Thursday, April 03, 2008

Some of us who supervise Project Work (PW) labour under the misconception that a good project is necessarily exceptionally brilliant in terms of originality and innovation. They expect to see proposals the likes of which they have never seen before, that will solve a problem they've never heard of, in a way that they'll never understand. If the kids can't reach this standard of inventiveness in their Preliminary Ideas (PI) submission, it's back to the old drawing board until they can propose something more acceptable to the US Patent Office.

True, someone raised a concern that potentially a PW tutorial (comprising 5-6 small working groups) could submit 5-6 proposals, say, for a similar Amazing Race style event. But, so what? There might be the problem that the Supervising Tutor will get bored stiff very quickly, but the PW marking criteria does not say that we should be looking to reward particularly novel or entertaining ideas only.

Besides, those of us who demand rocket scientist level projects will find themselves running into even bigger problems down the road. Ultimately, the proposals have to be both feasible and manageable to carry out by the kids themselves (at least in theory) and unless the kids make some very solid plans to do so, the most faniciful of ideas will simply fizzle out as no one -- not even the Supervisor -- will likely have any idea how to make something concrete out of them.

So no, we don't need plans that will save the world. We don't expect every student to be a mini Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, Edison or Da Vinci, in order to get a good grade in PW. There's enough room there for such exceptional students to shine, but we do not penalize students if they don't make that grade. How many of us could?

What do we look out for then, if we are marking for "Generation of Ideas"? We look to see how the proposed event/activity/whatever is appropriate to and is representative of the person or event that inspired it. We see if the proposal is able to match its stated objectives. We see if the kid can properly define the scale of the project, and estimate, acquire and manage the resources necessary to excecute the plan and make it work.

We are looking for practical, manageable ideas. It's ok to be derivative, as long as the kid modifies the original to suit the purpose of the project. So 5-6 Amazing Races inspired by the Israelite Exodus, Gandhi's march to make salt, Mao's Long March, Lewis & Clark's trek across North America, and Oprah's rise to become the highest paid female in the entertainment industry, sure, why the heck not? I'd love to see how our kids can make an Amazing Race (even in microcosm) based on any one of these legendary personalities. That's already challenge enough to keep their generation of ideas flowing.

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