The present paper deals with applying project method as a method of action learning and a means of developing creativity initiative while teaching foreign languages to students of non-linguistic universities. The relevance of creativity initiative and the learning environment required for its successful development are considered in the given paper. The main stages, types of activities and results of project method application are presented as well. In a stepwise manner the authors describe their personal experience in conducting a research aimed at implementing a practice-oriented project at English classes, and suggest this type of project to be an efficient method of creativity initiative development.
Keywords: Creativity initiative, foreign language teaching, practice-oriented project, teachers’ roles, action learning
The system of Russian higher professional education is being actively modernized nowadays. This results in the higher level of requirements for the professional qualities of modern specialists in different spheres of life. The present-day specialists need to apply a creative, unconventional approach to solving professional tasks rather than only make use of the knowledge obtained during the process of education. Thus, a competitive specialist requires having an individual view, ability to take unconventional decisions and find, analyze and process information on their own responsibility. Consequently, we can assume that one of the major qualities a modern specialist needs is creativity initiative.
The term “creativity initiative” implies the skills of applying and modifying the existing ways of problems solving as well as generating conceptually new problem-handling approaches on one’s own motion. The following conditions can be created for the future specialists with the aim of developing their creativity initiative:
- imitating professional situations possible to occur during the future professional activity and aimed at solving social and job-related problems;
- directing students towards the results of their actual performance;
- selecting action learning techniques based on achieving students’ creative potential (quizzes, Club of the smart and the merry, festivals, academic competitions, etc);
- providing students with pedagogical assistance.
Being an old technique, the project method is very relevant in modern education due to giving teachers the opportunity to base the educational process on awaking the learners’ interest in the knowledge they obtain, the information which can and will be important for their future lives and careers. Project method belongs to the category of a “trouble-shooting technique” and implies not only finding solutions to problems but also applying the experience gained in life, fostering independent thinking, self-confidence and social responsibility. In other words, such an activity as a project method involves learners in the process of solving a practical problem over a period of several days or weeks. Classroom projects can be suggested by teachers, but they are planned and executed as far as possible by the students themselves, individually or in groups.
Project in education or a classroom project is a five “P” concept: Problem; Planning; (information) Pursuit; Product; Presentation .
Consequently, the classroom project can be defined as students’ activity aimed at finding ways to solve the existing problem via defining the procedure, i.e. planning the process of trouble-shooting with further pursuing and analyzing information gained, which, at the end, leads to creating a new product and presenting it.
There exist a number of classroom project types: practice-oriented, research, information gathering, creative, role . Each of the project types mentioned implies verbal and non-verbal communication, which defines the corresponding studies procedure including learning inside and outside the classroom. The major part of project preparation is devoted to out-of-classroom segment (information search, processing, analysis and exchange). This form of studying provides students with freedom in the process of studying, which, in its turn, gives many benefits in terms of enjoyment, personal development, motivation and even increased subject performance. Thus, we can assume that this form of learning activity contributes to self initiative development.
By virtue of the fact that present-day curriculums do not include a special subject aimed at implementing practice-oriented project method, there is the necessity to search for the ways of encouraging students’ individuality, independence, initiative and creativity in the process of mastering the existing courses. Taking into account the implication of a foreign language to be one of the most efficient communication tools and means of learning about the world around us and the crucial role it plays in modern education, including professional higher education, we can assume the subject “Foreign Language” to be a suitable ground for developing creativity initiative. Our assumption is based on the opportunity of this subject to combine such factors as authentic material learning background, freedom for creativity and teachers’ support.
In concordance with the syllabus, the project under research is a part of the programme module “English for specific purposes”. The project name was defined as follows: “Dictionary of technical terms”.
The project was supposed to assist in reaching the following objectives:
- find and analyse textual material in English within the scope of the subject area of the 3rd year students;
- create a bilingual electronic dictionary of technical terms selected on the principle of frequency of their occurrence in the specialist texts.
The electronic dictionary of technical terms is aimed at being used by the students and university teachers of TPU in preparing articles, tasks, etc. within the scope of the specific area.
The Electronic dictionary had to meet the following requirements:
1) The dictionary should comprise: list of English terms (in alphabetic order); Russian equivalents to the terms; term definitions in English; word collocations with terms; examples of use (from authentic sources).
