The key aim of my research project is to compare and contrast the use of skills based and project based learning on student engagement, motivation and achievement. A brief background theory behind this that mathematics is a subject in which procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding can be relatively segregated. You can know how to do something without understanding the concept behind it but also can understand a concept without knowing how to carry out the mechanics necessary solve a problem.
A challenge for me has been to balance skills and concepts in the classroom. So, this year I will be deliberately using skills based activities (eg. drills, textbook, education perfect) and project based activities (eg. inquiries, contextual problem/design situations) and monitoring the impact on student engagement, motivation and achievement. To track this data I will be regularly administering student surveys, asking for third party observations and monitoring student achievement.
Project-based Task Example
Skills-based Task Example
Which would you prefer?
So far, I've noticed that students are actually very engaged in skill based activities, they feel accomplished that they know how to do a "certain type" of question such as simplify a fraction or find a percentage of a number. However if they don't get it right away, they tend to get frustrated or give up. I am unsure if these skills are transferrable to real life contexts. When I have used project based learning in the past, a lot of time has been spent with students saying they are "researching" and my concern is that the time spent is unproductive. It is a slow start but some students do amazing projects, others do hardly anything but find pictures. However, I think if they are find out skills and concepts for themselves and can relate it to a context in their lives this may foster deeper learning.
I don't think I will find that skills based is better than project based or vice versa. But for certain students (high/low ability, high/low motivation) one may be more suitable to lift engagement or achievement. I am also factoring in choice into my classroom so it will be interesting to see what the students choose to do. After all, this is always about their learning.