The New and Improved Personal Project

I’m just finishing my 9th year in an MYP school. In that time I have supervised my fair share of personal projects. A few have been fantastic, a few have been shocking, but the vast majority have been average at best. With the release of new guidelines for the personal project comes a chance for us to reinvent how we introduce and, ultimately, get the students to think about the personal project.

When Andrea Law, our MYP Coordinator, and I started talking about this, we decided we needed to find a way to get the students to invest themselves in this year-long project and truly make it personal. Too often in the past students chose topics that they thought would be easy or help them get a good grade rather than one that they truly cared about.

Instead of starting with an Area of Interaction (AoI, which, to be honest, they don’t always truly understand), we asked the students to identify problems that they see in their world around them. They could be huge global problems like poverty; they could be problems based on their community like friends not truly understanding the importance of the Tet holiday; they could be individual problems like not having enough space in your room for your stereo and computer.

Once they identified a few problems, students were asked to write down their personal connection to each of those problems. Why did they matter? Possible links to AoIs were established here as well.

Once personal connections were identified, students began thinking about a solution: what could they make or do in order to address the problem. After conferencing with their peers, students then came up with the topic for their personal project.

All of the information about how they came up with their topic (problem, connection, AOI, and solution) was submitted by survey by each of the students. Teachers then read each description (without student names) and signed up to be supervisors based on their own interests as well.

Andrea, Joyce the librarian, and I just spent the morning rotating between the three homerooms talking about important aspects of the personal project students need to address over the summer: organizational details and meeting with supervisors; information literacy and evaluating sources; and the process journal and blogs.

I’m really excited by the quality of the topics that were decided upon by the students. I could immediately tell that the problem solving  approach has made the whole concept of the personal project much more accessible. I think we’ve also helped the students choose topics that they are really interested in. This will have such huge impact on how the view this year-long process!

Devojka mala AttributionNoncommercial by Sebastian Adanko

8 thoughts on “The New and Improved Personal Project

  • March 20, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Great idea, I will be trying that too. Much better than the students trying to think of ‘something that they can make’

    Previously I have always emphasised the aspect of making a difference with PP. To raise awareness etc.

  • March 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    @Liam We’ve just collected our personal projects for the year yesterday. I’m hoping that they will show an improvement in terms of addressing AOIs and their own personal reflection since the emphasis has been on ‘solve a problem that matters to you.’ Of course, it is only the first time through and I’m sure there are improvements that can be made!

  • March 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    We collect ours this Thursday, I am looking forward to reading them.

  • March 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    @Liam Do you, as a school, moderate your projects? I’m curious to know what process you use if you do. This year we are getting in groups of 3 or 4 and just moderating the projects that are in our group. In previous years, we’ve had a small subset of teachers – those not away on the grade level trips, for example – in charge of doing the moderation. I don’t think that was always successful and I’m looking forward to this different approach. I’ve used a similar method in a previous school and it worked rather well in my opinion.

  • March 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Hi Clint,

    We use all teachers in the moderation process, partly because that spreads the load less. Groups of three tend to work well. Last year we trialed using google docs to tabulate the grades vs moderated grades and that gave us a slightly better picture of which supervisors tend to grade accurately and which ones we needed to watch a little more closely.

  • January 18, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Hi Liam,

    We are getting The Personal Project starting and are trying to get the best time for students. How much release time do you see fit for a teacher to be available for the responsibilities of the Personal Project? Do you get time off duties? off teaching? How much time? the equivalent of a 5 hour course per 8 day cycle? in minutes? I would really appreciate to know to be able to plan my involvement> Thank you,

  • January 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Hi Miro,

    Are you asking about all personal project supervisors ? (we do not give them any time off). Release time for a Personal Project Coordinator, it depends on the school. I think at least one subject off ( or 75% or 80% of a full time load) would be the minimum needed in a medium sized school. (50-100 students in the final year of the programme).

    You can always read more on my blog or on the IB OCC.

  • January 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    @Miro Bourget Our school is the same as Liam’s. Teachers are asked to supervise up to two personal projects and do not receive any time off. These meetings usually take place at lunch or after school. We also dedicate a few advisory classes in Grade 10 to the Personal Project process (like moderating sample projects, a ‘personal project in process’ event, etc.).

    Our new MYP Coordinator has started a blog specifically to help guide students through the personal project. You might find it useful to have a look!

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