As we set out to do project work, it is important to very specifically clarify our expectations for student work – both in the form of the final product, as well as behavior during the process. Here are some specific questions to make sure you answer as you begin project work with your students.
- What are we doing/making?
- Why are we doing this?
- What tools and resources can we use?
- How will we be assessed?
1. What are we doing/making?
Start by giving students a clear idea of the scope of the project. Share the authentic task you have set for them to help them understand what content you will be discussing in the upcoming weeks and why it is important to learn this information. Give the students a project timeline as you explain the steps in the process and clarify how long student will be working on each step.
While the learning happens during the process of project-building, students are often excited by the product they will be making, especially if it is a product created with technology. Show your students examples of high-quality work to clarify product expectations and prompt new ideas.
2. Why are we doing this?
Students often ask, “Why do we have to do this?” because we haven’t made them active participants in the discussions about learning goals. In many cases, we as educators can’t even answer this question, all we know is that we have a big scope and sequence binder that says we have to COVER this information this week!
But project work is about uncovering information and exploring big ideas. What are the big ideas behind the project? What do you want them to learn? Why are they doing this work? Share your project goals, in terms of both content and process and provide the students with the essential questions that this work is intended to help them better answer.
3. What tools and resources can we use?
Let the students know what type of products they can create to meet the project goals. Will they be making a poster, a multimedia production, a public service announcement or can they choose from a variety of product options? Showcase the tools you can provide to help them complete the project.
As students become more advanced in planning, executing, and managing a project, let them help you determine the ways they can demonstrate their understanding!
4. How will we be assessed?
Provide students will a clear idea of how their final product, as well as work during the process, will be assessed. Are you scoring just the final product? Will and outside consultant or professional be evaluating their work?
You may want to use a rubric or checklist to help them better understand your expectations for their work during the project. If your students are ready, work together to develop the project assessment. This encourages self-directed learning, provide more ownership in the process, and establishes goals set by both parties.
Don’t forget to clearly articulate what great work looks like during the process. What “soft skills” are you going to be looking at or for? Teamwork? Leadership? Organization? Time management? It is important to let students know what behavior is expected during team project work. Over time this will become natural, but it is always helpful to articulate expectations. For example:
- Try new things.
- Communicate in a free and polite way.
- Be a Learner.
- Become an expert.
- Follow US Copyright law and Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia.
There are lots of right ways to start off a project, but be sure that no matter what you do, you paint a clear picture for students of your expectations for their work on the product and during the process!