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Project based learning at a

Venezuelan primary school:


opening a (not easy) road

Ana M. López
Unidad Educativa Experimental “Venezuela”
Universidad Nacl. Exp. “Simón Rodríguez”
anamanlop@hotmail.com
Aurora Lacueva
Universidad Central de Venezuela
lacter@cantv.net
European Conference on Educational Research – Dublin, 2005
Context
 We consider project based learning
(PBL) as a potentially fruitful and rich
approach (based on both theory and
practice)
 Since 1998, PBL is included in
venezuelan primary school curricula
 But guidelines are scarce, conditions
difficult and there is confusion among
teachers
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Main objective
To contribute to the transformation of
educative practice by developing
initiatives for the best enacting of PBL,
enhancing students participation and
their opportunities for research and
reflection

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What did we do?
We developed and evaluated two
projects: “The human body” and
“Animals”
Sixth grade, public school in Caracas
Low middle class level
Ana M. López was the classroom teacher
and researcher
Aurora Lacueva was the co-researcher
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Project work
 Good project work follows from
students’ questions
 Implies both library and empirical
research
 Ends in some form of communication
 Integrates disciplines

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Some authors
 Pioneers in PBL: Dewey, Kilpatrick (USA)
 Great pedagogical frameworks for PBL:
Freinet (France), Freire (Brazil)
 Contemporary work on PBL or similar
approaches: Tann (UK), Manning,
Manning & Long (USA), Hernández
(Spain), Krajcik, Marx & Blumenfeld
(USA), Fourez (Belgium)
 A-R reports in Venezuela: Parada, Flores
& Alfonzo
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Methodology
 Complex action-research, two cycles
 18 weeks of classroom work,
2 sessions x week, 2 hours x session
 Gathering and recording of data:
 Diaries of teacher, co-researcher and
student teams
 Interviews with 17 students
 Audio & video recordings
 Collection of students’ work
 Collection of López
didactical materials
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Methodology (cont.)
 Interpretation of data:

 Narrative of the two projects

 Analysis using five categories

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Two cycles of action-research
 First cycle:
 Exploration
 Design and plan
 Enacting, follow-through, analysis
 Evaluation of action

 Second cycle:
 Explanation of achievements and flaws
 Design and plan (...)
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Processes in our projects
1. To propose a theme
2. What do we know about theme?
3. What do we want to know about
theme? (First research net)
4. To group related questions
(Second research net)
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Processes in our projects (cont.)
5. Distribute subprojects among
teams
6. Team net
7. Team plan
8. Development of each team’s plan
9. Communication of teams’
research
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Categories of analysis
of our results
 Strategies of students-researchers
 Group work
 Resources and PBL
 Teacher preparation
 Evaluation of PBL

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Group work

 Integration

 Shared leadership

 Negotiation and agreements

 Productivity

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Resources and PBL
 Documents
 Printed materials
 Audiovisuals
 Internet and CDs
 People
 Environments
 Equipment, instruments and materials
 Live beings
 Others
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Teacher preparation

 In subject-matter content

 In pedagogy

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Evaluation of PBL
 Evaluation as daily routine
 Evaluation as a wide range of
opportunities
 Several evaluation agents
 Evaluation and national curriculum

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Strategies
of students-researchers
 For organizing the research
▫ Questions
▫ Nets
▫ Plans

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Some students’ questions
 Good for research
Why do we turn red when we run?
How can fishes live in the sea?
 Bad for research
How many puppies can a dog have?
 “Academic”
How does the cardiovascular system
work?
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An example of a net
net

Tooth decay
Teeth care
prevention
Chewing
Relation with nose Oral hygiene

Digestive Functions
School diet system (parts of the
Indigestion system)
Harm to the stomach
of chewing nails

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Plan (form given by teacher)
What do we Questions What are Where are How long
want to we going to we going to will it take?
achieve? do? investigate? (Time)
(Purpose) (Activities) (Sources)

What do we
have?
(Resources)

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Strategies
of students-researchers (cont.)
 For library research
▫ Search for sources
▫ Checking
▫ Selection and organization of info
▫ Synthesis (weak)
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Strategies
of students-researchers (cont.)
 For direct empirical research
▫ Design or selection of experiences
▫ Assembling of equipment and/or
construction of instruments
▫ Development of processes (phases)
▫ Registration of data
▫ Organization of data
▫ Interpretation of results (implies theory)
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Strategies
of students-researchers (cont.)
 Strategies of communication
▫ Oral expositions
▫ Dramatizations
▫ Development and use of graphic support
▫ Written reports (few)

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Achievements
 An initiation into research processes

 Increased collaboration

 Increased students’ decision-making

 More space for students interests and


ideas and their development

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Achievements (cont.)
 Use of external learning environments
 Exploration and use of different
information sources
 Some students located and interviewed
experts
 Better communication of results
 A more authentic and naturalistic
evaluation
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Weaknesses
 Need for more content preparation on
the part of teacher (time)
 The interrelation of library and empirical
research
 Students’ interpretation of empirical
results

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Obstacles
 Lack of resources

 Furniture: desks, no tables, few shelves

 Too large class size (near 40 students)

 Noise (due to busy road)

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Some students’ comments
 Omar: Before we used to sit on a desk and to
copy, copy, copy, and then we memorized all
that stuff to give an exposition. Now we read
books, but we also look for practical activities
and it’s easier, because we search for
sources, we do more and we learn more.
 Mariela: In fifth grade, we said what project
we were going to work on, we searched the
basics on a book, we presented it and that
was it. Now it’s different: we choose the
theme, we do research, we do practical
activities (...)
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Some students’ comments
(cont.)
 We learned a different form of project
work, because in fifth grade we only
read and worked individually, but now
we not only read, but did practical
activities and worked in groups. (Final
group interview: Candy, Parvaty, César
and Marla).

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More on our research
 López, A. M. and Lacueva, A. (2007a). Proyectos en
el Aula: Cinco Categorías en el Análisis de un Caso.
REICE. 5 (1): 78-120. At:
http://www.rinace.net/arts/vol5num1/art5.pdf
 López; A. M. and Lacueva, A. (2007b). Enseñanza
por proyectos: una investigación-acción en sexto
grado. Revista de Educación. 342: 579-604. At:
http://www.revistaeducacion.mec.es/re342.htm
 López, A. M. and Lacueva, A. (2008). Projects in a
sixth-grade classroom: entering a bumpy but
promising road. Educational Action Research.16 (2):
163-185.
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