Reflections on the 20% Project

My students have been finished with their 20% Projects now for about two months and I've really had an opportunity to reflect about it. Click here for to access all of the 20% material I have so far.

Would I Do It Again?

Absolutely. It was an incredible experience for both me and my students. However, there are things I will change:

  1. This year my students worked on 20% Project in 1st semester and a personal blog 2nd semester. Both were pretty remarkable but lacked depth. By combining the assignment next year I will accomplish two things: (1) My students, most of whom worked on 20% Projects that required a lot of work outside of class, will have something to do on the day designated each week for 20% day. A blog will allow them to reflect weekly on what they are doing and give them something to work on in class. It will also be a terrific way for them to showcase their work throughout the semester and at the end of the unit.
  2. Mandatory Mentors. Although I told them they had to have one, I didn't hold them to it nor did I really help them realize the influence a mentor can have on their work and project.
  3. Grade the poster sessions in individual conferences or on 20% designated days. It was way too difficult and mentally exhausting to grade all 120 posters during the Opening Pitch Community Presentation.

Why Would I Do It Again?

It gave my students a unique opportunity to learn 21st Century research, organization, writing, and thinking about a topic they were fully engaged in. We want our students to be autonomous learners who can think and do for themselves, right? How can we expect them to learn this when we give them specific reading assignments with specific writing prompts about topics that are not connected to them in any, possible way? My students were able to take a vested interest in their own learning and then step-back and really look at what they were doing with their 20% Project. I was able to use it to show them how to find answers to their own questions-my role changed from teacher to guide. They respected me for giving them this opportunity and I respected their ideas. Some students were able to connect with their families and/or heritage in ways they never had before through their projects. Others took the opportunity to learn about themselves both psychologically and mentally. It was an amazing semester with an amazing ending in which tears of joy and encouragement were shed throughout the classroom.