect is a typical matter of complaint! How do you teach children to respect one another, respect differences, respect other people’s values? Talking about respect is not an option. Instead, participation and engagement are needed. A meaningful context is needed. This is how project work comes into the picture and how it matches with respect in the current study.

Corina Ileana Dumitrescu develops an empirical research, starting from questioning a learning problem, studying literature, then formulating a hypothesis, testing it, collecting and interpreting data and finally concluding on the project results in her class. The effort is deserving. Children engage in meaningful learning oriented by a project goal and start to cooperate. They do improve in more than one skill: they are better in project work, they are better in interactional English and they show respect within the group.

The author convinces fellow teachers that: ”yes, we can.” She convinces larger audiences that there are still teachers who care for more than just about teaching the book. She is living proof that teachers can do better and can make a difference, that a master degree can orient reflection and research beyond declarations in educational policies. Above all, this study suggests that quality school is a reality where there is good will and a ”good idea”, as the investigated kids have put it in their final questionnaire! 

Ligia Sarivan,

PhD, senior researcher Institute for Educational Sciences

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