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How to prosper with MYP personal projects: getting students started

By Sarah Phillips

The personal project is an important culminating experience for students in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) students, and their whole school community. While it has always been central to the MYP experience, the project’s mandatory moderation has presented some new challenges. We asked schools how they were rising to meet those challenge, and here is their advice:

Engage students to build excitement—choose a great goal

Student engagement is essential to the success of implementing the MYP personal project. In order to sustain an inquiry over several months, students need to be working on topic that’s of genuine, personal interest. That interest helps them persevere through difficulties, develop resilience and maintain progress toward their chosen goals. MYP projects get students excited about learning because they represent a personalized approach that inspires students to succeed. For many schools, setting the stage for this inspiration is a very important part of students’ engagement with the personal project. Through project fairs and other showcase events, students see what’s possible and learn from their peers how rewarding it can be to complete a truly personal project. When schools build a culture of possibility that celebrates learning, students respond by doing their best.

Empower students to manage their own learning—connect with a well-chosen global context

Sometimes getting started is one of the hardest parts of an extended learning engagement. That’s why many schools have strategies for helping students choose a project that is personally meaningful and appropriately challenging. It’s also important for the goals of personal projects to be deeply connected to a relevant global context for learning, so many schools implement strategies to help students start with that in mind. For instance, at Pechersk School International, students go “speed-dating” so that they can talk with each other about their interests and identify possible topics. At Gimnasio del Norte, students use the list of possible global context explorations from MYP: From principles into practice (2014) to jump-start their thinking. At the Kaust School, students brainstorm ideas based on a range of global contexts before they finalize their selected topic in consultation with personal project supervisors.

At the International School of Breda, lessons are set aside at the beginning of the year to push students toward more independent explorations of global contexts. At Moscow School 45, supervisors differentiate their support, working in different ways to help students connect personal goals and global contexts through structured conversations—with different groups and different guiding questions depending on which part of the equation is missing.

It takes time, effort and careful planning to get students launched well on their personal project journeys, but it’s an investment pays off. Helping students to identify engaging goals and choose meaningful global contexts are two key actions that set them up to succeed!

Next in this series: tips on how to help personal project supervisors guide students throughout the process from beginning to end. Until then, don’t forget to explore the Teacher Support Material for additional guidance on Personal project themes, writing goals and choosing global contexts. Further guidance for MYP personal projects is also a must-read for coordinators, supervisors and students who want to clarify personal project criteria as they begin.

Do you have effective personal project practices that you’d like to share? Join the conversation in the MYP projects online community (educators at IB World Schools can log in to the online communities via My IB)   or send us your ideas at [email protected].

Sarah Phillips is a curriculum manager in the IB Middle Years Programme Development team.