Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Inquiry Goal for 2018 - Drills4Skills? or PassionProjects?

Entering into my second year of teaching I feel a lot more confident in the classroom. I know the students better, I understand the culture of the school and I have more knowledge about different strategies to engage learners. This year, I would like to continue to try new things and innovate but also be more stringent on using research and data, recording evidence and having structured plans. Over the summer I took a course on research methods in education and throughout this year I will be carrying out a research project.

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.


  1. Great learning opportunities for you and the students


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