Project learning is a very important part of the curriculum in
NUS (e.g. the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program or UROP).
It is essential to your development of research skills, intelligent
behaviours and thinking strategies. In project work, you will undertake
the creation, execution and finished production of an experiment/review/survey/etc.
The nature of the project is dynamic as it goes through conception,
configuration, contradiction, confusion, reconfiguration and eventually
culmination and celebration (Fogarty, 1997). Occasions will arise
where you have to deal with controversies, to identify and solve
problems, to create new ideas, or to make difficult decisions.
There can be three stages in project work in general (see Fogarty,
1997, for details). In the first level of activities, you should
select a project with the help of the teacher. After consulting
the teacher for guidelines, you should embark on the initial stage
of reading for background information, researching and taking notes,
building a reference list, interviewing experts, viewing films and
videos, developing an outline, talking with peers, surfing the Internet,
checking and double-checking sources, visiting sites, as well as
gathering charts, maps and illustrations. Such activities lay the
groundwork for the inventiveness of the latter two stages.
As a project enters the second phase, you should begin to try to
make sense of the information collected. You may discover that some
information is relevant and some is not. At this level, you should
try to analyse whatever information you have, sort the information
into meaningful chunks, and synthesise it in order to move the project
forward. If a team of students is involved, members must find ways
to share their information.
At the third phase, you should divide and prioritise tasks, check
timelines, take any necessary emergency measures and stay alert.
You would perform activities like model building, construction,
assembling, synthesising ideas, rethinking or re-conceptualising,
finishing touches, decorative details, evaluative testing, peer
review, self-assessment, evaluation against criteria, expert review,
final submittals and celebrations.
Certain intelligent behaviours are important for successful project
work (e.g. curiosity, openness, reality orientation, objectivity,
precision, confidence, responsibility, consensus and collaboration).
When you undertake a project, you should focus on not only what
you know, but also how you behave when you don’t know (Costa,
1991). It is only when you are confronted with questions and problems
for which you do not know the immediate answer that you develop
intelligent behaviours which include persistence, decreasing impulsivity,
listening to others, cooperative thinking, flexibility in thinking,
a sense of humour, drawing on past knowledge and applying it to
new situations, and risk taking (Costa, 1991).
For a successful project learning experiment, it is essential
for you to have not only a positive ‘I can’ attitude,
but also the ‘I enjoy’ feeling. Only then will you want
to undertake new projects and to solve new problems; and without
realising it, you will voluntarily continue to learn throughout