At the end of April, the Marymount International School London community was given the opportunity to see what the Grade 10 students had produced for their Personal Project. Sarah Openshaw and Mark Gardner give us an insight to the project, its goals and the outcomes achieved.
The Personal Project is a student-centred aspect of the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) which enables students to engage in practical explorations through a cycle of inquiry, action and reflection. The project happens in the final year of the 5-year MYP, allowing students to apply the skills, knowledge and attributes they have developed, helping them to flourish as independent, lifelong learners who love to learn and make new discoveries about themselves and the world around them.
Students set themselves a Learning Goal on a topic that is truly personal to them, and decide on a ‘product’ to create to showcase that learning. Over approximately 6 months they investigate, plan and create, demonstrating their ability to work independently and developing their Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills, through research, communication, creative- and critical-thinking, and self-management (such as planning, resilience, motivation and finding balance). Finally, they evaluate their product, and write a report explaining the process they followed, reflecting on how the project has impacted their learning and growth.
The fact that the students have the freedom to choose something of personal interest and meaning to them, and to take a longer-term project in the direction they wish, means that the students create a unique, self-directed learning experience.
Projects this year have included:
- researching, writing and illustrating a children’s book explaining how to cope with being a diabetic, from how they might feel at first diagnosis to how to manage day-to-day life
- recycling unusable, ripped plastic bags to create a yarn and using this yarn to crochet strong shopping bags with unique designs
- writing and producing an original song to raise awareness of climate change for an international audience using multiple languages and musical techniques.
Students are supported through weekly lessons in which key skills are discussed (such as different planning methods) and students then apply these to their own project, with the support of a Supervisor. The Supervisor is there not as an expert, but as a person to bounce ideas off and to help the student work through their own thoughts and ideas. It is the students’ responsibility to seek this support and feedback during the process, encouraging them to learn the importance of collaboration and seeking others’ perspectives.
A key part of the process throughout is reflection. The questions “what went well?” and “what could be improved?” teach students to analyse strengths and weaknesses in both their work and their approach to learning. The key growth question “what could I do next time to improve?” ensures that they are always considering strategies to implement change, which is vital to ongoing growth. This process of ‘inquire, act, reflect’ is known in the MYP as the inquiry cycle.
The valuable skills and self-knowledge gained allow the students to continue their journey as ever more effective independent learners, and they are able to apply that learning to future study, work and life, making the Personal Project a truly meaningful experience.