"Project" is sometimes synonymous with an essay, but here it will be taken to refer to an assessment which requires some investigative or "research" work as well as the construction of an argument. See also practical and performance projects
- Any discipline in which it is useful for students to contextualise ideas or material by applying them to practical instances.
- When students do not have the facilities or access to information to be able to undertake a realistic project
- When there is no clear framework to apply. Projects are often set sloppily, because they are easy for a teacher to devise, and keep students busily occupied: they are often marked on superficial criteria such as presentation values, and are not effectively tied in to the outcomes of the course or module.
- To have much value, projects require a clear brief, given in writing, together with a marking scheme which directs students where to put their major effort.
- Projects can score over essays in tying course material in to the real world, and also in security considerations: plagiarism and cheating are more difficult when it is necessary to refer to sources and activities personally undertaken.
- Projects, whether practical, performance or library-based, can absorb vast amounts of time, and students can go over the top in the effort which they put in, with marginal effects on marks and detrimental effects on other parallel work. Lack of apparent reward for excessive work can lead to resentment on the part of stakhanovite students, which can sour relations within a class and lead to suspicion of favouritism on the part of the marker. Take care to be explicit and realistic about what you expect. Consider using a learning contract as the basis for the project
- Many projects, like real-life work, follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the work can be achieved in 20% of the time. The other 80% of the time is spent in tidying up and marginally improving on the remaining 20% of the work. (Like this website!) Obsessional students can put more and more work into polishing their projects, to the detriment of work on other modules, for little ultimate gain. They require even more tutorial support than those who reckone they can get by well enough on just 20% of the effort.
- In practice, this means that the differential assessment of projects can often be disproportionately influenced by marginal issues, such as the quality of presentation. As ever, have a clear marking scheme to help you balance this out; and share it with the students so they can make informed choices about the amount of effort they put in.
See also Problem-Based Learning