The Project Method (Die Projektmethode)

Theory and Practise

Term Paper 2006 15 Pages

Didactics - English - Pedagogy, Literature Studies



1 Introduction

2 The history of project teaching

3 The project method and Dewey’s theory

4 Structure and main features of projects
4.1 7-step model by Karl Frey
4.2 10-step model by Fredricka L. Stoller

5 What makes the project method special?

6 Conclusion - Pros & Cons of the project method

7 Bibliography

8 List of figures

1 Introduction

In line with the seminar of Mr. Sudhoff and Mr. Paulick “From theory to practise“, I took a closer look at some theoretical theories of the project method. In Germany the project work has different significance from school to school. The bandwidth reaches from express rejection to regular individual projects and project weeks. There are only few schools with deep-seated projects and curricula with declared project work. Mainly two objections are raised for the slow expansion of projects in our schools. Firstly there is the theoretic-didactical objection - a serious theory of project work wouldn’t exist and secondly the practical objection - project work would be incompatible with the constraints of daily school-life. The first argument can be disproved easily, because meanwhile there are several important releases about the theory of project work and as the case may be about the project method. The following chapters will deal with a part of them.

2 The history of project teaching

The method of project work isn’t as it is possibly assumed neither a modern nor a conservative invention. It isn’t also an idea of the reform educators. It is an old lady of teaching methods and was born with the formation of the polytechnic institutes in the middle of the 19th century. Instead of piling up a mass of encyclopedical knowledge, students would learn the planning and realisation of projects, for instance to build houses and bridges or to construct gadgets. The Ecole Polytechnique of Paris was the archetype for the project method which initially started to spread in the vocational schools then. During the turn of the century the project method migrated to the USA. 1940 it reemigrated to Germany and was declared as an American invention by the German project pedagogues. Since that time it is integrated in all school- and education types (Frey 2002, p.159).

Unfortunately it appears adulterated and irrecognizable, because often people don’t take things that were once invented for serious and want to be creative and they are just doing things that happen to come into their mind. So when do we talk about a real project? What are the main aspects and which kind of projects do exist? The following chapters will give short answers to these questions.

3 The project method and Dewey’s theory

The project method is a special teaching method that traces back to John Dewey’s philosophy of education (Bastian / Gudjons / Schnack / Speth 1997, p.9). His theory of education offers a conceptual instrument, which fits also for modern project concepts. Often Dewey is perceived as the father of the project method, but there are also some people who query this view and refer back to considerably older roots (Speth 1997, p.19). Howsoever, Dewey is an important figure concerning the project method.

Dewey himself accentuated the close connection between education and philosophy. For Dewey philosophy crows out of problems that result from human cohabitations. Its function is it to add something to the resolutions (Dewey 1989; q.v. Speth 1997, p.20). Thereby it isn’t about recognizing the absolute truth or about ultimate solutions. It’s about considering the problems and formulations of possible suggestions for solutions. Of course those are hypothetic and should supply the further development (Dewey 1964, p. 420). Finally it is a matter of ongoing processes which depend on particular situations. Dewey criticises philosophical views that base on final categories, because they would breed dualism – a division into earth and human being, body and psyche, subject and object. The pragmatic perspective assumes that human being and world are related to each other. One without the other would be unimaginably, because they construct each other in an ongoing process.

Linked to that, the term experience gets a central meaning: the beings gain cognition by dealing actively with its environment, in fine while they experience. We act on an object and the object acts back on us. The more these two sides are connected to each other the more useful they are (Dewey 1964, p.186). Dewey also mentioned that these experiences and processes of cognition are highly individual and cannot be pre-planed. In relation to education and school it becomes apparent that the programmability of cognition by teachers is limited. Finally they won’t know exactly what a lesson will bring on the student’s side.

Dewey never affirmed that one teaching method is better than another. Just as little he favoured the project method as the solely best. For Dewey content and teaching method complement one another. Neither contents nor methods can be privileged in general but they have to be chosen by concrete situations and respective acting people.

If Dewey lived this very day, he‘d probably smile at the desperate bid to clarify accurately what the project method is all about. In fact, it’s hard to find out, what the real project method is. Many theories exist around this method, and there are some aspects that all theories have in common.

4 Structure and main features of projects

A number of (language) educators have described project work from different perspectives. One of the last and most actual descriptions was given by Fredricka L. Stoller. She has summarized the most important measures, which have to be considered for successful development of projects in language classrooms. Her ten-step model is generally applicable to other subjects, of course.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
933 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Duisburg-Essen
STRUCTURE AND MAIN FEATURES OF PROJECTS 7 Step Model by Karl Frey 10 Step Model b<y Fredricka L. Stoller Dewey's Theory the history of project teaching



Title: The Project Method (Die Projektmethode)