It’s a P, B, and L sandwich!

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!

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash


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.

5 comments to “It’s a P, B, and L sandwich!”
5 comments to “It’s a P, B, and L sandwich!”
  1. I don’t have any experience with Personal Projects, but I try to include problems in my class for the students to get practical experience with their learning. Giving students the opportunity use their critical thinking skills to solve real world problems gives them the skills they will need in their adult lives.

  2. I think what you do is really cool because you must get a deep insight into what the students are really interested in. I totally understand what you mean about students hating the grading part at the end of the project. I question this myself. You see, I teach in the early years and I love that it is all about the process and that students dont have exams. Children are assessed through formative and summative assessments but they dont get a grade. They are assessed on a continuum of development. I wonder how children go from this to getting a grade for their personal project. Do you think there is another more effective way of assessing students in the MYP without giving them a grade?

    • Thanks, I think it’s cool, too! I love seeing kids get really excited about a project and take it from beginning to end.
      I’m not sure if the IB is planning on making any changes to how they assess the PP, but my colleagues and I are trying to come up with a different way to give feedback to students based on their work instead of just the report.

  3. Hi Jen. I have been a PP supervisor for many years now and I have seen all sorts of projects. I have also seen kids accomplish amazing things, and other kids struggle all the way until the end. Of all the students who I have supervised, the students that struggled the most are the students who lacked self-management skills. No matter how many checkpoints, checklists, conferences, they still find it very difficult to organize, keep track and put together a product or come up with their outcome, and that’s not talking about the report! As a supervisor, it is difficult to find where to draw the line in terms of how much support you give to a student so they can complete the project successfully and on time.

    • Agreed about the self management piece! I’m always telling mentors that they can lead a kid to water but they can’t make them drink. Ultimately, if they are going to skip all of their meetings and put in very little effort, this is a good time to fail and learn an important lesson (as opposed to when they are in college or in the workplace!).

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on the assessment piece when it comes to the PP. One of my students this year just completed a workshop that he organized and taught and it was amazing! But I know that there is a good chance that he will get a 3 on the report because his writing skills aren’t great. He hits all of his ATL’s and his self management is pretty on target, so it feels unfair to assess his writing not his work.

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