Designing Effective Projects : Projects to Engage Learners
Evolving Views


A Shift in Views
Project work involves viewing traditional practices and methods from a new perspective.

Assessment Standards and Tests
In the past, the curriculum was taught through activities, learning was assessed with tests and exams, and teaching was geared to standardised tests. With this shift, assessment standards are used to help design the project, assessment is planned ahead of time and embedded throughout, and tests are just one of many types of assessment. Performance tasks, rubrics, checklists, and tests are used as assessment tools. These multiple forms of assessment, implemented throughout learning, account for learning as a process, instead of a single event. Through ongoing assessment, teachers can feel confident that they have reached their project goals and that learners understand the content. 

Classroom Organization
Some teachers may find the organized chaos of classroom projects disconcerting. A project-based classroom is a learner-centred classroom, where collaboration, conversation, and movement are necessities. Desks may be organized in pods for collaboration and big tables provide space for project work. Resources and supplies are accesible to learners and the classroom tone is established for risk-taking. The environment is one where learners feel comfortable to share opinions and ideas, and are encouraged to think for themselves and at higher levels. Clear expectations and organization are essential, but teachers will find that advance planning will lead to engaged and productive learners.

Project-based learning takes time, and this is often a major concern of many teachers shifting to this type of curriculum planning. A well-designed project-based unit should first determine, What knowledge is worth spending time to uncover? (Wiggins, 2001).The answer to this question is key to effective time management. By focusing on big ideas that have enduring value beyond the classroom, learners become actively engaged and own more of the decisions and direction of their work and ultimately think and produce at higher levels. In order to turn more control over to learners yet achieve assessment standards and maintain academic rigor, projects must be planned to the smallest detail. Learners must have very clear direction that defines expectations, responsibilities, processes, and timelines. Essentially, what takes longer to prepare, pays off in learning outcomes.

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