Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.
— Rober C. Schank (Cognitive Scientist)
One of the most effective ways for us to know, appreciate, and learn from what is happening around us is telling our story. The way we acquire and develop certain skills is a direct response to the manner in which we are experiencing life at a certain stage. I even think we cannot learn what we are not ready to.
Most importantly, whatever learning we attain, and whatever new understanding we embrace, needs to be explained by us in order for it to make sense to ourselves and to the world. We need to be able to tell our own story; how we cope with conflict and change; how we combat influences we do not desire; how we perceive what others do; and how we perceive the possibilities that develop in our surroundings.
I have come across so many definitions of the personal Project in MYP, and while I honestly do believe that it encourages students to practice and strengthen their approaches to learning skills and to consolidate prior and subject-specific learning, and to develop an area of personal interest (From the IB Projects Guide); I firmly feel it is also one opportunity to tell the world how they got to this stage of their learning; how they developed the understanding of the world they have; how they are getting ready to shape their future; and a chance for them to realize what they can do with what they know.
At a very young age, when MYP students arrive in grade 10, they face the exciting challenge of creation. However, while they have been creating since their early years, this kind of creation belongs to the kind of projects that actually contribute to the already existing knowledge in the world. In other words, it is a big deal, and because the nature of the project is PERSONAL, students must be properly guided to tell their story in a way that, once the process is finished, they see the footprints they have left, not the scars they are taking.
The rigor of the MYP truly prepares students to develop a peripheral view that allows them to make the most from the knowledge in their surroundings, and also sensitizes them to take action on issues that matter to them. However, what I value the most in the MYP is how it enables students to develop skills to challenge understandings, commencing by their own convictions, and to establish what is important. For this reason, as the crowning moment of their MYP experience, the personal project must be utilized as the opportunity to tell their story.
ATL skills each student develops are the sign of the differentiation in learning, understanding and ways of working with knowledge. Few things can be more personal than that. Thus, since ATLs are an integral part of the Personal Project, I think it’s paramount to support students as they tell their story.
Considering the ATL categories of the Next Chapter, I wanted to find a way to support grade 10 students’ readiness for the PP. Thus, upon discussion with the Personal Project coordinator and the MYP coordinator, the idea of developing skills to collect the resources needed to tell our story (research) ranked as the experience where I could have some input.
Nonetheless, since the PP is initiated with a personal motivation that is further enhanced and nurtured through the findings students come across in the resources they consult, I also wanted them to become aware of how each new discovery causes us to interact differently with our peers, and to handle new ideas with different views. For this reason, I planned a booklet that would accompany the experience of making a choice; that helped to trace a path as students understand their choice in depth; that allows them to visualize the big impact their project can have for themselves and in their community; but above all, a tool that supported their inquiry and helped them claim ownership of the whole process.
In my experience as a Personal Project supervisor, I am aware of the extent to which students tell their experience in an anecdotal way and oversee the source of the idea that caused them to get a hold of the understanding they are describing (the incentive), and it is for this reason that I want to help them add substance and value to their story, for many times this is what one needs to validate one’s growth and progress, more than a number representing ‘achievement’.
So, students, what story are you ready to tell? How relevant in the world do you want your PP to be? Are you aware of the strengths and skills you have to accomplish your goal? In our ATL Vs. PP session we will look at a variety of thinking, communication and organization skills. Hopefully this will help you put another brick on the bridge between MYP and DP.
Please, write some thoughts explaining your experience in this session, considering this post in a comment below. This will be one of your initial reflections.
Below are the resources for students, and for other educators who view this post. All feedback is welcome.
The original workbook, with QR codes included can be downloaded here.