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A Simple Strategy to Manage Projects Better

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A Simple Strategy to Manage Projects Better

Motivated by a conversation I recently had with a middle school social studies teacher…

The Context

This middle school social studies class is doing some fairly sizeable and complex projects (the normal stuff when you think about social studies projects: researching empires, finding historical artifacts, presenting about impactful figures, etc.). The projects tend to occupy the space of 1-3 weeks.

The Goals

  • Track student tasks and status of tasks
  • Log interactions with group members (in and out of class)
  • Track communication with external entities (experts, parents, community members, etc.)

The Challenges

  • Generally unmotivated students (think: 7th grade…) with track record of cutting corners and being lazy
  • Uncertainty about progress until the end
  • Many steps in projects that often result in confusion (who is doing what, when are they doing it, etc.)

Solution

As I met with the teacher in question, we deliberated over several possible solutions. Here is the primary option he will implement:

Use a shared Google Sheet for each group that includes a Task Log and a Communication Log for accountability, clarity, and progress tracking.

Here is the simple Sheet we developed for this purpose (nothing crazy here!):

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1jE_QcJYyLdBDOUffJbLMuV_-wwb-IEuSuuhiAs-uwrU/view

The teacher’s plan is to have students update their task log as needed, check in with group members at least Mon/Wed/Fri (might be daily), log all activity outside of class (his intent is for this to be completed in class, but if needed…), and use Sheet in conferences with teacher to prove process and progress.

One way to elevate this solution further

Have students use a project management tool (like my favorite: Trello) for a more comprehensive task management process as well as a more easily contained digital work environment (everything can happen in one place: communication with each other, sharing of resources and information, assigning of tasks and deadlines, documentation of process).

Zach Ripley

Author Since: May 31, 2017

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