While it is not fool-proof, I have found a system that keeps all groups moving forward while still affording them a measure of autonomy to motivate said forward movement. Of course chatters will chat, and the allure of social media remains the siren song sung in the background of every computer lab session. However, with the group folder method, I need not stop and conduct an in-depth analysis of what is and is yet to be accomplished. I simply say, "Let me see your folder."
Whether they want to go film or take pictures in another classroom, or whether they want to start editing or putting together their website, before I give them the go ahead, all I need is a "Su folder, por favor," and a quick eyeball at the outside most of the time.
Contents of a group folder:
- 1 Cover Checklist stapled to the front with...
- group name
- group member names
- final project format (if they have a choice)
- daily goals agenda
- 1 Progress Log per group member with tasks broken down into steps
- arrangements/appointments made with dates and times (at least by period)
- date of completion
- date of group review of material for submission
- date of re-do (if necessary)
- date of submission to me for approval
Why per person? If only one person is keeping track of what's happening when, problems will surely ensue. It might also be appropriate to have a separate log for each phase of production to help break down the process into digestible portions..
- 1 Collaboration Rubric as a reminder of the standards for collaboration
- 3 Collaboration Checklists per group member to track self and peer evaluation. I suggest 3 for tracking progress, too. I wondered if these should not be kept separate, private, but to my way of thinking, they should be updated honestly and openly among the whole group.
- Any notes from planning discussions, goal-setting sessions, or organization outlines to be referred back to when a group starts thinking they're "finished"
The checklist with the agenda works well because it does allow for some jumping around when appropriate. Maybe one group finished their pictures before interviews: then I can simply cross that out, even though it is fourth on the list. Hint: only cross it out if it is in your hot little hand or virtual inbox, none of this it's-on-my-camera-but-I-forgot-my-cord-can't-you-just-look-at-it-here stuff. (That's just the preamble to somebody-must-have-erased-it or it's-at-home-I'll-bring-it-tomorrow.)
I check their progress logs daily to see what they claim to have finished and compare it to what I have received that day on Schoology (or Edmodo, or an inbox--physical or electronic). Then, based on their logs, my records, and the next checkpoint, I make a suggestion under "Daily Goals" as to what should happen during the next group work session. At the end of the work session, they each update their Progress Logs, I collect folders, and I start again. I also keep a spreadsheet with my daily notes to each group (see, it's nice because there are way fewer groups than there are students), por si acaso.
As for maintaining some sort of uniformity, I do, in fact, set due dates for phases of the project with the class. Another hint: don't count on the first due dates they set. While they need to set goals early on, one of the best things Project-Based Learning (or Problem-Based Learning) does for the student is make them re-evaluate everything. All the time. Also, make them build in revision dates before the final due date.
With the Collaboration Rubric/Checklist, I did some frontloading at the beginning of the semester with a puzzle activity where students got to practice using it to evaluate their partners that tried to help them put together the puzzle. We review the alignment of the simplified Spanish objectives each time we start evaluating, so I can sit down with groups and conduct evaluations in at least 90% Spanish!I've found that it is fine to start with just Never/Sometimes/Always for students' choices, but to be able to show growth, I'm expanding to Nunca/Poco/A veces/Mucho/Siempre. (The simplified objectives for the Spanish checklist are based on the "At standard" column of the BIE rubric.)
Now I confess this whole organizational aspect of the project has been in English for my Spanish I class thus far. However, I consider it scaffolding so I can sneak some Spanish in once they're familiar with the process, or the schema, if you will. For the second and third projects, in addition to collaboration evaluations, the Cover Checklist and daily goals will be entirely in Spanish, and by the third, I hope even Progress Logs will be in Spanish.