10 ALTERNATIVES FOR PROJECT-BASED LEARNING AMONG MALAYSIAN ESL LEARNERS
21st century has affected language learning in many ways. The traditional teaching methods are no longer sufficient to enhance English proficiency among learners (Sapan, et, al., 2019). One of the learning and teaching methods that is widely practised in the world of education is Project-Based Learning (PjBL). Project-based learning is a teaching method that places learners at the heart of learning. It has been commonly recognised that PjBL has remarkable impact on the learning process as it involves learners to think creatively, collaborate, assess and present their work to an audience (Grant, 2014; Kokotsaki, Menzies, & Wiggins, 2016).
Du and Han (2016) state that project-based learning is not relatively new in pedagogy. In fact, PjBL began approximately in the early 1980s and it was greatly influenced by the communication approach. PjBL was originated from John Dewey’s theory of learning by doing in which he insisted that learning should be more practical where the learners experience the learning process by participating in classroom activities and classroom should represent the real-life situations (Williams, 2017; Du & Han, 2016).
Project-based learning emerges as a method that meets the needs of both teachers and learners in language teaching and learning effectively. Project-based learning has been acknowledged to be relevant, practical and effective in the 21st century education as it does not only drive teaching and learning in accordance with skills but also engages learners into the learning process. This engagement motivates and develops learners’ creativity. Besides, learners also gain knowledge or skills by experiencing and solving real world problems (Thuan, 2018).
PROJECT BASED LEARNING
Project-based learning is a learning model that organizes learning around projects. PjBL is learner-centred as it requires learners to plan, implement, and evaluate projects that have real-world applications beyond the classroom. Teachers only act as facilitators who guide and coach their learners. Project-based Learning is an effective approach that allows multiple skills to be developed through an integrated, meaningful activity. This type of learning is valuable since it is connected to real-world issues and enables learners to demonstrate their knowledge in practical ways. It also engages learners in a variety of tasks that seek meaningful interactions. Consistent with the aim of the 21st century language learning in acquiring communicative competence, a growing body of literature suggests that teaching listening skills in integration with other skills such as speaking, reading or writing is ideal for improving listening competency (Eaton, 2010).
Provenzano (2018) shares four important aspects that contribute to effective implementation of Project Based Learning; ownership, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and fun:
Ownership: Ownership is key as it will boost learners to give their best shot for the project. Learners will invest their time and commitment in the project. When learners are aware that it is their project, they would want to do it and will work harder. When the audience is larger, there is a tendency for them to do their best to impress everyone.
Creativity: Creativity is another valuable aspect of PjBL and is closely linked with ownership. Allowing learners to create gives them an increased sense of ownership. Learners are allowed to decide how they want to complete their project.
Collaboration: Collaboration allows learners to work with each other. Each learner has a role to play and all learners have to do their best to accomplish their goal.
Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is also an important element of PjBL. Learners need to think critically on a few elements such as the contents, details and ways of presentation. They need to give the best ideas that could lead a great outcome, performance or presentation.
Table 1: Project-Based Learning
OPTIONS FOR PjBL ACTIVITIES IN MALAYSIAN SCHOOLS
Project-based learning is a teaching method that places the learners at the centre of learning (Noor, 2019). PjBL also seems to match English language teaching and learning needs as it is “an instructional approach that contextualizes learning by presenting learners with problems to solve or products to develop” (Moss & Van Duzer, 1998:1). In line with this emphasis, I believe these projects would be suitable to be implemented under Project-based learning in Malaysian ESL classrooms.
Project 1: School Based Oral Assessment
School-based oral assessment, for example for SPM 1119/3. This is done when the SPM 1119 candidates are in Form 5 and they can either choose Model 3 or Model 4. For any model that is chosen, learners have to do it in a group. Their oral assessment could be based on their presentation such as a sketch, forum, “television talk show” or debate. Learners need to think critically and make the best decision for their group. Moreover, to produce an interesting oral presentation, they need to collaborate well and be creative. It is evident that this project is learner-centred (teacher only acts a facilitator), promotes usage of English in an authentic situation and integrates other language skills such as listening, reading and writing.
Project 2: Vocabulary Enrichment Module
Learners have to produce a module that enriches their vocabulary, for examples, sophisticated or low-frequency adjectives. Perhaps, each group should focus on one part of speech. The format or structure of the module can be determined by the teacher for standardization purpose or the teacher simply allows learners decide on the structure of their module. When learners are given the autonomy to make decisions for the module, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking will be evident. Their sense of ownership is also enhanced and learners will be prouder to claim it is “our vocabulary module”. Definitely, duration and deadline are given to all groups. Once the vocabulary enrichment modules are ready, they will be printed and shared with all the other learners.
