I’ve just delivered a seminar on this today at ESL Prolog, one of my schools in Berlin, and a couple of interesting points came up, both in my preparation for the session and during the discussions.
1. Evaluating the success of a project.
The criteria for the success of a project are much more personal than with more structured language based lessons. Often students will know that they’ve had an exceptional experience that they’ll remember and that will re-energise their interest in the language. But there does need to be some sort of analysis which enables you to evaluate the outcomes and do the project better next time. Often the work – the thing that they’ve produced – speaks for itself, as specific Target Language can be seen in the ‘product’, be it a recording, text or otherwise. And this raises an interesting choice for us to make as teachers: to what extent do we correct the work as it’s being made? For something that you’re likely to want to utilise with other students, a board game for example, correction is probably more important. With videos, recordings, writing, etc, it can be useful to have students self and peer correct afterwards.
Post project discussions with the students are also integral to evaluation, but bear in mind that if the students have just been part of an amazing and creative experience they’re not going to want to sit down and fill in a questionnaire – so keep it friendly and relaxed. If the students have enjoyed themselves they’ll be happy and comfortable talking about their experience.
Trust plays a major role in carrying out projects with students. Depending on the type of project, it may be that students need to trust their teacher and peers before being comfortable participating in a project – particularly where film and recording may be involved. But trust is also something that is generated through the experience of doing a project. Working closely together, sharing skills and creating something all lead to a strong bond within a group. So with more introvert groups we should perhaps begin with the slightly less ‘exposing’ projects. But then there’s something to be said for jumping in at the deep end. 🙂