The transition of modern education system to the federal state educational standards (FSES) requires a qualitatively new organization of the pedagogical process, the use of active methods and forms of learning, innovation, change of the attitude of both teachers and learners.
The educational system is undergoing a change of guidelines. The key focus is on the formation of students’ general learning skills which will help to learn quickly and successfully and to solve the problems of education in a more efficient way. In this regard, the pedagogical process should involve, according to the modern researcher A.G. Asmolov, a transition from presenting the system of ready-made knowledge to the productive problem-solving activities; from the acquisition of the individual subjects to multidisciplinary (interdisciplinary) study of complex life situations [2, p. 24–25]. It becomes necessary to create cooperation of the teacher and students in the learning process, and allow the students to become equals in the choice of content, forms and methods of teaching.
The main task of the FSES primary general education and secondary education is a general cultural, personal and cognitive development of students; the key competence, formed in the course of learning, should be the ability to learn. The standards require from a modern student an independent acquisition of knowledge, not acquisition of it in a finished form; self-determination of learning objectives, designing ways for their implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the achievements, the child must «learn to learn». The system-activity approach as the basis of new standards accentuates a critical role of intrinsic activity of students, formation of their readiness for continuous self-development, self-education and improvement. The main driving force of their personality and cognitive development, according to this approach, is a system of productive activities which results in the mastering of universal educational actions. These are «common ways of activity», «generic skills», «over-subject action», etc.
The FSES of primary general education of students with disabilities focuses on personal, cognitive and general cultural development of the child’s personality, the implementation of the program of formation of universal educational actions as a basis for learning skills [9, p. 3, 7, 21].
A.G. Asmolov notes that the ability of the student to successfully acquire new knowledge on his own, to develop skills and competencies, including self-organization of the process, i.e. the ability to learn, is ensured by the fact that universal educational actions as basic actions give students the opportunity to acquire the general orientation in various subject areas and in the very structure of learning activities, including awareness of its purpose orientation, values and meanings, and operational characteristics [2, p. 27]. There is a similar reasoning in the history of pedagogy. The Russian researcher of the late XIX – early XX centuries V.P. Vakhterov in his «new pedagogy» emphasizes that students should absorb not only the knowledge but also methods of its acquisition. The pedagogue pointed out that a lot of material is forgotten, but the ability to work on it remains; so not only is knowledge valuable, but also the ways in which it is acquired .
In the context of the modernization of the education system methods and learning technologies, which help to organize the learning process by means of the development of students’ values and ways of life, critical thinking skills, self-construction of their knowledge, integration of knowledge from different scientific fields, are becoming more and more popular. In the search for innovation it is appropriate to apply the practice-oriented, activity-related, problem, group, role, game, reflective and other forms and methods of organization of the educational process.
Among these methods, the leading role belongs to the method of projects, aimed at solving specific problems using a variety of educational and cognitive techniques for independent and group participation of students with a further presentation of the results of their intellectual and creative work. Giving high praise for the project activities, a modern researcher E.S. Polat emphasizes their advantages. These include the development of cognitive skills and critical thinking of students, formation of skills to independently construct their knowledge and to orientate in the information space, focus on independent students’ activities (individual, pair, group), using different means, methods and tools in solving problems, as well as integration of knowledge and skills from different areas of science, technique, technology and creative areas. E.S. Polat refers to the method of projects as one of the efficient technologies of the XXI century, providing the ability to adapt to rapidly changing conditions of life of post-industrial society [4, p. 57–58].
Indeed, the project method is characterized by a number of important features and benefits that allow to implement the requirements of system-activity approach, the program of formation of universal cognitive activities: the acquisition of new experience (knowledge, skills) in the planning and implementation of action-oriented tasks (projects) of varying complexity; the ability to develop new ways of human activity in the socio-cultural environment, the connection to real life; the formation of a critical attitude to their actions; creating conditions for the interest of the students, identification of the children’s leading positions, the ability to work in a group; formation of skills to predict the situation, end the conflict situation, be aware of their own responsibility; the development of such qualities as self-discipline, self-control, a scientific curiosity, enthusiasm for the work, empathy, the ability to negotiate, social interest, organizational skills; the formation of the humanistic attitude, adjustment of the system of moral guidelines .
Participation in the project activities solves such important task as ensuring close connection between the gained school knowledge and practice as well as real problems of students. Project-based learning is associated with overcoming the shortcomings of academic paradigm of education: isolation of theoretical knowledge from real life, unnecessarily narrow application of the acquired knowledge in real-life situations.
While organizing the project activities, one can observe a new type of cooperation in the «student-teaching» system – dialogue and collaboration. The teacher now estimates not only the results but also the process of student activities, and creates optimal conditions for the development of his personality. The student also changes its position: it is now not a diligent performer and an active creator; his thinking becomes reflexive, that is, result-oriented. Thus, in the changing relationship between teacher and pupil the main objective is the development of the student, the creation of conditions which at each lesson would ensure the formation of educational activity that turns the child into a subject who is interested in learning and his own activities. Students work throughout the lesson, during which there is the ongoing dialogue in the system of «teacher-learner».
Even the FSES of primary general education orients the younger students to participate in the project and research activities, which is also a necessary requirement of the implementation of the basic educational programs of primary general education. This work is very important in primary school, because the lack of the competence to learn in primary school age entails difficulties in training the future student. A university student may have problems with the ability to work with various sources of information, to absorb educational material, critically evaluate the received information and to express his own point of view on this or that scientific facts and events, participate in discussions and scientific debates, actively work at practical classes and seminars. A young person might also experience difficulties in meaningful reading and processing of information, the ability to express his thoughts clearly and convincingly. A.G. Asmolov sees the source of these adult problems in the school’s inability to teach students to learn independently, i.e. ignoring problems of purposeful formation of communicative, speech, regulatory, cognitive, logical, and other universal educational activities [2, p. 21].
Project work can be organized both in class and in extracurricular activities. For example, when studying the course “Technology” students may be offered work in small groups to develop a mini-project, with all its stages with further presentation of the finished product (products, social services, and others.). The subject “The world around us” has a great potential for the implementation of interdisciplinary connections of all subjects, as it allows students to observe the world in general, become aware of the cause-effect relationships, and at other lessons to explore ways to describe them. It might be useful to carry out annual competition «I am a researcher» in an educational institution at which students present the results of their work on individual or group projects.
It is necessary for the educational work of a class and school to involve students in the creation of projects related to moral subjects. The FSES pays key attention to spiritual and moral education [10, p. 5, 7, 20; 9, p. eleven; 8, p. 5, 16]. The evidence of their importance can be found in the FSES concept of spiritual and moral development and education of the individual citizen of Russia. In times of spiritual and moral crisis the work on the spiritual and moral formation of children and young people is particularly important. Participation of students in the project activities aimed at the formation of spiritual and moral values, will create a productive environment in which the assimilation of these values would take place not just at the level of knowledge, but at the level of actions and internal motives that determine human moral choices. Besides, these activities will be focused on the achievement of high personal achievements and student performance in relation to their moral and spiritual perfection [1, 3, 5].
Thus, the active and constant participation of students in the project activities will effectively implement a system-activity approach as a methodological principle of the FSES, the concept of the formation of universal educational activities aimed at the development of students’ key competences – the ability to learn independently, which is particularly popular in the situation of rapid updating of knowledge and the rapidly changing social conditions.