TAP Stage Four: Design Principles

The founding principles of The Awesome Project (as well as Genius Hour and 20% Time in Education) are simple, but it actually takes a lot of to work fully implement them. Read through the post below describing the core design principles and complete the task that follows.

Design Principle #1: Students must complete Research.

Hopefully your students have already been taught some research skills; it is interesting to watch which ones they decide to use on The Awesome Project and which ones they don’t transfer over! This also has an implication for what topic a student picks. If a student picks a topic they are already an expert in, they need to demonstrate how they have grown. It also means that they can’t spend the whole time practicing their basketball skills – they need to find some sort of outside knowledge to research and learn from.

Design Principle #2: Students must Present their findings.

I have told students that the way they present their findings is completely up to them. While a number of them are still planning on sharing a traditional powerpoint, I am sure that as the time gets closer to the actual presentation more and more of them will work on real-life or filmed demonstrations of the skills they have gained through research.

Design Principle #3: The process must be Public.

You should decide with your students, parents, and administrators exactly what the means for you. In our first trial with The Awesome Project, we have made student research and work public only inside of the community. However as you may have found by exploring Genius Hour, a number of classrooms have jumped in completely and everything is public.

Note that nowhere in there did I say that The Awesome Project needs to be graded; but that’s a bit controversial. Right now in my department I am the only teacher implementing The Awesome Project without grades. My colleagues are having students design their own rubrics as part of the process. I have argued that involving ANY grading of ANY kind will influence students to pick a topic that they think they can be successful in. The whole point of The Awesome Project is to bring in some of the passion that a learner naturally displays on their own outside of school into the classroom; grades in my view contaminate that passion.

I also didn’t mention what should probably be Design Principle #4: this takes Time. You’ll have to find time in the classroom for it; you cannot make this homework (see above: we want outside passion brought into the classroom). There is a real tension between a project like this and a time-consuming curriculum.

How have I found the time for it? I am blessed by two factors. First, I am in the enviable position of working in a private school that isn’t subjected to any form of high-stakes testing. Secondly, I’m the department head, and I have worked to make my team’s common curriculum smaller and less time-consuming (for a number of factors, not just for this kind of project). While we have agreed to reduce the amount of common content, we have simultaneously fine-tuned our assessment of research skills and conceptual understanding. The end result is that we have common assessment tools but are not locked in to a huge amount of common content. This has taken over five years to develop, and is still ongoing, but I can’t imagine The Awesome Project being as successful at my school without it.

To complete Stage Four of The Awesome Project, post a thoughtful comment below about which principle you think will be the most difficult for you to follow and why.

Assessment:

Respond thoughtfully to the ideas of another learner who has already posted in the comments by asking them a clarifying question or building on their ideas. (Or if you are the first learner ask me a clarifying question in the comment section.)

Congratulations! You are over halfway through the course! Click on the lightbulb to move forward to the next stage which is a bit of a breather from these past few.

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Image Licensing Information

Image licensed by Julia Bickerstaff under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Original image can be found here.

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