By Laura England
In the second in this series How to prosper with MYP personal projects, we look at this important culminating experience for students in the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP).
Like any open-ended, student-centred inquiry, the MYP personal project requires thoughtful implementation followed by careful reflection and iterative improvements. This process is familiar to the teachers here at Good Shepherd Lutheran College. Here are some of the challenges that they have faced and the strategies they have developed to make the personal project a valuable part of their MYP experience.
What were some of the challenges that you have faced while implementing the personal project?
Good Shepherd is the only IB World School in the Northern Territory of Australia, with the closest MYP school a 30 hour plus drive away. This lack of face-to-face collaboration has caused us to quite actively seek as much online support as possible. We decided to share our personal project resources with the global MYP community as we are so very thankful to those who have been willing to share their resources with us.
How did you go about developing, collecting and sharing materials?
Our resources have been updated after reflection on our students’ work, feedback from our students and parent community about their clarity and accessibility. I took the lead in developing our approach as collaboratively as possible. Coming from a design background we used the MYP design cycle to
- develop a prototype by unpacking each of the strands of the projects cycle and aligning them with approaches to learning (ATL) skills and visible thinking routines
- identify achievable, step-by-step instructions for our students that are open-ended enough for students to address the objectives strands in their own personal and unique ways
- collaborate with our pedagogical leadership team to document the process in A Guide to Completing your IB MYP Personal Project.
Our goal has been to avoid creating a formula for students to follow, but rather a framework for students to experience the truly personal expression of the personal project, as well as achieve the highest possible grades. We’ve struggled to find the balance, but with each iteration we feel we are getting closer to achieving our goal.
What strategies have been the most helpful in supporting students and supervisors through the personal project?
Immersion days to jump-start the process. Our personal project implementation begins with two off-timetable personal project immersion days on the last two days of MYP Year 3. Our Head of Senior School begins the first day, and we treat this as a transition point from the middle school to the senior school. The immersion days are hosted by the MYP coordinator, teacher librarian, a panel of 10 MYP teachers and students from the Year 10 cohort who have just finished the personal project. We introduce students to the personal project inquiry cycle, the support available, what it means to set goals within a global context, and how to plan success. Hands-on workshops familiarize students with tools they can use to manage their learning.
24/7 online access to personal project information. Our current iteration of how we implement the personal project has been in line with our college’s transition to Google Team Drives. Our college intranet allows us to embed Google Slides in a logical manner with open access to students and parents at all times. To support the fully independent nature of the personal project, we have found this year that students were able to simply access resources at any time, even make comments on the resources and use the various provocations and guides that we have put together. This material includes exemplars of effective personal projects from previous years.
Support for new supervisors. We created a video introduction for new supervisors who are often already overwhelmed by their transition to a new school. First-year supervisors are partnered with experienced faculty during internal moderation sessions.
What advice do you have for schools who are implementing the personal project?
Understand the connection between effective programme implementation and students’ personal project success. Effective personal project implementation often reflects the larger implementation of the MYP framework in all years of the programme. We have found that as teachers understand the MYP framework and experience its impact on student learning, our students improve in their ability to explore global contexts, establish challenging goals, develop rigorous criteria, and transfer ATL skills. The more intentional we are in our classrooms to truly bring the MYP to life, the more engaging and impactful our students’ personal projects have become
Understand your school’s context and your students. Trust students to navigate the personal project independently and ensure that parents and care-givers have access to the resources—and that they understand the importance of students engaging in the personal project, not just for Year 10, but also beyond to lifelong learning.
Share your students’ learning and personal development. One of the most inspiring aspects of an IB education is collaboration and our willingness to share and support one another across international borders and continents. Our MYP personal projects can only grow stronger through sharing our resources and ideas with one another.
Laura England is MYP coordinator at Good Shepherd Lutheran College, Howard Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.