While the MYP Personal Project as the culminating task for the MYP takes place in the last year of the program, nothing prevents us from providing students with experiences through which they achieve mastery of the skills necessary to succeed in this major task. For the last 4 years at my current school, we have been exploring different ways to design a Personal Project journey that truly responds to the need of our context: a population of students in which more than 70% of them are English language learners.
This exploration has encouraged us to think of different learning involvements that we can introduce in different years of the MYP, in order to gradually help students to arrive in MYP 5 with a series of experiences that we can cite so that they know what process we are talking about. In other words, just like one needs to provide comprehensible input to language learners, we wanted to sensitize students to jargon, protocols, processes, design of criteria for success, and the plethora of considerations they needed to think about when choosing a project.
The first decision we took was to design unstructured experiences in MYP 1-4 for students to become familiar with the explorations in the Global Contexts; to practice articulating concepts in statements of understanding; so they gradually master their skills in producing criteria for success; and for them to become familiar with process writing constructing a report for their outcomes. The screenshot below captures the report an MYP1 student produced for an IDU between language acquisition and visual arts.
While we always introduced the MYP PP experience in MYP4, we wanted to engage MYP students in a more tactical way, so that they became an active part of the process to design the personal project journey that truly catered to their interests and strengths. At all cost, we wanted students to avoid starting the process with a sense of deficit, and to actually consider possibilities.
Therefore, we involved MYP4 students in a dialogue with MYP5 students during their Personal Project Presentations. MYP4 students were given the following questions, for which they had to record answers from their interactions with MYP5 students:
- How did you develop an interest in this topic?
- When did you choose your topic?
- What other choices did you consider?
- What helped you make up your mind?
- How did you narrow down your project?
- How did you learn your project was challenging?
- What was important about the conferences with your supervisor?
Students submitted their responses and the MYP PP Coordinator and I produced a report with survey findings. These results were presented to MYP4 students in a collaborative session in which they inquired into the reasons behind the choices their peers in MYP5 had made. The screenshots below show the results we presented to students.
In order for students to truly focus on the “personal” part of the personal project, and to invite them to start their journey considering their strengths and passions to seek challenge, we presented with a ‘passion and ability’ quadrants diagram that Dr. Zhao talked about in the IB Global Conference in Tokyo, 2017. With this very simple visual aid, students used a series of skills, habits, and behaviors that we had previously brainstormed to place them at the point in the quadrant that allowed them to identify in which they could employ they strengths and pursue their interest to the fullest potential. The images below were taken during this session.
Another aspect of this exploration was to find more opportunities for MYPC and PPC to collaborate and enrich the PP planning journey with dialogue that moved us beyond steps and deadlines and gave us the opportunity to explore our creativity to design a pathway that truly focused on what the cohort desired and hoped to experience. As we looked at the interests that students shared with us, we used the visible thinking routine SEE-THINK-WONDER to synthesize what students had shared with us.
We know that this is not by any means a perfect protocol to support students in the MYP PP journey, but we are happy to acknowledge that this is one that truly responds to our context needs, and to the culture of thinking and learning we want in the MYP.