Engage in a project development process that includes at least one attempt to make a difference in the world related to your wicked problem and be able to explain to other people what you did

  • Because we want to give students to practice self-regulated learning, at least one project during the semester should be designed, developed, planned, implemented, and evaluated by the students themselves with the instructor as a guide.
  • These projects are not just proposed solutions. Students should actually try to implement their ideas in order to make a difference in the world. This is a requirement of the class.
  • As instructors, we will often be able to anticipate problems and obstacles that student-driven projects will encounter. It’s important to think carefully about whether to intervene or not. Sometimes, students learn more when they encounter those problems and risk the failure of their project rather than having someone telling them how to avoid the problems. For example, if a group of students is planning some sort of event, the instructor may know that booking a location and advertising the event just a week before the event is likely to mean that the event is not as successful as it could be (or might even mean the event can’t happen at all). Think carefully about how (and whether) to intervene in such a situation.
  • Although different groups of students in the same class will be working on different projects, there are still some common items that the instructor might require of each group. For example, perhaps every group needs to develop a team charter that governs how they will engage in the work together. Perhaps every group needs to develop a project plan which includes a timeline with specific project milestones and assigned tasks. Perhaps every group needs to write an end-of-semester project debrief that evaluates the success of the project. There are lots of ways that a class can be planned so that there are common assignments despite the fact that each project is student-driven.
  • The project is an opportunity for students to learn about the wicked problem. While they are engaged in project development and implementation, students are likely to need to research more information about some aspect of the wicked problem. We call this “main course” project-based learning. Students are learning the content related to the wicked problem while they are engaged in a project to impact that wicked problem. This is contrasted with “dessert” project-based learning where students learn a bunch of content and then apply it to a project. (These descriptions come from the Buck Institute https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl which is one of the premiere project-based advocacy groups in the United States.)
  • We use main course project-based learning in TWP because we want students to experience the messiness of project-based learning. We want them to grapple with figuring out what they need to know and how to learn those things. We want to give them experience with learning how to learn. The instructor is there to facilitate that learning but not to provide answers.


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TWP Instructor's Manual by Cathie LeBlanc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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