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The Ultimate 'How To' Guide for the Personal Project

The personal project might be your first student-driven learning experience, which may be daunting and overwhelming to you. Still, I guarantee that if you follow this guide, you might find yourself enjoying the process.

As the name suggests, the personal project is an opportunity for you to envision, explore, research, develop, create, reflect, and present something of unique challenge, significance, and interest. The Personal Project encourages students to practice and strengthen their approaches to learning (ATL) skills, offering many opportunities for differentiation of learning and expression according to students’ individual needs etc., etc., etc. The focus of this article is not to detail the aim of the Personal Project, but instead to give you an insight into the workings of the project and how you can get the best out of the experience. If you want to learn more about the IB definition of the Personal Project, follow this link.

Have you ever wanted to build a computer? Do you have a secret passion for photography? Are you curious about Nomadic culture? Do you want to learn a new language? Maybe you like dogs? Now is your chance to do what you want to do and put your skills and your knowledge into a project of personal significance. Remember: you will be engaging and working on this project for an extended period; therefore, it should be something that you want to do, something that you enjoy doing. Nonetheless, whatever goal you decide to work on, you should:

  • Have a clear, achievable and challenging goal;

  • Be focused on one global context;

  • Allow you to express a truly personal message;

  • Be the result of your initiative, creativity and ability to organize and plan;

  • Reflect your special interests, hobbies, special abilities, or concerns about particular issues;

  • Deal with a topic or area to which you are committed;

  • Be entirely your own work;

  • Be researchable;

  • Answer your question of inquiry.

Aspects of the Personal Project

The Personal Project includes four main aspects:

  • An outcome or product:

    • Due to the projects broad nature, it may take many forms, such as:

      • An outcome as a result of a personal initiative

      • A presentation of a developed business, management, or organizational plan

      • An invention or specially-designed object or system

      • An original work of art (visual, dramatic, musical, performances, etc.)

    • Amongst others. Therefore, do not restrict yourself, since there are endless possibilities of outcomes.

  • A Process Journal

    • The process journal is an extremely important aspect of the personal project. If your process journal is thorough and well-organized, it will make it easier for you to write the final report.

    • The process journal is a documentation of the process of development for your project, it can be written, visual, audio, or a combination.

    • The best advice I would give you, is to attempt to write at least one entry every week, it does not have to be extensive, just a small comment on your progress; or if you had a big advancement make sure to include your reflection and evidence.

    • Think of the journal as a diary. Allow yourself to reflect on all aspects, moments of frustration, doubt, success, all moments are critical to show your engagement in the process.

    • It is a working document, it does not need to be neat and well presented

    • As a part of your final report submission, you will be providing 10 pages of appendices from your process journal. You will need to choose excerpts of your process journal as evidence.

    • Example of process journal entry:

  • A Report

    • The most important part of the personal project.

    • Aims to inform and explain the process of the personal project.

    • The report must include evidence for all strands of all criteria.

    • Regardless of your success in creating your outcome/ product, what matters at the end is your report. Therefore, the most critical advice:

  • Exhibition.

    • Opportunity to present and share your personal project journey and outcome with the community

How do you have a Successful Project?

  • Setting a goal

The majority of your project will be evaluated on your selected goal and how well you demonstrate and explain your success; therefore, setting an appropriate and SMART goal is the most crucial step you can take to ensure a successful project. Select a goal that is of personal interest!

A basic goal: what am I going to make or do?

A challenging goal: what am I going to do and for what purpose?

A highly challenging goal has multiple parts to it and leads to greater learning.

Consider the number of verbs you have in the goal. The more verbs the greater the likelihood of learning and challenge. You must be able to justify why the goal is highly challenging to you.



Highly Challenging

To design my own electric violin.

To research violin design and making and then design my own electric violin.

To research violin design and making and then design and produce my own 4 or 5 string electric violin.

To design my own summer clothing collection.

To research current fashion trends and then design my own summer clothing collection.

To research current fashion trends and how to design patterns. Then design and create a summer clothing collection and then learn how to create a 'template website' to market my design.

To raise $400 for the education of an Indonesian child

To sponsor an Indonesian child to university for 4 years by raising $1500.

To volunteer at the International Humanities Foundation over the school term break and then raise $1500 to sponsor an Indonesian child to university for 4 years.

To donate money to a school in Bali

To raise money for a school in Bali and then donate the money raised to the school.

To research schools in Bali and then raise money to purchase stationery for the school to support education.

How to write a goal Having trouble writing a SMART and highly challenging goal? This 4-minute video identifies the difference between a basic and a highly challenging goal.

Personal Project Themes Having trouble brainstorming ideas for the personal project? Take a look at this extensive list of possible themes for exploration.

  • Global Context

Selecting a global context for your project is a required component of the personal project. However, choosing the proper global context for your project is pivotal.

You have the option of choosing between six global contexts; once you decide upon one, you must make sure that it relates to your goal. The image below gives you an example of how to match a goal to a global context.

