Projects for real (15 of 15): putting it all together

go-kart-finish

Phew, this was the longest series ever! I’m not exactly George Martin, but there was a whole new world to explore – and I feel I’ve lost a few impatient readers on the way 😉

Why am I so concerned about projects? As I said before, projects in the English teaching classroom are an amazing tool: they can motivate the learners, they give them an opportunity to use real-world language, they encourage collaboration and teamwork and other wonderful thinks. However, we often focus on the outcomes of the project (poster, presentation, school play) and don’t give as much attention to the process of working on a project, or principles of project management. And so at best, we’re missing out on a great opportunity to develop the learners’ soft skills. At worst, our project can flop – disappointment and demotivation for both the teacher and the students.

This is why this year I’ve been researching how to make projects real for teenagers, and here are my conclusions so far:

  1. It is possible to draw the learners attention to product management if you plan it well.
  2. Real-life project objectives are inherently more motivating than empty ‘entertaining’ ones.
  3. It helps if learners can learn proper project terminology.
  4. …and a bit of theory.
  5. They can be encouraged to apply their project management skills at home and in other contexts – you don’t have to wait till you enter the workforce!
  6. The success of a project depends to a large extent on how you can help your learners work as a team.
  7. Before assigning a project, you need to answer a lot of practical questions: e.g. who sets the deadlines, who distributes the roles, how long is your project going to be, how it is going to be graded.
  8. There is a lot we can learn from STEM subjects:acquiring knowledge and experience is inherently pleasurable and motivating. (But you don’t need to build a toy car or a Rube Goldberg’s machine. Have the students plan their own course or research language phenomena.)
  9. It’s important to choose the right words and metaphors: translate PM into younger people’s language.
  10. …. or even have them read a book about project management.
  11. There are loads of ready-made toolkits for teachers that can save us time.
  12. There are assessment templates, too.
  13. The traditional, or ‘waterfall’ project management is not the only way to organise project-based learning.  Agile is simpler than it sounds.
  14. It has been done before, and it seems to work!

So, the first step has been made: I have a very clear idea of what I’m going to experiment with – once I have a bit more time with my students. Watch this space 🙂

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