Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 31 (1) Mar. 2023 / JSSH-8438-2021


Fuelling Grammar Mastery and 21st Century Skills Through Project-Based Learning

Mei Fung Yong and Wan Zuhainis Saad

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 31, Issue 1, March 2023

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.31.1.06

Keywords: 21st-century learning skills, ESL learners, games, grammar, project-based learning

Published on: 17 March 2023

Project-based learning (PBL) approach has been adopted in the classroom to engage students actively in the learning process and to allow them to master content knowledge and useful skills. This mixed-method study investigates the perceived benefits and challenges of using the PBL method in developing and enhancing undergraduates’ grammar mastery and 21st-century learning skills. Thirty-five ESL undergraduates from an intact grammar class participated in the study. A questionnaire was administered to elicit the participants’ views on using the PBL approach to develop grammar, collaboration, and speaking skills. In addition, group discussions on Google Docs and reflective journals were collected to obtain insights into their learning processes. The participants preferred the PBL approach, which was more effective, invigorating, and empowering than traditional lecture-style teaching. Although it was time-consuming, challenging, and rigorous, the participants demonstrated their competencies of 21st-century learning skills at the end of the project. PBL maximised language use, increased higher-order thinking, unleashed creativity, and honed ICT skills. These skills are essential to equip and prepare them to be employable and future-ready for workplace demands.

  • Abu Bakar, N. I., Noordin, N., & Razali, A. B. (2019). Improving oral communicative competence in English using project-based learning activities. English Language Teaching, 12(4), 73-84. https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v12n4p73

  • Ahonen, A. K., & Kinnunen, P. (2015). How do students value the importance of twenty-first century skills? Scandavanian Journal of Educational Research, 59(4), 395-412. https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2014.904423

  • Al-Kalbany, N. R. (2004). Omani English teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the role of grammar instruction in EFL teaching and learning [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Sultan Qaboos University.

  • Azmi, I. A. G., Hashim, R. C., & Yusoff, Y. M. (2018). The employability skills of Malaysian university students. International Journal of Modern Trends in Social Sciences, 1(3), 1-14.

  • Barak, M., & Yuan, S. (2021). A cultural perspective tot project-based learning and the cultivation of innovative thinking. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 39, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2020.100766

  • Basoz, T. (2014). Through the eyes of prospective teachers of English: Explicit or implicit grammar instruction? Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 158, 377-382. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.12.103

  • Bell, S. (2010). Project-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future. The Clearing House, 83, 39-43. https://doi.org/10.1080/00098650903505415

  • Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., Miller-Ricci, M., & Rumble, M. (2012). Defining 21st century skills. In P. Griffin, B. McGaw, & E. Care (Eds.), Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (pp. 17-66). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-2324-5_2

  • Borg, S., & Burns, A. (2008). Integrating grammar in adult TESOL classrooms. Applied Linguistics, 29(3), 456-482. https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/amn020

  • Boud, D., Cohen, R., & Sampson, J. (Eds.). (2001). Peer learning in higher education: Learning from and with each other. Routledge.

  • Buck Institute of Education. (2003). Project based learning handbook: A guide to standards-focused project based learning for middle and high school teachers (2nd ed.). Quinn Essentials.

  • Care, E. (2018). Twenty-first century skills: From theory to action. In E. Care, P. Griffins, & M. Wilson (Eds.), Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills: Research and applications (pp. 3-17). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65368-6_1

  • Corder, S. (1988). Pedagogic grammar. In W. Rutherford & M. Sharwood-Smith (Eds.), Grammar and second language teaching (pp. 123-145). Harper & Row Publishers Inc.

  • Dewi, H. (2016). Project based learning techniques to improve speaking skills. English Education Journal, 73(3), 341-359.

  • Ekawati, W. (2018). Implementing integrated project based learning to enhance students’ writing skill. Journal of English Language, Literature, and Teaching, 3(2), 69-76. https://doi.org/10.32528/ellite.v3i2.1915

  • Ellis, R. (2002). Grammar teaching-practice or consciousness-raising? In J. Richards & W. Renandya (Eds.), Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice (pp. 167-174). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511667190.023

  • Fahimirad, M., Nair, P. K., Kotamjani, S. S., Mahdinezhad, M., & Feng, J. B. (2019). Integration and development of employability skills into Malaysian higher education context: Review of the literature. International Journal of Higher Education, 8(6), 26-35. https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v8n6p26

  • Farrell, T. S. C., & Lim, P. C. P. (2005). Conceptions of grammar teaching: A case study of teachers’ beliefs and classroom practices. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 9(2), 1-13.

  • Fayyaz, S., & Omar, H. M. (2014). A study of contextual situatedness of English language teachers’ beliefs and practices about the form-focused instruction: A case study in Sandakan district, Sabah. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 134, 201-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.04.240

  • George, D., & Mallery, P. (2003). SPSS for windows step by step: A simple guide and reference. 11.0 update (4th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

  • Gruzdev, M. V., Kuznetsova, I. V., Tarkhanova, I. Y., & Kazakova, E. I. (2018). University graduates’ soft skills: The employers’ opinion. European Journal of Contemporary Education, 7(4), 690-698.

  • Herdlein, R., Kline, K., Boquard, B., & Haddad, V. (2010). A survey of faculty perceptions of learning outcomes in master’s level programs in higher education and student affairs. College Students Affairs Journal, 29(1), 33-45.