2) All the definitions and examples must be followed by the links to the sources, i.e. online dictionaries, articles from scientific journals, texts from the individual texts banks.
3) The program needed to enable: displaying any section by the user’s request; getting the thorough information on each term separately; making modifications in the dictionary.
4) The application must respond validly to those users’ actions which may contain errors or bugs and display corresponding alert messages.
5) Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz); RAM: 512 megabyte (MB); Hard disk space: 600 MB; Software requirement:.NET Framework v4.5
During the last 2 months of the term, the students had to prepare a group-based project aimed at generating a 50 terms bilingual dictionary and making a presentation within their subject area.
The project teams had to generate the project task, leading to a group presentation which will be an oral part of the credit test at the end of the V term.
To carry out the project task successfully, first, students had to formulate the problem\topic of the final project stage, i.e. final presentation. Next, they were required to collect a bank of texts or\and articles related to the topic of the final project stage and select 50 terms of high frequency.
Traditionally, the project work procedure includes three stages:
- preparation (setting a goal, problem recognition, organizing work teams, assigning responsibilities for project team members);
- main (searching for the information required for the research, ideas synthesis and analysis);
- final (preparing the final report, presenting the results obtained, project defense) .
Preparation stage. Students were required to:
1) form their project teams;
2) do a project description (in the written form), including the following information:
- Project title;
- Organization, Institute, Group;
- Key staff involved in the project;
- Subject area;
- Summary of the project;
- Project rationale and uniqueness;
- Project aims and objectives;
- List of the project realization steps;
- The main results of the project;
3) comment on the main constituent parts;
4) present the outline of the individual responsibilities in the project group.
Main stage consisted of 2 steps. Step 1: The project group had to:
1) submit the bank of texts (approximately 20–25) related to the topic of the subject area (Documents may be found in newspapers, journals, books that may be downloaded from the Internet) and comment on the choice of texts (in what way they relate to the topic of the final presentation).
2) submit the list of technical terms (50 terms) selected from the texts bank to be included in the electronic dictionary and ordered alphabetically, and comment on the choice of terms (according to what principle they were chosen, whether it was difficult or easy to select them, etc.).
Step 3 was devoted to presenting the 1st draft of the electronic dictionary of technical terms upon the stated requirements (see paragraph 3 Electronic dictionary requirements). Students must comment on the results (what problems occurred while creating the dictionary, what sources were used, etc.).
Final stage. At this stage the oral presentations took place and each project team was required to submit (in electronic form) the group portfolio, consisting of:
1. Project description in the written form;
2. Bank of texts and list of technical terms;
3. Dictionary of technical terms;
4. Power Point presentation on the topic within the subject area.
The project description contained several appendixes: theory on terms (definitions, types, collocations), phrase bank for filling in a project application form; presentations vocabulary; text organizers.
To sum up the results of all project fulfillment procedure stages we can state that this activity corresponds with a five “P” concept of an education project described earlier in the paper. To be exact, students participated in whole class activities, worked in groups and individually when trying to recognize the problem, planned the process of trouble-shooting, and pursued the information necessary for finding the solution, and as a final result of the project fulfillment each student presented products developed individually at the project final stage. As it was mentioned above, the students participating in the research were at B1 level of English, which allowed them to reach all didactic goals the teachers set.
Basing on the results of the research conducted we can consider project method to be an effective technique in the sphere of teaching foreign languages which allows to increase students’ motivation for studying, to develop self initiative when facing the demand of solving problems and to achieve students creative potential. Thus, we can assert that applying project method in educational process promotes the development of students’ creativity initiative while it creates a special environment contributing to it. More specifically, project method implementation enables:
- imitating professional situations aimed at solving social and job-related problems (finding a job at real job market);
- directing students towards the results of their actual performance (choosing career possibilities in the area of personal professional interests);
- providing students with pedagogical assistance (teachers play diverse roles: a facilitator, a consultant, a moderator, a tutor, a trainer).
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3. L. P. Pilat, O. V. Solomintseva, E. M. Shevchenko, Applying project method when teaching the subject “Foreign Language”, Education and Society, 2014, vol.2, pp.32–34