Project-Based Learning: Inside The Life Of A Project

by Terry Heick

At some point, I saw “the life of a project” diagram on pinterest, and thought it did a brilliant job of capturing the emotion of teaching and learning through projects. So I took the idea, attributed to Maureen McHugh, and applied it to education. You can see the results above, and the text below.

As I reproduced it, I thought a circle made more sense than a line graph, but staying true to McHugh’s vision, I kept it as a giant check mark for now. (I may share the circle version later this week because I spent an hour creating it and now it’s just taking up space on the giant cloud in the sky, so that’s no good.)

The Big Idea

Learning through projects is a wonderfully flexible approach to education that rewards creativity, accepts technology, and centers students. It also can be a rollercoaster of emotion, reflection, and it-takes-a-village hectic coordination of effort between parents, teachers, and students. To that end, I thought it made sense to communicate what that rollercoaster looks and feels like for students, through stages and characterizing sentiments.

The benefit of doing so? So teachers and students new to project-based learning can know that it’s perfectly normal when the enthusiasm turns to regret in a project-based learning environment. With a little revision, a little resourcefulness, and a lot of determination, that feeling of excitement should return again.

4 Stages & 8 Characterizing Sentiments Of Project-Based Learning

Stage 1: Excitement

Characterized by the overall feeling of, “This is awesome. Who needs a plan?I can’t wait to get started!”

Stage 2: Uncertainty

Characterized by the overall feelings of, “This is harder than I thought, but still fun!”, followed be “I’m confused & overwhelmed. Help!” and “This is too much work. What part of my final grade is this worth anyway?”

Stage 3: The push

Characterized by soul-searching, and the overall feeling of, “It’s not turning out like I’d hoped, but I’ve come too far to quit!” and “I found an idea, trick, or tool that made a big difference.”

Stage 4: The return to excitement

Characterized by the overall feeling of, “Almost there. Time for finishing touches & quality checks!” and “Finished! Time to let the world see!”

The Life Of A Project: What Students Feel In Project-Based Learning