Project work is time-consuming for students, and it is important that they focus their use of time on accomplishing valued outcomes. The most important outcome is that students should understand more about a topic as a result of engaging in project work. This understanding comes through:
• Learning from experience
• Applying concepts and theories in practice
• Integrating multiple sources of information, from different areas into a whole
• Problem solving
2. Provide clear instructions and guidelines for students
Generally students enjoy participating in project work. However they can become frustrated when it is not clear what is expected of them, nor how their work will be assessed. As a minimum the following should be made clear to students - via written material and discussion of it.
• What students are expected to do in completing the project
• When various tasks should be accomplished
• How they should go about completing the tasks
• Especially, what are the criteria for assessing the work
3. Help students to start on the right track
Time spent with students early on is a good investment: it helps to ensure that serious difficulties and time-wasting do not occur at a later stage.
• Provide them with some initial references / materials / resources to ensure that they start off in the right direction
• If the project involves students in making contacts and collecting information from
people outside PolyU, help them to make these contacts Also, monitor student progress closely at the start.
4. Provide choice in the project topic
Students generally prefer to work on projects that they have selected for themselves - and learn more as a result. However, they will almost certainly need some assistance in developing a topic and working out how to go about it.
5. Set up a system for regular meetings with students
Even if the project has been discussed with students in detail, and they are clear about what they have to do, they will inevitably encounter problems and be in need of advice and support. It is preferable to schedule regular, short meeting with students to give them feedback on progress and ensure that they are on target. Ask them to submit a short written report on progress a day or so before the meeting, and use this as the basis for discussion and feedback.
6. Check that students have the necessary skills to solve problems encountered in the project.
Generally, projects require that students carry out library research, gather data, analyse it, write up a report, etc. There are specific skills and competences involved in these tasks. Try to make sure that students have these necessary skills, and assist them to acquire them if they do not. For example students may not know very well how to go about constructing a survey questionnaire, carrying out interviews, conducting computer searches of data bases, etc. etc.
7. Give students as much autonomy as possible
Students need to be monitored. At the same time they need some autonomy in deciding how to carry out the project. They will feel more of a sense of “ownership” and commitment, and are likely to learn more as a result
8. Encourage students by praising good work in progress
Students need to have their motivation sustained when a project is an extended piece of work.
Positive feedback for work well done is a powerful motivator
9. Be aware of the difficulties that students might encounter in group projects
When students are required to work in groups to carry out a piece of work, then there are some difficulties that are commonly encountered. These can be addressed by structuring the project appropriately and checking on them in the regular meetings. Common difficulties include the following.
• Scheduling convenient times and locations for group meetings
• Some members not finishing assigned tasks on time, and holding up the rest of the group
• Different attitudes and motivations of group members
• Interpersonal “politics” and conflicts
• Awarding of grades, fairly
10. Support students and empathise with them
Try to develop a “we” culture with students, where students and staff are partners in the project with different roles to play.