Projects, like good stories, have a beginning, middle, and end. This temporal structure helps teachers align the progression of activities with the development of students’ interests and personal involvement with the topic of study. This structure also helps teachers integrate and meet curricula benchmarks—a crucial part of the process. Unlike a number of project-based learning strategies, which provide a theoretical framework but leave out the practical details, the Project Approach offers a step-by-step guide for planning and implementing projects—and for allowing the work to evolve with students’ interests and needs.
Below is an outline of the process involved in planning and implementing projects. More information, along with specific examples and advice from teachers in the field, can be found in two guidebooks two guidebooks written for teachers by Sylvia Chard: The Project Approach (Book Two): Managing Successful Projects and The Project Approach (Book One): Making Curriculum Come Alive. The material in these books is also presented in a .pdf format in a new series of six practical guides. Also download our free Project Approach Study Guide [link to Study Guide pdf].
First StepsDuring the preliminary planning stage, teachers select a topic of study based on students’ interests, the curriculum, and the availability of local resources. Teachers also brainstorm (and represent) their own experience with and knowledge and ideas about the topic in a web. This web becomes a central part of the project process, with teachers—and students—using it to record the progress of their work.
Phase 1: Beginning the Project
Phase 2: Developing the Project
Throughout the process, teachers use group discussions and displays to enable students to take note of the diverse range of work. The topic web designed earlier provides a shorthand means of documenting the many branches of the project.
Phase 3: Concluding the Project
Note: This outline summarizes some of the common features of projects, but each project is also unique. The teachers, students, topic, and location of the school all contribute to the distinctiveness of each project.
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