Project Management for Teachers: A How-To
When it comes to learning, most of us have accustomed to having a focus on data retention. The problem is that it is becoming more and more of an obsolete skill in today's world. That is why project management for teachers is essential, as it gives us more tools to make our subject relevant.
Through workshops, study groups, projects, and other extracurricular activities we can show our students the application for our subject in the real world. More importantly, we can teach them how to think critically and use what they know in different situations.
In a world where jobs, vocations, and needs of the market change seemingly overnight, you want to give your students the real-world skill and adaptability to thrive in whichever environment they find themselves in.
Make School Great Again
The reason why those who had the privilege to go to school a century ago were so happy about it is that schools offered a better life and was objectively a better experience than starting to work on the farm when you are eight.
We need to bring that back in the age of the internet and video games. You want to make exciting projects that will push your students to want to go to school, just to see what they will learn next.
That is why you must make projects. You must have interesting goals envisioned where your students can compete, learn, and maybe even get prizes. While grades are a good way to start with the prizes, we can also take some inspiration from other resources and offer tokens of achievement.
Focus on Your Strengths
While it might be tempting to teach your students something that might not be directly connected with your field, you should restrain yourself. Not only are you encroaching on the territory of your colleagues, but you will probably make some mistakes that will affect your students in the long run.
Focus on what you know, because you will be of most help to correct and guide the students. In the end, it is much more beneficial for them to learn how to approach problems than to have some specific information. Project management for teachers is all about slightly adjusting what the students are doing, and not being too heavy-handed.
IPECC – Standard in Project Management for Teachers
The main structure in project management for teachers, as well as any other good project you want to finish according to the fullest potential of the team, is IPECC.
This stands for Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing.
The first and last points remain the same and should be established before you begin. But, the middle three points can be reworked many times, provided that you are not showing adequate results on your first go.
Ideally, any task should be divided into individual and group jobs where you can assess both as they are done. Just make sure that you are searching for some measurable indicators of success.
For this example, we will use a project where the goal is to write a short story. If your class is different, you will take something applicable to your subject.
The first question is always ‘’Why’’. Why do you want to do something and which benefit would that bring? Although art for art's sake can be something you want to promote, it is not a good standpoint for a project. Your goal should always be an objective benefit.
When writing a short story, we need to know what do we want to say and to whom? What kind of emotion do we want to create?
We want to make a short story that will speak about the trials students would have in high school and what funny misfortunes will befall them by following rules to the letter. The goal is to say that following rules is actually beneficial, but that common sense is better. A comedy for teachers, a tragicomedy for students.
Simply put - write what you know.
Especially if creating something that will be tested by others, saying something is much easier than doing something. That is why so few people ever wrote anything, especially a story.
You need to know where to start, who will come up with which part, and how everything will go. You might give each student a task to form just one character, with one plotline and description. Then, form small groups that will intertwine their plotlines and agree on how they would cooperate and interact in the story.
Finally, give one person the task to form the environment, to build the world these characters would live in.
Cutting the job into smaller tasks will allow everyone to be invaluable to the whole project.
Here comes the hard part. It is time to combine everything and see that everyone does their part. You will need to have regular meetings with every group separately to see what might be their problems and if you can help them reach a solution.
Test their thinking and pose questions that they might have missed. It is possible that they already know what they should do, but nobody mentioned it yet.
Remember that in project management, nothing is a given. Even regular things that you would assume your students are aware of can be easily forgotten or overlooked.
This is the point where egos die. While your class might be the one to create a masterpiece from their first try, it may not be likely.
For our short story, this would mean reading what we have made and trying to find plot holes and unresolved arcs. We should see how some neutral third-parties would grade the project and if the goals we have set in the beginning were met.
And, when it is determined that the team of students missed the mark, we are back to step #2. Plan what should be changed and try again. If you help your students share the burden, everyone will have an easier time accepting the necessary changes and make their second draft more fruitful.
Once everything is written, redone, edited, and passed every test you can think of, it is time to finalize the project and present it to the public.
As a teacher/project manager your task will be to reward your class regardless of the results that will follow. Organize a classroom party and have everyone share in the spoils.
But, if it is something like a short story, make sure it is presented to the real world. It needs to have some actual results outside the class.
And don't fret if it is unsuccessful. If it breaks, it will be a great lesson on teamwork, and what it takes for everyone to do the job. It will also be a lesson about what it takes to be productive members of society, allowing students to see that unless we are always learning and advancing, we will never reach our goals.
Learn from Experience
As the Romans say, repetitio est mater studiorum – repetition is the mother of learning. Getting a hang of how to manage projects with your students will be a learning experience for you as much as for your class.
Don’t become complacent by success and depressed by failure, as they are just pieces of a much larger puzzle. Take notes about what worked and what didn’t and apply that knowledge on your next project.
Project management is an essential skill, both for you and your students. As a teacher, you will want to learn how to adequately manage a class as well various extracurricular projects.
What's more, your students will learn from the example and develop the critical thinking skills that will benefit them for the rest of their life.