One of the founding principles of Baxter Academy is the idea that working on big, long-term projects is worthwhile. These are projects that students design, sometimes in conjunction with a faculty member, sometimes on their own. While the process worked pretty well last year, the student feedback indicated that they wanted to be held more accountable for their project proposal, for the work they did on the project, and what they were able to accomplish. So this year we ramped up the proposal process. Project teams have to write a proposal using this template and submit it to a review panel consisting of a teacher, administrator, and student senator. Almost every proposal fails to be approved on the first try, but that’s okay. The review process has made the proposals more focused and much stronger.
Since we devote every Friday to this project work, it’s important that the project teams have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish and what they need to do each week. Which begs the question, “How do you teach project management?” Gantt charts are nice, but require good guesses at tasks and completion times. I have experience teaching the critical path method, which I think it pretty cool, but again, you need to have an idea of what the tasks are and how long each task will take. And the “projects” were all hypothetical, from a textbook. Nobody was actually trying to do them. Our engineering teacher is really partial to Scrum boards. I kind of get how they work, but have a difficult time conveying their use and importance to students.
Do you just dive in and make guesses at times and adjust along the way?