It’s project time! Project success tips.
School projects can be exciting, knowledgeable journeys for a child, but the methodology can be filled with difficulties and challenges.
Long before learners enter the workforce, collaboration happens within the school environment as they often work together throughout their school career. Teamwork provides invaluable preparation because it helps children understand how different sources of knowledge come together. They also become effective communicators.
However, despite the advantages of practicing teamwork, it can be difficult logistically for busy learners as they try to schedule times to meet with group members as well as fit in their own commitments. Competitive attitudes, busy schedules and laziness can sometimes inhibit group work, but it can be used as a teaching opportunity and preparation for the future.
Research projects start with a specific question that a learner needs to answer or provide a theory for. Ideas need to be focused on the topic so that the work has a clear direction. Research must be done to collect information about ideas, techniques, history, etc. Headings should be included for different sections and then the research and link sources should be added to each section to create a well synthesised assessment of research.
A basic structure should be followed: plan, research, develop, review. Projects may include an abstract, introduction, review, examination and conclusion. Planning starts when the student analyses the situation. The 5 W's and H provide a handy tool for analysing any situation. These questions capture all the key information required:
· Who? (the people)
· What? (the event)
· Where? (the location)
· When? (the time)
· Why? (the reason)
· How? (the means)
Tasks, Time, Team, and Tools (4T's)
After setting up a goal and objective, the learner needs to think about the 4T's: tasks, time, team, and tools. The learner starts by listing tasks needed to complete the project, then assigning due dates for each task and then the time and tools needed to gather materials and information.
A project should contain the learner’s own ideas. Keep asking the question: What is the question in the project? What is the point of view? Does the research evidence support the viewpoint?
Learners develop their skills in critical thinking and the expression of their own ideas. Project work naturally leads into argument, whether that's about the interpretation of data, the validity of a logical viewpoint or the layout or design. Learners must think critically and evaluate the merits of different possibilities.
The parent role
Understanding your parental role when your child has a project, is critical to their success. At a primary school level, guide your child through the processes and encourage them to ask questions. Give valuable input and suggestions on how to creatively set up the project but be careful not to micro-manage! If your child wants to try it a different way, acknowledge their independence and allow them to learn through trial and error. They will learn more from personal failure or being marked down slightly on a factual History project suffocating in glitter, than they will from you dictating the creative direction.
In both primary and high school, remind your child to read the rubric (marking guidelines) the educator has supplied with the project. They should be using this rubric as a checking system in each stage of the project and as a final checklist. Help them to understand the importance of supplying source references and remind them to approach the research they use ethically, without plagiarising another person’s work. These are critical life skills they will use in the tertiary education system and when they enter the job market.