Project-based = collaborative
Project-based language instruction is a flexible methodology allowing multiple skills to be developed in an integrated, meaningful, ongoing way. Project-based instruction (also referred to as skills-based or project-based learning) can be defined as “an instructional approach that contextualizes learning by presenting learners with problems to solve or products to develop” (Moss & Van Duzer, 1998). It is an instructional method which “promotes the simultaneous acquisition of language, content, and skills” (Beckett & Slater, 2005).
Why project-based learning for English as a foreign langauge?
A major goal of project-based instruction is output which generally occurs both during the project and as the final product of the project. Project-based instruction allows instructors to teach the four core English skills (along with related cultural elements) while giving both instructors and students freedom in what project they choose and how they carry it out.
It is advisable that teachers do not seize full control of projects but rather leave as much as possible up to student choice. This may also enhance student motivation.
However, due to this “emergent” nature, project-based instruction demands rapid adjustments by the teacher and the faith of the students to succeed. There is an element of unpredictability in project-based instruction.
This is why it’s important for the teachers to feel very confident about the usefulness of the project and its related topics, and how these will help the students in their daily lives and personal endeavours.
The project of Language
Language is in itself a practical skill that helps you to navigate the project of your life. Language doesn’t exist in a void. This is why text book-based and other didactic, traditional forms of language instruction do not produce lasting effects in the lives of their students.
This kind of traditional instruction can feel static and stale, and the lack of relevance to everyday actions, vocabulary and authentic, natural language production can leave students with apparent skills in areas such as grammar, but with low confidence levels in terms of their ability to put their knowledge into use.
Why project-based English learning for Asylum seekers?
New or relatively new arrivals to the UK are in an immersion situation; immersed in a new language, culture and system of which they often have very little experience.
It is an urgency for these learners to become functional in their everyday English language use, and understanding of the host culture, as quickly and efficiently as possible. Project-based English learning using everyday topics such as their community and community history will help them to assimilate quickly and feel confident in their functional English vocabulary, grammar and receptive and productive skills. As they apply all these skills to either preparing for, or executing, real-life projects in every lesson.
In the project-based English learning classroom at ICN the ongoing informal assessment, feedback process, peer-supported learning and real-time encouragement that happens means that our students clearly see and experience their progress over the duration of the course. This is then celebrated in the assessment and celebration week that follows the final project submission. This is not just an effective and practical way pf learning and receiving feedback on our strengths and areas for improvement, but it is a cause, and opportunity, for celebration, purpose and fulfilment in the lives of our students.