Topic 4: History of Project Based Learning


History of Project Based Learning

John Dewey, American philosopher and author of Democracy and Education wrote about student-directed, student-centered learning about one hundred years ago, . He saw democracy as a tool that each person could use to further his or her unique talents to make a productive contribution to society. He felt that when a student has a hands on experience learning is enhanced by the "doing," and this active learning produces more understanding of content than the traditional authoritarian instructional model.

At that time, the economy was changing from an agriculture base to a manufacturing base. Schools changed to meet the new challenges of the economy; the twentieth century worker needed to be less of an artisan or farmer and more of a highly disciplined individual with highly specialized skills, capable of living within rigid limits and time-schedules. This was the educational model of the industrial age.

The invention of the Intelligence Test in 1905 by Alfred Binet had a dramatic impact on U.S. culture, and education. Lewis Terman, a Stanford University psychology professor, believed that IQ tests could be used by the population. Consequently Intelligence tests were used to rank order people from being imbecilic to being geniuses. Schools began to place students in classes based on their IQ scores. Thus, IQ scores determined the type of education they received which in turn placed them in the appropriate socio-economic strata of society. During World War I, the U.S. Army embraced intelligence testing to determine which inductees would go to the front line and which would get the desk jobs.

This sorting of people was based on two types of intelligence÷verbal and performance. The verbal tests were based on a knowledge of vocabulary, and the performance tests included items such as arranging a set of pictures into a sequence that could tell a story, or to remember sequences of numbers. Other forms of intelligence were not recognized.

During the past century research in cognitive psychology and learning gave rise to use of project-based learning in many schools. This model of teaching and learning has changed the view of education from a training model to an empowerment model.

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psycologist who studied the development of intelligence, identified four stages of mental development in children.

Research in cognitive psychology and learning, coupled with the enormous changes the world has experienced this past century, has given rise to the impetus for using a project-based learning strategy of teaching. This model of teaching and learning has changed the view of education from a training model to an empowerment model. Piaget's stages of development had an enormous impact on how educators think about and organize curriculum and instruction.