Have you assigned projects to students that you have never done yourself?

I have.

When I first began as a project- based teacher, I had very little ‘real world’ experience. And it showed.

When I asked students to produce and publish their own books, I didn’t even know the difference between copy and content editing.

When I engaged students in marketing campaigns for a local NGO, I had no idea how use of color influenced buying preference.

And finally, when I asked students to create and manage their own businesses, I thought a ‘value proposition’ was a discount you offered on finished goods.

In short, I was asking students to complete projects I had no idea about. And while this naiveté was innocent and endearing at first, it ended up in products and projects that served little value outside of school.

So how do you gain ‘real world’ experience?

Do the project first. Here are five reasons why:

  • It will allow for the creation of model work: There is no better way to elevate expectations of student work than to produce professional quality work yourself. 

  • It will help you know what materials and resources to secure: This is especially true for engineering challenges. You will almost certainly run across materials you wish you had. 

  • You will be able to empathize with your learners: When your students come across challenges in a project, they are likely to be the same ones you faced. You can empathize and help them overcome the challenges with strategies that worked for you. 

  • It will help you better connect to experts outside of school: Chances are you will need to rely on someone else’s expertise to complete professional work. By establishing connections with real world professionals, you are building partnerships that will help ultimately serve your students. 

  • It will help you scaffold tasks for learners: It’s hard to scaffold tasks within a project when you don’t know what’s coming next. Having completed the project first hand, you will know how to break projects into more manageable parts for your students. 

Got a project you want to tune? Want some extra eyes on your work?

In addition to completing the project yourself, it’s always beneficial to have extra eyes on your work. Just recently I tuned a project I planned to run with students. I am so thankful I did. The team of educators I tuned it with gave me invaluable feedback prior to implementation.

Interested in getting feedback for your project as well? I’m hoping to organize teams of three for a free tuning session that will be over in 30 minutes flat. You will leave the session with new ideas and insights to enhance the learning for your students. Reach out to me at kylewagner@transformschool.com if you are interested in taking part. I can work around your schedule.

Enjoy the week ahead and always ‘doing the project first!’

With students first,