Doug Johnson has 2 posts where he outlines what this means. In his first post he writes about research questions having an 'action element' to them. Take a look at his post where he shows a level 4 research question:
Level Four: My research answers a personal question about the topic, and contains information that may be of use to decision-makers as they make policy or distribute funds. The result of my research is a well support conclusion that contains a call for action on the part of an organization or government body. There will be a plan to distribute this information.
Primary example: How can our school help stop the growth in unwanted and abandoned animals in our community?
Secondary example: How might high schools change their curricula to meet the needs of students wanting a career in manufacturing in Minnesota?
Think about the motivation of adolescents who work at finding the answer to the above question.
Johnson linked to a post he wrote back in 1999 characteristics of excellent projects. Here is a summary:
- Motivational research projects have a clarity of purpose and expectations.
- Motivational research projects give students choices.
- Motivational research projects are relevant to the student’s life.
- Motivational research projects stress higher level thinking skills and creativity.
- Motivational research projects answer real questions.
- Motivational research projects involve a variety of information finding activities.
- Motivational learning tends to be hands-on.
- The use of technology can be exciting for many students.
- Good projects often use formats that use multiple senses.
- Interesting projects are often complex, but are broken into manageable steps.
- Collaborative learning is often stimulating and results in better products than individual work.
- Motivational research projects have results that are shared with people who care and respond.
- Learning that is assessed by an authentic tool is more meaningful that a paper and pencil test.
- Samples and examples give the learner a clear idea of what quality work looks like.
- Well-designed projects allow the learner to reflect, revisit, revise, and improve their final projects.
- Teachers and media specialists who enjoy authentic, project-based learning are comfortable with a loss of control over time, the final product, and “correct” answers.
- These teachers and media specialists accept active students rather than passive students.
- The professional’s belief that given enough time, resources, and motivation, all students are capable of high performance is critical.
- Like media specialists, teachers who do exciting projects recognize that their expertise in the learning and research process rather than in any particular subject area.
- Teacher enthusiasm becomes more important than ever.
- Teachers and media specialists who work on these kinds of project know that they don’t always work the first time.