Larry Sanger has some good thoughts here, among which is this:
10. The project method is inefficient.
Now let me explain why I have it in for the project method. I have loathed this method since it was inflicted upon me back in the 1970s and early 1980s. It never fails to amazing me that teachers and education professors apparently can’t see – or worse, don’t care – that making models, playing dress up, putting on lame plays, and doing endless navel-gazing projects about themselves, and so forth, are an amazingly inefficient use of time. It is true that students can learn a few things very well from such projects. But in the same 20 hours that it takes to do some elaborate history project, a student could have read ten related or increasingly difficult books all on the same subject, written a serious report, and emerged a little expert.
True, he wouldn’t be able to point proudly to a model of the pyramids or a mud hut village. But he would actually know something about ancient Egypt or African village life, something that he would remember. Moreover, if the books are carefully chosen to fit the student and for quality, and the student can choose the report topic and gets enough help with it, the student can actually like the reading and writing, as much as if not more than yet-another-art-project.
Subsequently, a commenter said:
I am increasingly sure that wasting time is the pedagogical POINT of these projects. Namely, the single teacher in charge of the 30-35 mixed-level children in a public elementary school classroom cannot possibly do the highly efficient lesson planning for six different subjects that you’re advocating here. She can do it for one or two subjects, and then for the other subjects, she can block out “Marco Polo play” as a project and get the kids to leave her alone for a couple of hours a week while she corrects papers, works with Meredith who still needs help multiplying fractions, or organizes this semester’s reading groups.
To which Larry Sanger replied, “I really hadn’t thought about it that way, but what you say makes perfect sense.”
If that’s true, what does it say about our model of schooling that it necessitates so much time-wasting?