Are Projects in the EFL Classroom a Waste of Time? A Research-Based Plea for Freedom of Choice
This study examines the link between integration of project work in the English lessons and students' performance and motivation. To explore that link, an experiment built on one of Campbell and Stanley's experimental models for educational research was conducted. Two groups of high-school students, aged 17, with similar socio-economic backgrounds, were appointed to represent G1, the experimental group (N=36) and respectively, G2, the control group (N=36). Both groups were given similar project tasks but, while G1's project topics were student-generated, G2's project topics were kept within the limits of an umbrella topic chosen by the EFL teacher. The statistical analysis shows significant differences between the two groups after 22 weeks, differences which were inexistent at the beginning of the experiment. Despite the expectation for better results in G2, whose topics and tasks were closely guided, the opposite occurred. Both proficiency and motivation were much higher in G1, which is attributed to the increased amount of effort and interest invested by students when they work on a topic they themselves are allowed to choose and which they perceive as authentic. The findings support the feasibility of integrating project work in the English classes and suggest that more research be done to evaluate the benefits of integrating project-based instruction in the foreign language classroom.
Keywords: Project Work, EFL Classroom, Choice of Topic, Umbrella Topic, Student Performance, Student Motivation
Dr. Eusebia Iris Muresan
Head of EFL Teaching Certificate Strand, Faculty of Education, Bar Ilan University