Making Application of The Project Method in Technology Education. 



Making Application of The Project Method

in Technology Education

Dr. Clayton Ray Diez

Historical Background

The project method as a teaching strategy in Technology Education has been a cornerstone in a variety of ways since its humble beginnings in the mid 1860s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Illinois Industrial University circa 1870 (Knoll, 1997). The project method was used to allow students to completely create a “project” from initial concept through the design process to actual construction. The drawback was the lack of time for students to study and conduct research. Bennett (1937) noted that Runkle and Woodward adapted the “Russian system” to the secondary school system by first educating students on how to use tools and techniques, then applying these acquired abilities to an independent project. A result of Woodward’s efforts this approach to Manual Training was widely accepted across the nation and was even extended to elementary schools.

Dewey (1899) criticized the rationale that manual training was based on study of the requirements of work and promulgated that creativity should be as prominent an aspect as the building of technical skills. Richards (1900) also believed that the project should be the end of the educational process. He devised a curriculum called industrial arts where students would develop an understanding of tasks as a whole, develop skill sets, then recognize and solve problems. He believed that instruction should be integrated into a constructive project that united thought and effort in a reflection of society. These served as the bases for the project method, but only in manual training and industrial arts.

Stimson, circa 1910, proposed the agriculture based “home project plan” (Bleeke, 1968; Knoll, 1991b; cited in Knoll, 1997). Students first learned theoretically knowledge about certain crops, then applied that knowledge in the cultivation of crops at home. This


crux of progressive education. Students were active in applied learning rather than being passive learners (Kliebard, 1986; Knoll, 1991c; cited in Knoll, 1997).

Kilpatrick (1918), influenced by Dewey’s and Thorndike’s theories, deduced that the “psychology of he child” was crucial to the learning process and they needed to be able to decide what they wanted to do and this motivation would lead to learning success since they pursued their own purposes. Kilpatrick (1921) identified “…the term project to refer to any unit of purposeful experience, any instance of purposeful activity where the

dominating purpose, as an inner urge, (1) fixes the aim of the action, (2) guides its process, and (3) furnishes its drive, its inner motivation” (p.283). He further described the four types of projects of the Project Method. The first is where the child is motivated to make a material product. The second is the enjoyment of an experience, a passive experience. The third is the solution of a problem with its source in the natural setting. The fourth is the acquisition of some skill or degree of knowledge. He further

distinguished between group and individual projects. The group project is where a number of students work cooperatively for a specific purpose toward a common end while observing a division of labor. The individual project has only one person involved in the purposeful activity and has full control (Kilpatrick, 1918). Kilpatrick’s notion of the project method was the most recognized and accepted by educators for at least a decade, when the frailties of the strategy proved its undoing as a panacea for all of education.

Dewey’s criticisms ranged from the fact that the student had too much involvement without direction and that it should be an activity common to teachers and students (Dewey, 1938). Earlier Dewey had advocated that a project was not totally spontaneous, but should be a complete problem solving activity where students could learn and yet solve problems using scientific thought processes (Dewey, 1916).

Waks (1997) in his discourse on the project method found that the general project method of Kilpatrick has not been revived in education, but that project work in groups has its place in a postindustrial context. He reviewed Boyer’s proposal for graduation


requirements that included a multidisciplinary senior project, Ambach’s suggestion that all students from third grade prepare annual portfolios as part of assessment, learner directed projects as part of science/technology/society studies with the teacher as a facilitator, and the systems concept of the The Man-Made World curriculum. All these had some component related to project learning where some end product was the focus.

Waks (1997) noted that Kilpatrick had a four step design process for first level projects as directed by students. He found no analysis for the second project level. The third project type was based on solving some type of child discovered problem. The fourth was similar to the first process, but rather than be student directed, it was educator guided.

Charters (1923, cited in Waks, 1997) devised a more streamlined version of the project. He viewed the project as “a problematic act carried to completion in a natural setting” (p. 139). The premises focused on a problematic act that involves the thinking and planning processes rather than habitual acts of response. The second premise is that it must be taken to completion as a result of a process that involves problem identification, projects an end-action, that involves problem resolution, planning and sequencing the steps, executing the plan and then testing the results to insure the solution is sound. Finally, it is to be completed in a natural setting geared as closely to real-life as possible.

Waks (1997) concluded by proposing a reformulated project method for the postindustrial society consisting of six elements. These elements were comprised of: 1) negotiation of the group project, 2) situation of the group project in a social context, 3) assessment of incident learning potential relative to learners’ needs, 4) needs-assessment of background knowledge, 5) facilitation of project tasks, & 6) project assessment and learning

integration. The first two elements draw significantly from Dewey recognizing the importance of learner participation in a social context. The last four elements are

extensions of the criticisms of Kilpatrick’s work and recognize the teacher as an integral component of the process from identifying the needs of learners to the teaching of needed skills and abilities to the facilitation of project tasks to the assessment of the project.


