As the PP Coordinator, it’s been my pleasure to work with teacher supervisors over many years of leading the Personal Project. I’ve seen other guides on the internet for students completing the Personal Project, and they are great. However, this guide is for you – the teachers.
At our school, we treat the Personal Project like there are three components – the report, the process journal, and product. For some of the work, we bi-pass the journal and insist it goes straight into the report. Everything else, is either in the journal or documented in the journal (e.g. pictures of a sweater being sewn). So when you are reading about different approaches to guiding the Personal Project, sometimes you may read that everything goes into the journal, with a summation later in the report. I respectfully disagree.
And with that disclaimer, let’s muck in and learn how to guide a student through the Personal Project.
How Mentor Teams Can Work
Mentor teams are made up of teacher who are masters of Personal Project supervision. They have many years of experience guiding students and have a thorough knowledge of the guide and its implementation.
The best mentor teams have people with definite skill-sets. The three mandatory participants are the librarian, the MYP Coordinator, and the PP Coordinator (if different people). Next, it’s helpful to have someone from the Design department. That way, you have someone familiar with using an inquiry cycle and they also know how to create product specifications. It’s helpful to have someone from the Arts department because they also understand inquiry cycles and process journals. Your team should have someone who geeks out when talking about Global Contexts. It’s helpful to have someone who is a really hard-marker (Okay, this isn’t necessarily true… but I love having the balance of a really strict person on the team because they bring everyone back down to earth!)
Throughout my 14+ years of supervising Personal Projects, I have seen different ways of structuring mentorship teams. They include:.
The Mentors Guide The Supervisors
I’ve seen this work really well. Each member of the mentor team is assigned a group of teacher-supervisors whom they will personally mentor. Time is given during programme meetings for splinter groups, in which mentor teachers lead Q&A sessions or Global Context activities with their teams. Throughout the entire process, the mentor teacher keeps in touch with their teacher-supervisors through check-ins, just to see how they are going. Perhaps they sit in at a few of the first meetings – the tough meetings in which students are hammering out their topics and global contexts.
PRO: Everyone loves this. The mentors like having more hands-on oversight so we can catch problems early (e.g. like a teacher-supervisor who has the students using two Global Contexts and no journal). The teacher-supervisors love this because they are confident going to someone for help without feeling like they are alone, or inconveniencing the PP Coordinator.
CONS: It’s most helpful when time is given in the meeting schedule for mentor teachers to meet with their teams.
The Mentors Guide the Students
I’ve seen this work pretty well. Here, the students are informed that there is a team of master PP supervisors to whom they can go for help at any time. The mentor team launches the PP through a PP Day, with each person playing to their strengths. The PP Coordinator does the first launch (how to choose your topic) and the Global Context “geek” supports. The librarian does the literature review. The Design teacher does specifications. The Humanities teacher does the study methodologies. The Arts teacher does the process journal.
PROS: The students know there is a large team of teachers who are always ready to offer help and advice. The PP Coordinator has a support to help with launches, check-ins, etc. The supervisors knew there was a mentor team and that their student might be going to them for extra advice, so it didn’t cause hard feelings if students looked elsewhere.
CONS: Because it is, in effect, bi-passing the supervisors, it can be confusing for the students. If the mentor teacher suggests one Global Context but the supervisor suggests another, the student is caught confused. In the past, we dealt with this by saying, “Well, in life you often get multiple pieces of advice. You need to choose which one to follow.”
The Mentors Help the PP Coordinator
In this model, there is no real, tangible mentor group. There are not meetings. No names go on slides. The PP Coordinator simply knows who is really good at supervising and knows where she can go for help and support. Everything is more ad hoc; while the mentors do help with launches, they are asked on an individual basis each year.
PROS: Less burden on teaching staff because there isn’t ‘yet another committee.’
CONS: This is the least effective use of resources. Supervisors feel alone because they don’t know where to turn to for advice (perhaps they don’t want to go to the PP Coordinator with seemingly minor questions). The PP Coordinator feels alone, because she’s doing everyone by herself. Students may feel alone if they have a supervisor who is too busy to meet. Everything is ad hoc. No systems in place. Large scale projects (e.g. creating a new in-house PP guide) are too big to tackle alone. Problems fall through the cracks (e.g. a student who doesn’t do a process journal and their supervisor doesn’t notice) until the first draft comes out.
The mentor team comes together and plans the PP launch day. This could be separated into several blocks over the course of several weeks, or it could happen all in one day.
PROs: All in one day means the kids get a huge head-start on their projects. By the end of the day, they have their topic, their global contexts, their work has been approved by master supervisors, their process journal is started, and they are busy researching.
CONS: It’s exhausting.
Block 1: Picking Your Topic & Your Global Context
Put a pop-up email collector for a sample PPTX block 1.