Project 3: Let’s Roar!
“Let’s Roar!” refers to a project that prepares pupils for a choral speaking competition. This is not an uncommon matter as most schools do participate in choral speaking competitions either at school, district, state or national level. The point here, teachers-in-charge have to relate this choral speaking competition to the main element of PjBL that is learner-centred or learner autonomy. Let them think, discuss, collaborate, negotiate, argue and finally decide. Allow them to compose, edit and improvise their own text to enhance ownership, creativity and critical thinking. Give them freedom to decide the actions and sound effect to enrich their choral speaking presentation. Let’s Roar can also be about making the best preparations for any other co-academic English competitions such as action song and drama.
Project 4: Essay Compilation Project
This essay compilation project is possible among intermediate, above intermediate or advanced ESL learners. It could be a five-month project where, maybe 40 participants compile all the essays they write from January to May. Again, as facilitators, teachers only guide them perhaps by explaining about the objectives, essay genres and grouping. The rest will be done by the learners. No doubt, writing skill is the focus here but other language skills are also integrated through the collaborative practices among the group members or participants. Beyond doubt, the project will also allow learners to demonstrate their understanding of the content knowledge.
Project 5: PowerPoint Presentation
The focus of the PowerPoint presentation may be determined by the teacher, for an instance, pupils are required to prepare PowerPoint a presentation of the novel, Dear Mr Kilmer. Each group will get a chapter. It is up to learners’ creativity as long as the relevant crucial content is delivered clearly. The point is, learners make most of the decisions on their own. The English language they use in the presentation as well as throughout the preparation stage reflect the authentic use of English as it is used in the real world. For their end product, learners surely have to collaborate to integrate language skills and process information from diverse sources.
Project 6: Warm-Up Activities for English Language Society (ELS)
Learners, especially the upper form pupils, always have great ideas about ice-breaking activities or warmers. A project organised by the English Language Society can be assigned to them. Their task is to design or compile 10-20 warm-up activities for the ESL. Language skills will be integrated through the proposed activities. Collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, learner-centredness, autonomous learning and authentic use of English will be put into practice.
Project 7: Inter-class Video Contest
Either based on selected literary text or any short story, pupils take part in an inter-class video contest. It is up to the participants’ critical thinking, creativity and collaborative effort to decide how the short story can be videotaped. It could be through the presentation of a sketch, storytelling, series of photos or an animation. Pupils decide on their own. Teachers, as facilitators, may provide some guidelines such as duration and judging criteria.
Project 8: Celebrating Values
As all of us know, there must be an integration of civic education in the teaching and learning of English. It is a good idea certain values such as love and respect are integrated through a one-a-month project done by the pupils. The teacher can determine early which group of pupils will be in charge of which value and when they have to organise the activity. Let us say, Group A is supposed to carry out a project for the value ‘love’. Group A may want to highlight and demonstrate love through a birthday celebration or a self-cooked meals party. The point is, just like the other proposed activities above, learner-centredness is embraced; the activity is carried out for them, by them.
Project 9: Facebook Page
Teenagers and social media are inseparable. Setting up a Facebook page is just a sample project that pupils can handle for PjBL. This project will surely allow the pupils involved to use English in a real-life setting. It does not really matter if their English is fairly broken because what is more valuable is that pupils, especially the intermediate ones, are given opportunities to use English for their communicative purpose. The Facebook Page must embrace the principles of PjBL such as learner-centredness, autonomous learning, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
Project 10: English Room / Zone / Corner Project
If there is an extra room or just a little corner in school, just give it to learners to develop the place. Teacher facilitates them by providing some guidelines and perhaps financial assistance. Let the pupils involved to prepare their working paper in which they collaborate and think critically to propose their ideas how to develop the room or corner. Using the approved budget, let the pupils nurture and expand their creativity to impress teachers and other pupils.
Li (2016) claims that teaching and learning process in most schools in Malaysia is still centred around the teacher resulting in most classroom activities are planned, implemented and evaluated solely by teachers. This has to change!
PjBL is different from traditional instruction because it emphasizes learning through student-centered, interdisciplinary, and integrated activities in real-world situations (Astawa et, al., 2017). Teachers and their pupils have nothing to lose if they choose to implement project based learning. Let’s embrace PjBL!
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