Does Cognitive Science Invalidate Project-Based Learning?


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by Jonathan Fichter | filed under Project Based Learning| Fichter For Understanding

Jonathan Fichter, in his blog, takes an interesting look at the research of two highly recognized cognitive scientists whose works disagree on the question of “does cognitive science tell us to rein in Project Based Learning?”

Fichter writes:

In Daniel Willingham’s book Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, Willingham wrote the following about constructivist learning and the idea of trying to get students to think like scientists, historians, etc:

Students “are ready to comprehend  but not to create knowledge” and are not “cognitively capable of doing what scientists or historians do.”

In Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students the author describes student projects like having a group of Grade 3 and Grade 4 students collect, map, and report to a state agency original data about local amphibians. How might Willingham critique an activity like this?

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About the Author

Jonathan Fichter is the Technology Coordinator / Teacher at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School and author of Fichter For Understanding.  You can follow him on twitter @MrFichter

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