A practical project is usually set for summative assessment in a vocational or professional area, where students work, individually or in a group, on a task set by the teacher or by negotiation (preferable) which brings together the knowledge and skill requirements of the module or course.
The origin of the term "masterpiece" is in a practical project which marked the graduation of a former apprentice in a traditional trade.
- Particularly appropriate in vocational and professional education, where the integration of discretely-taught skills and knowledge is required.
- Do not use when you are not convinced the students can cope; when there are unacceptable levels of risk, to students or clients if any; and where there is any substantial disagreement about objectives and criteria between members of the assessment team.
- Projects often take a long time to complete, sometimes longer than modern modular course structures allow. They can also require funds! It is important to ensure that the task is manageable within the time and other resources available, before allowing students to embark on it.
- Students rarely undertake projects with no tutor guidance at all, if only for health and safety reasons. It is important to be both clear and fair about the limits of the tutorial guidance available. You should also be explicit about the kind of evidence required for the assessment. Is it simply a report? Or is product evidence required too? Is a log required?
- See the notes on group-based assessments.
- The management of projects calls for many skills: time-management, organisation, communication, etc. While these are "Key Skills", which it is important for students to acquire, they may be strictly irrelevant to the task of the course. It is important to distinguish these in the assessment criteria, to avoid issues of discrimination.
- Remember that when students undertake projects which bring them into contact with the public, they do so in the name of your institution. This may be good PR, or it may be bad, but the institution may have rules about how its name can be used outside.
- There may also be ethical considerations about reference to particular clients or consumers in reports, or in video or audio evidence. Clearance can be complicated: consult your departmental ethics committee at a very early stage.