Having done project-based learning for five years now, I have noticed patterns in the projects that students produce. Something that has stood out the most and that I stand firm by is that the quality of a project that a student has not spent the appropriate amount of time to carefully plan and consider at the beginning stages is drastically lower than a student who has. It is awesome when a kid is passionate about an idea and wants to jump right in, but without stopping to ensure they are addressing the project requirements, examining the scope, and having a solid focus on what their end deliverable will actually look like, their success rate is going to be much lower.
That is why we spend so much time with students in the beginning steps to brainstorm, confer, give feedback, and reiterate to make sure they have a solid foundation to build the rest of their project on. Not only does it make sure that the student is going to earn the credit for all their time and effort, but also build their confidence while taking on long-term and large-scale projects.
Two tools that we use to help orient and organize students in that beginning stage are the Statement of Intent and the Project Planner. The Statement of Intent is just that- it is the initial statement of a student’s intent for a project. This is where they identify the course they are working towards, what the general project summary is, what they will create to show their learning, and who their project is going to impact.
After completing the Statement of Intent, the student will have it looked over by their seminar teacher or an Advisor to give feedback and make sure that they are on the right track. A student doesn’t have to have every detail figured out, but this solid foundation will make building the rest of their project go smoother.
Once a student has had their conference with their Advisor and their plan is approved, then they can take the revised version of the Statement of Intent to the Project Planner. The project planner contains the same information as the Statement of Intent, but now has the student planning out more details about the project that pertain to goal setting, research, funding, and connecting to the learning targets. The Statement of Intent serves as a project outline, but now the Project Planner focuses on logistical details that need consideration and action to ensure that the student has exactly what they need to be successful before diving headfirst into the project. This sets up a clear learning pathway that the student can follow, or make necessary adjustments without having to completely start over or change directions when they run into barriers throughout the process.
Once again, thoughtful and thorough planning documents are the key to a student’s project success and creating something they can truly be proud of. This resource is a rubric and guide to writing awesome planning documents. Use this the next time you are planning your project to help pick your brain and make sure that you are addressing all the right questions. I look forward to seeing what you create.