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  Checklists to support Project Based Learning and evaluation

Involving Students in Checklist Creation

     Project Based Learning has the potential to increase a student's feeling of responsibility for, and control over, her own learning. Students who are allowed to define their own learning goals will be more engaged in learning. You can involve students in this process by helping them create their project assignment or project checklist. This pre-project activity gives students valuable experience in planning, and in setting their own goals and standards of excellence.

     By working with learners to create individual project checklists, you and your students engage in a valuable discussion of learning goals, student interests, student and teacher expectations, personal strengths and weaknesses, and problem solving strategies. Such discussions can help build more authentic projects, in that they reflect student interests and skills. Using individualized checklists also allows students to pursue and experiment with different strategies. Allowing students to choose personal approaches to problems simulates real-world tasks in which multiple views and methods compete in the search for a solution.

     Individualizing Project Based Learning may be used with all learners: to give structure to those who desire it, flexibility to those who crave it, or to allow time for building skills that are personally challenging. There are obvious applications for students with special needs, but individualizing instruction in this manner benefits all students.

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Individualized checklists not only help learners target certain skills, but they also help improve metacognition, self-regulation, and motivation.

    Designing her own checklist will help a student think about what skills she already has, what skills she needs to improve, and what skills she may still need to acquire to complete a project. Together, you may also choose to hold a student responsible for setting a timeline and generating assessment criteria. How will the items on a student's checklist be weighted? Will the product be the goal? Or will assessment be integrated with the project, checking progress during the project in addition to the final product? When a student helps define her own goals and monitor her own progress, she becomes more self-regulated.

     Most importantly, involving students in project planning will engage them in their own learning. This ownership excites learners and often increases the effort they are willing to put forth. Authentic projects with a student voice help connect the world of school with a student's own experiences, making learning more relevant, more equitable, and more enjoyable.

Project Based Learning