The production processes used in many fields of knowledge offer a structure that guarantees certain types of results when handled well. Applied to education, these can be thought of as phases of project development and production.
Each phase has an interim assessment component that insures improved quality in the final product and elicits learning results related to goal setting, time management, problem solving, research, and critique. By keeping track of the process through an annotated bibliography, students can explain how primary and secondary resources were used to conceive and execute their projects.
This type of documentation and reflection formalizes learning for the students involved and gives others the opportunity to gain added insight.
Phase 1 — Research
Before a project can start, research has to be done. Research takes many forms: interviewing, looking at documents or artifacts, reading secondary source material. It is critical to keep track of research sources for projects, just as it is for report writing.
Phase 2 — Concept Development
Once information has been gathered, it’s time to analyze and interpret it. Essays are the most frequent format used in social studies classes. However, projects such as plays, models, murals, and museum displays provide an engaging means for students to show what they have learned. The concept development phase results in an intital design and a schedule for completion.
Phase 3 — Preliminary production
Preliminary production is the phase to test and modify ideas and rearrange the scope of the project so that it fits the schedule for completion. Two major questions in the prelimary production phase are: How do I make my ideas functional? How do I modify my ideas to fit within the time allotted?
Phase 4 — Critique of work-in-progress
Critique sessions are crucial to project development. This phase provides the opportunity to learn and improve while there is still a chance. Critique should be limited to a discussion about how well the product reflects the goals it addresses. A helpful critique begins with the producers explaining their vision or intent. Then, viewers describe what works well, given that intent. From there, the critique group moves to a discussion about suggested improvements.
Phase 5 — Completion
A project is further developed and brought to completion, based on insights gained from the critique session(s) and a reassessment of what is possible to do, given the time available to do it.
Phase 6 — Presentation
Products and presentations do not “stand by themselves” in a learning environment. Often the learning that came from the development process, is stronger than the final product. Because the product only tells part of the story, a good final assessment involves the use of multiple sources of evidence. A well-rounded, final presentation includes an annotated bibliography, display of the project, and a question and answer session.