Project-based instruction in a Canadian secondary school's ESL classes : goals and evaluations

Gulbahar Huxur Beckett
1999
Research on project-based instruction is common in mainstream education. It conceives the activity broadly, but omits language. It is rare in English as a Second Language (ESL) education, and Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theory conceives it narrowly, omitting a functional view of language. The present study examines the implementation of project-based instruction in ESL classes in a Canadian secondary school through interviews with Canadian ESL teachers and Chinese ESL students,
more » ... tudents, observations of two projects in action, and examination of students' written work, and school, school board and Ministry of Education documents. Results indicate that the teachers held and implemented a broad, integrated conception of project-based instruction that includes a functional view of language. They have many more goals than those stressed for project-based instruction in the SLA literature, and have goals that are not included even in the mainstream literature. The teachers evaluated project-based instruction positively, and the researcher's observations support the teachers' evaluations. However, despite teacher's and students' successes, a number of students evaluated project-based instruction negatively. This discrepancy is discussed using three explanatory models (philosophical, cultural, and linguistic) that the participants may have been using when interpreting project-based instruction. The study points to the need to develop a rationale which adequately addresses project-based instruction as a functional language learning activity in the context of academic subject matter learning. It identifies problems of cross-cultural interpretation of and communication about projects, and notes difficulties of resolving them. It points out the necessity for an examination of the processes of project-based instruction, noting places of difficulty and success, and considering promising strategies.
doi:10.14288/1.0078180 fatcat:juohrwt4nndt5muvemjdkxctdi