I have been interested in transitions for a long time. I am fond of the mental and cognitive transformation that all of us undergo when we move form one plateau to another. Some of these transitions are like the metamorphosis cocoons go through as they become butterflies; or like the skin snakes leave behind. Regardless of where we end up, we never start from zero: we have the history we built with our journeys behind us, supporting our development.
As I stated in my post ‘Another Brick on the Bridge’, the Personal Project (PP) as a culmination task in the MYP is a transformational exercise that can become students’ contribution to the context on which they decided to base their project. Moreover, as I think on the impact reflection and engagement have in the whole community, this time I wanted to look at the pieces of luggage students fill as they walk their personal project journeys; as they make decisions; take turns they might not have thought of; as they design and employ tools to organize and analyze the evolution of their project; and as they are transformed by their findings.
I am not sure about the extent to which personal project supervisors refer to the process journal while discussing PP development with students. Why is this fundamental piece of the puzzle not given the respect it deserves considering it is the one item where most of the efforts are deposited; when it is the capsule that guards students’ experiences: their achievements; their disappointments; and the resilience strategies they considered to bounce back and re-focus their efforts. The process journal is the beating heart of the PP, and it seems it is many times only regarded as an accessory, which clearly makes me wonder: ‘isn’t process our focus and not the final product?’
Thus, I figured that this new ATL in the PP odyssey should focus on the Process Journal, the necessary skills to build a successful and meaningful one, as well as to use it as THE tool that will help students reflect on their journey and evaluate the learning they thought they could attain against the learning they experienced and co-constructed. Moreover, considering my experience as a PP supervisor, I have found that engaging in the challenges students are facing, discussing the developments they are witnessing, participating in their journey, and addressing specific processes and competencies when providing guidance, is what truly makes a difference and enables supervisor and students to bond and generate dialogue.
The PP criteria are a clear reflection of the ATL categories, and if we look at the path everyone has to walk to produce the final product they have in mind, it is clear that the roads towards PP completion is full of ATL temptations. For this reason, the workshop I prepared for students focused on the process journal and aimed at helping students see how the PP criteria were somehow indicating the steps they had to take; the way they had to look at things; the way they had to document their actions; the considerations they had to keep in mind; the estimations they mad to make; the occasions when they had to act as a designer; as well as the decisions they would have to take- which many times will cause them to take a few steps back.
The workshop could not possibly have moved on without students asking: ‘But what does an ATL-packed process journal look like?’ So, to help them visualize how strong ATL looked like when represented in a process journal, so I showed excerpts of a process journal that provided examples on how one student successfully used a variety of ATL skills to document the construction of her PP. See below.
The following are some ideas we discussed as we looked at the process journal samples:
- The value of creating a timeline
- How the tools used, and the methods used to analyze data were documented aided in reflection.
- How the process journal helped keep track of decisions, changes and iterations.
- How the process journal serves as a tool for having dialogue with the personal process supervisor.
- How the report is basically a summary of the process journal.
And, as a conclusion, almost as unison, students stated: ‘so basically, the process journal is the most important piece of the PP?’ While it’s difficult say yes, it is difficult to deny that it is the soul.
To download the workbook I used for this workshop, click here.
You might be interested in the history behind this post:
In my post ‘Change Ahead’ I discussed the transition from PYP to MYP and shared an experience in which such stage of the process was addressed by looking at the nature of Approaches to Learning (ATL).