One of the roles that I manage at Canadian Academy is the role of the MYP Personal Project Coordinator. Every year kids around the world take part in this experience that brings them from the inspiration and ideas stages, through planning, taking action, and reflection. Sometimes 10th graders can get a little bit cranky about what might seem like “extra work” in addition to what they do in their classes, but in general I find students to be really engaged in the experience, especially if they take my suggestions to heart and CHOOSE A TOPIC THEY LOVE!
I think that finding something that will really light a fire in you is the key to not only enjoying the Personal Project, but doing really well on the Personal Project (because at the end of the day it is moderated by the IB…more on that later). Although I don’t have a “classroom” per se, I think that the Personal Project is a fantastic example of project based learning. According to the Buck Institute for Education’s definition of PBL:
Students work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.
As a result, students develop deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills in the context of doing an authentic, meaningful project. Project Based Learning unleashes a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers.
The Buck Institute also has this handy images that outlines how to design effective projects
Sound familiar to anyone? To me, this looks like an excellent throwback to our COETAIL topic from Course 1, Week 3: Andragogy. Here’s a screen shot from my post about Andragogy and Okonomiyaki :
As I shared in that post, Andragogy isn’t only for adults. Kids can get a lot out of solving problems and learning experientially. Through the Personal Project, I think that they get a little bit of everything: Andragogy, PBL, and Pedagogy. (It’s a P, B, and L sandwich!) If done well, one of the best things that PBL offers students is the chance to explore their interests while gaining highly valuable skills like time management, group dynamics, organization, and public speaking/celebrating.
Where do I think that PBL can occasionally fail? Like I said before, at the end of the day, the Personal Project report is the only part of the project that is formally assessed and it is graded, first by teachers and then by the IB when it is moderated. The #1 piece of feedback that I get from teacher mentors is that they love seeing kids engage with a topic that they enjoy but they HATE having to assign them a number when it’s all said and done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a starry-eyed assessment basher, but it can be a bit of a buzz kill when the ultimate fruits of your labor are distilled into a number on a certificate. It can send a mixed message to kids about where the value of their work lies. Giving and receiving feedback, and then reflecting on that feedback, is a vital part of the project cycle, but it doesn’t have to rely so heavily on a written report.
Is anyone else out there a Personal Project coordinator or mentor? What are your experiences with the PP (or the EE)? I’m always looking for ways to give our students valuable feedback without leaning too heavily on the IB’s 1-7 scale.