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How to prosper with MYP personal projects: supporting the process

By Sarah Phillips

In this third post from the series How to prosper with MYP personal projects, we look at how students and teachers can support each other at this important culminating experience for students in the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP).

The personal project is an important culminating experience for 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 challenges, and here is some of their advice.

Students and teachers support each other

Both students and project supervisors require guidance throughout the process. While much of this guidance often comes from the school’s personal projects leader or MYP coordinator, students and supervisors can also support each other. For example, at the Kaust School in Saudi Arabia and Moscow School 45 in Russia, supervisors are paired with students on the basis of topic, global contexts or student interests. This approach promotes effective and engaged collaboration. Teachers can also help each other in their role as project supervisors. At the International School of Breda in The Netherlands, project supervisors who are new to the personal project are paired with veteran teachers for additional support.

Set interim deadlines

The personal project is a big task that can seem daunting to students, parents and supervisors; however, it is much easier to get started and to keep going when the task is broken down into smaller steps. At Gimnasio del Norte in Colombia, students are given a series of interim deadlines which provide a foundation for developing a customized schedule. At the International School of Breda, the school’s timetable (master schedule) includes an hour during which students meet with the personal project coordinator. During this time, students can consult with a teacher about their project. In addition to helping students develop time-management skills, the regular meetings are an opportunity for students to get feedback on the process of their work. Regular meetings also promote academic honesty.

Provide timely guidance—but not too much!

Each interim deadline is an opportunity to provide timely and appropriate advice for the next step of the journey. Personal project supervisors at Moscow School 45 gather for a brief workshop at each stage of the project. For standardization, project supervisors at the TMS School in Canada mark a sample of work together so that they know what to look for in each submission. Regular, timely support for project supervisors keeps them engaged in the process and equips them for providing the right level of guidance for an independent inquiry.

Supervisors should provide appropriate formative feedback that guides students in developing and improving their work. Supervisors are responsible for using principled professional judgment when determining the nature and extent of feedback they provide on students’ personal project reports. It is appropriate to provide general guidance rather than extensive annotations, detailed edits, or extended critiques.

In order to ensure fairness and to prevent undue influence, supervisors’ feedback on personal projects must only advise students generally on how to approach and complete their work. As a shared standard of good practice, supervisors must provide only one round of formal feedback on candidates’ project reports. Once students have submitted the final versions of their project materials for school-based assessment, they cannot be retracted or redone.

Make sure everyone has access to resources and understands deadlines

It is also helpful if students and supervisors can find guidance independently between deadlines. For example, the Kaust School uses a web-based learning management system and a shared folder of information; Pechersk School International in Ukraine has a personal project website that students and supervisors can access as needed. Personal project handbooks, monthly emails and online calendars are also commonly used by MYP schools to share deadlines and supporting documents with students, supervisors and parents.

Next in this series

Look out for the next instalment with tips on how to help students reflect on their product and process. Until then, IB educators can explore the following materials on the programme resource centre: Teacher Support Material for additional guidance on making a project plan and recording research, and further guidance for MYP personal projects is also a must-read for coordinators, supervisors and students who want to clarify personal project criteria.

Do you have effective personal project practices that you’d like to share? Join the conversation in the MYP projects community or send us your ideas at [email protected].

Sarah Phillips is a curriculum development manager in the IB’s MYP Development Team.