Key Features

Five Structural Features of the Project Approach

A project is unique when compared to other types of approaches to curriculum and instruction (units, themes, lessons) because the children’s questions and interests drive the teaching and learning experiences. Projects also are distinct from other approaches because during each phase five structural features support the teaching and learning experiences.

Representation. As children engage in project work, information gathered is summarized in forms of graphs, charts, diagrams, paintings, drawings, sculptures, construction, murals and reports for peers, parents and the community.

Investigation. Investigation is at the heart of projects, as children are actively investigating through inquiry the how, what, where, when, and for whom, related to the project topic. Students may gather data through surveys, interviews, field site visits, conversations, and research through primary and secondary sources.

Fieldwork. Fieldwork introduces children to the places and necessary experts, in their everyday world, with whom the children can interact with and learn from. Experts can be teachers, students and staff on-site at the school, parents and community members, family members and neighbors of children, and professionals and volunteers who have expertise on the topic. Unlike traditional field trips taken in schools, fieldwork takes place at the beginning of learning and is a key stimulus in the investigation of the topic.

Discussion. Children engage in rich discussions with adults and peers to facilitate their learning, inquiry and research. Discussion provides daily opportunities to maintain and build interest for the topic, as well as the teaching and learning experiences.

Documentation/Display. Documentation focuses on formalizing the learning. Children are invited to plan and produce evidence of their work. Teachers assist and can tailor project documentation based on the audience: children, teachers, parents, community members, etc. Documentation of children’s learning can take the form of panels, electronic presentations, books, project products with rubrics, etc.