On doing “Exploratory Projects” with students

By “exploratory projects” I mean long-term tasks where students are exploring some problem, or a challenge, to find out some answer. Usually, such projects are done in groups so that the scope of work can be expansive.

When students engage in such projects, they get an opportunity to apply whatever they have learnt so far, as well as come across things which they have not learnt so far and therefore they learn something which they need (and not what we adults have decided they must learn!). This is very motivating for students as they see the relevance of learning, and experience autonomy over their work (as against teachers directing all the work).

It is a good idea to get the entire class engage in the different aspects of the same project. Each aspect of the project, then, is explored by a team of 3-5 students. Such projects might go on from a couple of months to maybe, entire year. At the end of it, all groups consolidate their work into one report and present it to the larger audience (if possible, to a “relevant” audience). For example, if a project has been done to find ways to manage the traffic congestion in a city, traffic commissioner would be a “relevant” audience.

The project idea should be connected with the life of students, so that they find it meaningful and relevant. I have found a question like the following very useful to generate the project idea:

“What is that one change around you, over the last 5 years, that you are unhappy with?”

Students will mention several changes, and therefore we pick up one with common consensus, and then list down various aspects of this exploration, and constitute small teams of students for each, based on their interest.

As I have mentioned in my earlier blog, one such idea can become an entrepreneurial idea for some students.

In my next blog I plan to explore the idea of “motivation” – that is, what motivates (or gives energy) to our students to learn, or our team members to bring 100% of their energy to their work.