• Divide into teams of two. Pair up with somebody close to your subject and/or grade level.
• Generate an essential question, link it to a content standard, and begin to create your project, using the above model as your guide.
a) Ask the essential question. If you ask a good question, many content standards will be addressed in your finished product. For example, you could ask, “If I could create my own planet, what it would need to support human life?” Students would have to research a lot of stuff to come up with the answer. What will tell you whether or not students have mastered the material? Have students help with developing a rubric for judging the quality and accuracy of their work.
Remember: Questions are the most powerful tool we have as educators. Make your question a good one. Everything else will flow from it.
b) Have a plan. Students will own the project if they feel they have a role in its outcome. Try to integrate as many subjects into the research as you can. For example, tie Greek mythology into a space project. Use art to draw your new planet. Write a poem about space. Design math problems and physics experiments. Present the space program in economic and social terms. Is the space race worth having if so many people go hungry? Be prepared to delve into new topics and ideas as they arise.
c) Create a timeline. Will your project take a day, a week, a month, or the entire year? Give students directions for managing their time. Teach them how to schedule their tasks. Make sure that students are successful, especially at the beginning of the process. You can make it more difficult as time goes on. Be careful about setting limitations. Insist that they follow the rubrics; refer to these written guidelines often.
d) Monitor progress. Designate student roles. Be sure to provide resources, especially good hyperlinks to research sites. Devise a way to determine individual AND group accountability. That way, if a member of the team falls short, hard-working individuals still get the credit they deserve. Keep your eye on the group dynamics. You hold the power to reassign students if things aren’t working out. Are your goals clear as to the final outcome? Will it be a paper, a slide show or a poster? What does a good piece of student work look like? Have some examples to share before the project begins. Be sure to archive good student work for future classes.
e) Assess the project. Whenever possible, have the students assess their own work.
Assessments can be summative and formative. Use both methods. A good rubric will make this task lots easier. Students like specifics, so put lots of thought into how you will evaluate projects and share these guidelines with your class.
f) Evaluate and reflect on the project. This is the time to share feelings and experiences. Students can help you be a better facilitator for future projects. This is also a good time to develop and plan for new projects and ask new questions. If everyone did their jobs, you should have a million new questions to ask!
Will your rubric be a process or product rubric? Does it incorporate a timeline? Is your project based on a term paper or electronic project? Did you link your rubric to the correct standards? Is it a process rubric or a content rubric? Above is a cooperative learning model to help you get started. How will you modify it to fit your own needs?