Germany uses the project method as a major component of vocational training. Tippelt and Amoros (December, 2003) indicated that the project method should focus on a problem that has a time limit, has independent and division of tasks in a group environment. The process needs to be linked to competence based training and

recognized five characteristics that guide the work: “…interdisciplinary character, project based learning process, self-directed learning techniques, resources-aided learning, and team work.” (p.12) They also noted that there are six phases to the project including: “informing, planning, deciding, implementing, controlling, and evaluating.” (p. 13) The projects identified in the following can be traced to nearly all early educational thought acknowledged in this paper. Tippelt and Amoros (December, 2003) shared several ways how the project method could be applied in vocational education. Included in this project listing were: an interactive educational process of learning and occupations, is a precisely detailed and planned step-by-step process, a complement to other methods, diverse in the use of learning methods, reflective of pedagogical tradition, adaptive to the demands of new skills training, focused on real-life products, holistic learning, and a student designed self-organized working-learning process.

Even though this paper focused on the project method as used in Technology Education and its precursors, Knoll (1997), in his concluding comments relating to the project method summarized the following: That the concept could be traced to the 17th and 18th centuries so students could work independently on constructed projects for competitions. He noted that two methods are still in use today 1) the building of skills and knowledge with application to a final project, and 2) the solving of a problem that integrates instruction into the project. Finally, history could not be complete without the progressive movement’s broad definition of the project method as a student directed purposeful activity with a definitive end product.

This brings us to the question of “How do we apply the project method in our classes today?” It is this author’s firm belief that one needs to draw the best ideas from those who preceded us in the profession and use their research and experiments to provide sound educational activities for our students.


Applying the Project Method

Students must have the skills and knowledge of tools, techniques, processes, etc. before they can complete a project of their own design; this activity follows in the footsteps of Woodward and Runkle. Without these abilities students would not be able to complete a well-designed quality completed project. A learning activity that could be used is one that provides the student with the knowledge and skills in the completion of a project as part of the learning process, a building block of education. An example is the following worksheet for an introduction to Oxyacetylene Welding. The activity includes a problem objective, problem analysis, reference sources (knowledge), instructor demonstration, step-by-step instructions, and quality criteria for student self-evaluation. This is an instructor initiated and guided skills and knowledge development project.


IT 203 Department of Industrial Technology

Production Processes College of Business & Public Admin.

Section Number University of North Dakota

Final Evaluation Name ________________________

Activity Sheet CB-1


Concept: Combining by oxyacetylene fusion welding (cohesion) Problem Objective

As a result of their learning experiences, students would be able to do the following:

-given combining equipment such as oxyacetylene welding equipment, complete the following cohesion procedures safely and at a satisfactory or above level. Problem Analysis

References: Groover, Fundamentals of modern manufacturing, Chapters 28, 29.3, & 29.6-8. Kalpakjian, Manufacturing Engineering and Technology, Chapter 27

Amstead, Manufacturing Processes, Chapter 8

Roberts and Lapidge, Manufacturing Processes, Chap. 21 Feirer, General Metals, Unit 73

Instructor demonstration:

Equipment: Oxyacetylene welding equipment demonstrated by instructor Supplies: Secure from locker or storeroom as needed


1.Carry out each of the following combining processes using the equipment specified.

2.Evaluate, and then have instructor or instructional assistant evaluate each task as it is completed.

Evaluation Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 4

Student /1 /2 /1 /2 Instructor /1 /2 /1 /2 Evaluation Criteria

- TASK 1 - Melt Strips

1. Melt strips are straight.

2. Melt strips are of uniform width. 3. Melt strips are of proper width (5-6 mm).

4. Ripple pattern is uniform with crescent shaped ripples close together. 5. Key holing is not present at either end of melt strips.

4/1 = 3 melt strips meet all of above criteria. 3/1 = 2 melt strips meet all of above criteria.

2/1 = 1 of 3 melt strips meet at least 3 of above criteria. - TASK 2 - Corner Weld


2. Bead width is sufficient to provide some evidence of penetration without the penetration being excessive.

3. Bead is of uniform width. 4. Bead is of uniform height.

5. Ripple pattern is uniform with crescent shaped ripples close together. 6. Key holing is not present at either end of base.

4/2 = All of above criteria are met.

3/2 = Criteria 1 and 2 and at least 3 of remaining criteria met. 2/2 = Criteria 1 and 2 and at least 1 of remaining criteria met. -TASK 3 - Beads on a Plate

1. Beads are straight.

2. Beads are of uniform width. 3. Beads are of uniform height. 4. Beads are of proper width (5-6 mm). 5. Beads are of proper height (1-2 mm).

