Student Personal Learning Project: The End IS the Beginning IS The End

By: Michael Mohammed

If you haven’t read about our sharing of the personal learning project, you can read it here. This post will focus on reflections on the project and process. After getting some informal feedback from students on the project, I created a Google Form to collect some class data on the project to have in addition to the feedback presented in the portfolio from individual students. The questions were guided by theses informal conversations I had with students.

Student Reflection

What follows will be some class data in addition to a few individual reflections:

Freedom of choice (1 = strongly disagree 5 = strongly agree)

personal learning project

“I felt like by choosing my projects I used my time more productively because I was  researching something I actually wanted to research.”

“The thing I enjoyed the most was the freedom that we got to choose an idea that appealed to us. This is a stunning change to normal class projects where the teachers choose what you learn about.”

“I really enjoyed how we could choose to look into any area that we wanted, and I think that this is a phenomenal way to get students engaged in what they are learning about and take control of their own educational. I learned so much from all of my research and it was about something that I have always wanted to explore. It was a great experience that I would encourage you to continue with.”

“I think it might be beneficial to limit students in the future to choose a topic that has to do with physics or science in general. That way students still have the freedom to learn about something they are interested in while still learning about physics.”

Structure (1 = strongly disagree 5 = strongly agree)

“The only thing I believe would improve this project is if work days for it were more set in stone, and more days were given for the research/skill building rather than working on the final product itself.”

“I would recommend is maybe having a few more check in days and or include a quick meeting with Mr. Mo just to make sure your project is on the right track and you have everything you need.”

“Some things I would recommend for next time is just more time. I found that if I had more time, I would have more time to improve my project.”

Products (1 = strongly disagree 5 = strongly agree)

personal learning project

“The necessity to create a presentation and voice over video might have limited some students to not create an actual real-life product which might have been cool to show everyone.”

Project as a Whole (1 = strongly disagree 5 = strongly agree)

personal learning project

“My favorite part about this project was when we had to contact someone in the field of our topic. I gained some wonderful insight on my topic from a woman who is the director of a female intervention program in Oklahoma. The information I gained from her was more helpful than any of the research I did on my own.”

“I loved that I could finally use school time to learn something that actually matters to me! And it was way better than a study hall because the project was structured, so I had extra motivation to work on my project (along with my interest in the topic pushing me to work on it)”

“I loved being able to devote time to a project I am passionate about, which would otherwise never be given time to in my busy schedule as “just a hobby”. The extra time I spent in the art room actually persuaded me to take AP Studio Art next year, and create my portfolio with ceramics. Being able to delve deeper into the class opened my eyes to how much I appreciate ceramics and my interest in the art form. “

“I also appreciated the project because it helped me reevaluate my motivations behind learning a skill or subject.”

My Takeaways

There were a handful of students that thought the project should be focused only on physics. This is something I am struggling with.  A majority of students valued the choice.  So, it’s hard for me to take that away. Also, the fact that this was a post AP test project means that it was easy for me to put less restrictions on the topic.

As I bring it to a physics class as a year long project, I’ll probably ask students to tie their passions to physics or more accurately learn how their passions tie into physics,  even if we have to stretch a little.  That’s what I’m here for, to help find those connections and guide the process.

It was very tough to see that 2 students felt the project was a waste of their time and that 3 students felt that it was not relevant to their lives.  Before I get to bent out of shape here is one of the response forms for a survey:

personal learning project

So while the topic wasn’t worthwhile, it was relevant, and should be done in the future.  I’m a little baffled by this one.

The fact that a handful of students failed to have relevant projects, speaks to a failing in the process of choosing a topic.  The goal as introduced on day one was to “choose a learning goal for yourself based on what you are interested in or an area for improvement”.  The fact that 3 students felt that the project wasn’t relevant to them speaks to a failure in the guidance in choosing a topic or goal.  I think it might be helpful to plant this seed early in the course and let it germinate for a while before acting on it.

As far as check-in’s go, I feel like I dropped the ball. I planned on doing 1-on-1 conferencing, after seeing Angela Patterson run Genius Hour at Swanson Elementary, but I didn’t.  It’s something that students and I would both benefit from. That’s my bad.

Another area that I regret is being to0 narrow minded was the product format. If I am leaving topics so open, how could I possible expect them to present their learning in such a narrow way.  One of my students coded an amazing project that brought in lots of physics but simply seeing a video was not the same as seeing him demonstrate it and being able to play with it.  Here’s a video I took of David’s project:

I look forward to reflecting more over the summer and bringing this back in a better iteration next year.

  1. More support and time for choosing relevant project
  2. More teacher to student conferencing
  3. Multiple means of expression

I would love to get any of your thoughts on how to make this better.

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