  • Kaçar, I. G., & Zengin, B. (2013). Perceptions of pre-service teachers of English towards grammar teaching in the Turkish context. The Journal of Language & Linguistic Studies, 8(3), 50-80.

  • Keppell, M., Au, E., Ma, A., & Chan, C. (2006). Peer learning and learning-oriented assessment in technology-enhanced environment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(4), 453-464. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930600679159

  • Klein, J. I., Taveras, S., King, S. H., Commitante, A., Curtis-Bey, L., & Stripling, B. (2009). Project-based learning: Inspiring middle school students to engage in deep and active learning. NYC Department of Education.

  • Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2010). Seven essentials for project-based learning. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 34-37.

  • Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2015). Why we changed our model of the “8 essential elements of PBL.” The Buck Institute for Education. http://devonshire.ccsd59.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/03/8_Essential- Elements-of-PBL.pdf

  • Mali, Y. C. G. (2016a). Project-based learning in Indonesian EFL classrooms: From theory to practice. Indonesian Journal of English Education, 3(1), 89-105. https://doi.org/10.15408/ijee.v3i1.2651

  • Mali, Y. C. G. (2016b). A phenomenological study of three university students’ experiences in project-based learning. Journal of English Education and Linguistic Studies, 3(2), 152-180.

  • Mishra, S. K., & Mishra, P. (2020). Functional aspects of communication skills for professional empowerment. Journal of English Language and Literature, 7(1), 79-85.

  • Musa, F., Mufti, N., Latiff, R. A., & Amin, M. M. (2011). Project-based learning: Promoting meaningful language learning for workplace skills. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 18, 187-195. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.05.027

  • Musa, F., Mufti, N., Latiff, R. A., & Amin, M. M. (2012). Project-based learning (PjBL): Inculcating soft skills in 21st century workplace. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 59, 565-573. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.09.315

  • Nanni, A., & Pusey, K. (2020) Leveraging students’ digital literacy through project-based learning, The Asian EFL Journal, 24(1), 141-164.

  • Noah, J. B., & Abdul Aziz, A. (2020). A systematic review of soft skills development among university graduates. EDUCATUM Journal of Social Science, 6(1), 43-58. https://doi.org/10.37134/ejoss.vol6.1.6.2020

  • Nurhayati, D. (2018). Project-based learning used to develop supplementary materials for writing skills. The Asian ESP Journal, 14(3), 6-11.

  • Oliver, B., & Jorre, T. J. S. (2019). Graduate attributes for 2020 and beyond: Recommendations for Australia higher education providers. Higher Education Research & Development, 37(4), 821-826 https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2018.1446415

  • Pathinathan, S., & Yong, M. F. (2012). Intragroup conflicts during collaborative writing in an ESL/EFL preparatory programme. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, 1(7), 8-18.

  • Patton, A. (2012). Work that matters: The teacher guides to project learning. Paul Hamlyin Foundation.

  • Pillai, S., Khan, M. H., Ibrahim, I. S., & Raphael, S. (2012). Enhancing employability through industrial training in the Malaysian context. Higher Education, 63(2), 187-204. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-011-9430-2

  • Poonpon, K. (2011). Enhancing English skills through project-based learning. The English Teacher, 40, 1-10.

  • Richards, C. (2005). The design of effective ICT-supported learning activities: Exemplar models, changing requirements, and new possibilities. Language Learning & Technology, 9(1), 60-79.

  • Sukerti, G. N. A., & Susana, K. Y. (2019). Fostering students’ presentation skills using infographic: The implementation of project-based learning in English for Specific Purposes. International Journal of Indonesian Education and Teaching, 3(2), 227-239. https://doi.org/10.24071/ijiet.2019.030210

  • Sumarni, W. (2015). The strengths and weaknesses of implementation of project based learning: A review. International Journal of Science and Research, 4(3), 478-484.

  • Tamim, S. R., & Grant, M. M. (2013). Definitions and uses: Case study of teachers implementing project-based learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 7(2), 71-101. https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1323

  • Tang, K. N. (2019). Beyond employability: Embedding soft skills in higher education. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 18(2), 1-9.

  • Ting, S. H., Marzuki, E., Chuah, K. M., Misieng, J., & Jerome, C. (2017). Employers’ views on importance of English proficiency and communication skill for employability in Malaysia. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7(2), 315-327. https://doi.org/10.17509/ijal.v7i2.8132

  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

  • Widodo, H. P. (2006). Approaches and procedures for teaching grammar. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 5(1), 122-141.

  • Yang, D., & Puakpong, N. (2016). Effects of project-based learning on speaking abilities of non-English major Chinese students. In K. G. D. Chan, W. M. Chan, S. W. Chi, K. N, Chin, S. Klayklueng, M. Nagami, K.O.O. Salawdeh, J.W. Sew, T. Suthiwan, & I. Walker. (Comps.) Learning in beyond the classroom: Ubiquity in foreign language learning (pp. 410-427). NUS Centre for Language Studies. https://fass.nus.sg/cls/clasic/clasic-2016

  • Zher, N. H., Hussein, R. M. R., & Saat, R. M. (2016). Enhancing feedback via peer learning in large classrooms. Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology, 4(1), 1-16.