6. Ripple pattern is uniform with crescent shaped ripples close together. 7. Key holing is not present at either end.

4/1 = 3 beads meet all of above criteria. 3/1 = 2 beads meet at least 6 of above criteria. 2/1 = 1 of 3 beads meet at least 4 of above criteria. -TASK 4 - Butt Weld

1. Weld sustained root bend test successfully. 2. Bead is of uniform width.

3. Bead is of uniform height. 4. Bead is of proper width (5-6 mm). 5. Bead is of proper height (1-2 mm).

6. Ripple pattern is uniform with crescent shaped ripples close together. 7. Key holing is not apparent at either end.

4/2 = All of above criteria are met.

3/2 = Criteria 1 and at least 4 remaining criteria met.

2/2 = Criteria 1 not met but at least 3 of remaining criteria met. Activities

Secure "C" from ACT S-2 (4 pcs. 14 x ga x 3" x 3" and 8 pcs. 14 ga x 2" x 3")

NOTE: Practicing on scrap stock (if available) is advised before attempting to do the following activities for credit.

-TASK 1 - Melt strips (puddle control)

a. Scribe 3 sets of guide lines 5-6 mm apart on 3" x 3" pc. b. Select appropriate tip and install.

c. Turn on oxygen and acetylene tank valves and adjust regulators to correct working pressure.

d. Light and adjust to neutral flame.

e. Hold torch at about 45 degree angle, develop puddle 1/4" inside of edge - back over to edge and then move puddle to opposite edge (right handed welder moves from right to


f. Continue until your best piece shows minimum or better competence according to the Evaluation Criteria for this task.

g. Identify this piece with initials. h. Evaluate and have evaluated. -TASK 2 - Corner Weld (fusion by heat from torch).

a. Clamp pieces of 2" x 3" stock on fixture with edge of one piece overlapping the other, flush on outside corner.

b. Do 1b, c, and d, as necessary. c. Tack both ends.

d. Remove from fixture.

e. Fuse pieces together with heat from torch using technique learned in previous task (1 e). f. Continue until your best piece shows minimum or better competence according to the

Evaluation Criteria for this task. h. Evaluate and have evaluated. -TASK 3 - Beads on a Plate

a. Secure appropriate size mild steel welding rod from storeroom.

b. Prepare work piece as in TASK 1. The result will be similar to TASK 1 except that this task requires the addition of filler rod to form a bed with a build-up of about 25% of the thickness of the material.

c. Continue until your best piece shows minimum or better competence according to the Evaluation Criteria for this task.

d. Identify with initials. e. Evaluate and have evaluated. -TASK 4 - Butt Weld

a. lace pieces with adjoining edges almost touching where weld will be started and 2-3 mm gap at other end.

b. Tack at both ends using filler rod to make tacks strong. c. Make butt weld adding appropriate amount of filler rod.

d. Continue until your best piece shows minimum or better competence according to the Evaluation Criteria for this task.

e. Identify with initials.

f. Cut weldment and make a "root bend" test on one of the pieces. g. Evaluate and have evaluated.

A second progression of the project method is one where the instructor is a facilitator of the learning process, a.k.a., the observations of Dewey, Kilpatrick, Charters, Waks, and Tippelt & Amoros. In this case the learning is integrated with the project and the students are involved in the planning and carrying out of the project, but with the instructor

integrating instruction as part of the project’s execution. The example here is a product research and development class where the object is for student teams to complete a prototype of a working product with comprehensive written and oral reports to

complement the prototype project. The instructor’s role is to provide information on the design process as the student teams select and develop a prototype and all documentation. Students are introduced to design process information as they work on the project. A


six-step design process methodology is provided as a starting point: Problem identification, Preliminary ideas, Refinement, Analysis, Decision, and Implementation.

The final progression in applying the project method is to fulfill Kilpatrick’s vision and have projects that are purposeful and completely student directed. For example, in education one could have individual self-directed work project with special topics, technical experimentation and other related courses; or one could have team activities in research and development courses and capstone projects. Industry could use the concept in their training for team-directed work projects. In these situations, students use the knowledge and skills they have learned as the building blocks of their education and make application in completion of a self-selected activity. An example the author had the opportunity to observe at the National Kaohsiung Normal University (NKNU) was a perfect example of Kilpatrick’s philosophy and comes from a related field of general education, English. The junior English class at NKNU annually presents a play that is under the total control of the students. They select the topic, write, direct, perform, build the sets, do the marketing, publishing, i.e., everything required of a production without the guidance of faculty: a prime example of a self-directed purposeful activity. How could this be applied in Technology Education? Students could produce a newscast or a show of their own design that is the culminating activity in a communications unit.


The purpose of this paper was to provide instructors with ways to apply the project method of teaching. We learned that if a teacher is to apply a teaching strategy, one must have an understanding of the context of that strategy. The historical overview of the Project Method provides us with that understanding. Finally, examples were provided that shows how the project method is and can still be applied in contemporary

Technology Education proving that the Project Method, if applied appropriately and in context, is still a very powerful teaching tool.



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