Artwork v.s. Classwork: Close contenders?

Amy Miyahara, Asst. A&E Editor

“This isn’t art class!” is something that many students have thought to themselves while being assigned an artistic project in their history or science classes. While it can be difficult for students to see the value in such assignments, these projects can be a beneficial way to help students learn.

There is a difference between creative projects and busy work. Busy work assignments are those that have no educational value, but are simply given for the sake of making students do work. This is undoubtedly unnecessary and should be avoided, but creative projects do not necessarily fall into this category.

Many teachers assign projects both as a way to reinforce material that is covered in class and to help students learn new information. While these projects range from making posters to creating music videos, they all have the goal of trying to help students remember and apply their knowledge in a creative way. The work that comes with these non-traditional assignments may seem tedious and pointless for some students, but teachers often have a reason for assigning students these tasks.

Taking an example from my personal experience, one of my classes spent three weeks putting together a play on several chapters of our curriculum. The time spent putting together scripts, backdrops and costumes could have been spent copying PowerPoint slides, and we likely would have moved through the material much faster that way. However, I can say with confidence, that I remember the material that we covered in our play better than I remember most of the other material that we have covered.

While tests are beneficial in that they are an unbiased and standardized way to determine how well a student has learned material, they are not always an accurate reflection on a student’s comprehension and capability.

All students learn differently, and not everyone is cut out to do well on tests or write essays. Assigning a variety of project types allows students who are talented in other ways to showcase their abilities and be graded on something other than just their ability to bubble in the correct answer on a scantron.

In addition to serving as an alternate form of assessment, projects can also be used as a means to help students perform better on objective tests. A study done by British education writer and mathematics professor Jo Boaler in 1998 followed students in both a traditional classroom setting and those in a more project-based environment over the course of three years. The study found that students in the project-based setting saw a higher pass rate of the nation’s National Exam than the ones from the regular classroom.

Working on projects also allows students to develop important skills that they would not use in a traditional classroom setting. Critical thinking skills, cooperation and creativity, which are essential when entering the workforce and real-life situations, are not learned by spending the entirety of the classroom experience taking notes.

That’s not to say that notetaking should be eliminated. Lecturing is the most direct way of teaching and is often necessary to get through all of the material that needs to be covered. However, projects can be an exciting break from the monotony of typical schoolwork, all while helping students better remember their material and learn to think outside the box.