  • Question of Inquiry

The inquiry question is not only a required aspect of your project, but it is also a great guiding tool since it provides a clear focus for your project. Having a clear inquiry question will help guide you throughout your investigation, research, and during your action.

Examples of inquiry questions:

-What strategies and techniques can students use to more effectively manage and complete homework?

-What could teachers do to make learning experiences more enjoyable and effective for Middle School students at our school?

-Why is it important to train a dog and what are effective ways to achieve this aim?

  • Design Model

The design model will be a valuable and critical tool to help you work through the process and the factors demanded.

  • Planning and Staying Organized

Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of the project is staying organized. Not only will it help you succeed throughout the project, but planning also plays an essential role as evidence in the process journal and in the final report.

PLAN AHEAD! A phenomenal tool for planning and can be used to plot the progress of a project. A required aspect of the project, and a phenomenal way to showcase your journey and time management skills. Simultaneously, a great tool to help you manage your time throughout the project; by setting yourself deadlines, thus maximizing your time and avoiding procrastination.

In your process journal, brainstorm (e.g., bullet point list, mind map, notes) all of the things that need to be completed throughout the process. For instance: interviews, appointments, researching, excursions, writing, anything, and everything. Using this list created, fill in your GANTT chart with all the items from your list, creating personal deadlines for each task.

  • Working with your supervisor

Your supervisor is there to help you. They will be there to keep you on track, provide you with feedback, help you with resources if need be, and provide comments on your report. Make sure that you regularly schedule meetings with your supervisor to seek advice and ask questions that will benefit you. Remember, your supervisor is your best friend during your personal project.

Writing the Report

The most critical component of the Personal Project… the report. The ever so intimidating and tedious task, yet the most important. Writing a well-structured report, meeting all required criteria and components is critical to ensuring high marks. What will allow you to reach full marks is following the assessment criteria: view here and ensure that your report covers all aspects of the criteria and each criterion band. Below you will find a checklist for the report, with the essential components that should be covered for each band.

The Ultimate Student Checklist for the Report:

Criterion A - Investigating

Define a clear goal and global context for the project, based on personal interests

  • I give the precise meaning of the goal of my project; I explain “what I wanted to achieve; when, where, how and why I wanted to achieve it”.

  • I define the global context that applies best to my project and explain its connection.

  • I describe what makes my project personal: the experiences, interests and ideas that make it important to me.

  • If I made changes to my goal during the project, I explain the changes and why I made them

Identify prior learning and subject specific knowledge relevant to the project

  • I identify what I already knew about this topic/project and the sources of my knowledge.

  • I identify what I learned in MYP subject groups before the project started, and how this was helpful.

Demonstrate research skills

  • I outline the research skills I had when I started the project.

  • I discuss the research skills I developed through the project.

  • I explain how I may have shared my research skills to help peers who needed more practice.

Criterion B - Planning

Develop criteria for the product/outcome

  • I refer to the criteria I developed to evaluate the project product/outcome.

  • If I made changes to my criteria during the project, I explain the changes and why I made them

Plan and record the development process of the project

  • I provide evidence of my planning through timelines, milestones or other tools/strategies.

  • I present a record of how the project progressed from start to finish.

Demonstrate self-management skills

  • I outline the self-management skills I had when I started the project.

  • I discuss the self-management skills I developed through the project.

  • I explain how I may have shared my self-management skills to help peers who needed more practice.

Criterion C - Taking Action

Create a product/outcome in response to the goal, global context and criteria

  • I discuss the product/outcome as the result of the process undertaken during the project.

  • I check that I have included evidence of my product to be submitted with my report.

Demonstrate thinking skills

  • I outline the thinking skills I had when I started the project.

  • I discuss the thinking skills I developed through the project.

  • I explain how I may have shared my thinking skills to help peers who needed more practice.

Demonstrate communication and social skills

  • I outline the communication and social skills I had when I started the project.

  • I discuss the communication and social skills I developed through the project.

  • I explain how I may have shared my communication and social skills to help peers who needed more practice.

Criterion D - Reflecting

Evaluate the quality of the product/outcome against their criteria

  • I evaluate the product/outcome against the criteria I designed.

  • I identify the strengths, weaknesses and possible improvements of the product/outcome.

Reflect on how completing the project has extended their knowledge and understanding of the topic and the global context

  • identify challenges and the solutions I developed to meet them.

  • I demonstrate a deeper knowledge and understanding of my topic and my identified global context.

  • I base my reflection on evidence, including my process journal.

Reflect on their development as IB learners through the project

  • I identify how I have developed as a learner (using the IB learner profile as appropriate).

  • I discuss my strengths and weaknesses in completing the project.

  • I summarize the impact the project could have on my future learning.

The Personal Project may be intimidating and overwhelming, but if you choose a topic and goal that you are passionate about, you will find yourself enjoying the project and process immensely. Allowing yourself to explore your greatest interests will lead to not only an incredible learning experience but a simultaneous great project and outcome.

More fantastic sources for the Personal Project:


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