Problem-oriented project learning and its potential as purposeful immersive education

Project: Research


Problem-oriented project learning and its potential as purposeful immersive educationJakob Egholm Feldt & Eva Bendix PetersenRoskilde University, Denmark
In this paper we consider how problem-oriented project learning (PPL) as a particular form of study practice in higher education, at least in theory, enables the kinds of educative experiences John Dewey advocated in his seminal book Democracy & Education (1916). We wish to explore the possibility of understanding and reclaiming PPL as a form of purposeful immersive educative practice, and thereby offer a critique of the current dominant ways of explaining and marketing the study practice, which emphasize its instrumental value in generating generic process competencies that are attractive to employers. To advance the notion of purposeful immersive education, we draw together Dewey’s notions of thinking, interest, discipline, method and subject matter. We are particularly interested in a certain passage in the book (1916:176), where Dewey writes about single-mindedness as completeness of interest and unity of purpose, which stand in contrast to “ulterior aims for which the professed aim is but a mask”. He continues, “absorption, engrossment, full concern with subject matter for its own sake, nurture it. Divided interest and evasion destroy it”. We discuss the ways in which PPL as a composite pedagogy may allow for this absorption and engrossment, which importantly in Dewey’s work is always, when it is true, connected to educator and student interest, that is, the immersive experience is linked with a sense of purpose. We conclude by touching upon the implications of conceptualizing PPL in this way, rather than as a method which is disconnected from material and as a “gymnastic appliance” (1916:131) in the attainment of extrinsic aims.
Effective start/end date01/03/201901/05/2020