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A personal learning journey

Curriculum-based personal projects are enabling our Year 10 students to pursue self-directed, in-depth and extended learning from home, as Jillian Berchtenbreiter explains.


Term 2 is a busy time for Year 10 students undertaking the Personal Project as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program (MYP), and it’s been no less busy this term while students have been learning from home.

The schedule for the Personal Project is quite intense. Following the launch of the Personal Project and by the end of Term 2, our Year 10s are expected to have identified a personal interest they want to pursue beyond the scope of the core academic curriculum, defined the personal learning goals and skills they want to develop, mapped out the criteria that demonstrate their learning and created their product, investigation or other outcome, ready to showcase – at the end of Term 2 for students at the St Kilda Road Campus and in Term 3 for students at the Glen Waverley Campus.

Adapting to online learning

In any normal Term 2, students are matched with a supervising teacher at the Glen Waverley or St Kilda Road Campus and consult closely. Supervisors check in frequently, providing advice and support, typically with lots of face-to-face consultation. With teaching and learning online occurring in virtual classes, our students and supervisors have quickly adapted to online consultation, liaising via email and meeting via video through MS Teams.

At its core, the Personal Project is not simply a task; it’s a consolidation of each student’s learning through Years 7, 8 and 9, and brings together the knowledge, skills, interests and learning attitudes that they’ve developed over those years; it’s also a stepping stone towards future academic studies, including, in the VCE, the extended investigation or, in the IB Diploma Program, the extended essay – all of which prepare our students to participate productively in our future world.

Among other aims, the Personal Project requires students to:

  • undertake sustained, self-directed inquiry
  • generate creative new insights and develop deeper understandings through in-depth investigation
  • demonstrate the skills, attitudes and knowledge required to complete a project over an extended period of time, and
  • communicate effectively in a variety of ways.

We’ve found that in many ways our current virtual environment has not only required but also actively enabled our students’ self-directed, in-depth investigation over an extended period of time, and communication in different ways. We’ve also found it has enabled us to adapt the way we can best support our students, wherever they’re learning.

A suite of online resources provides students with guidance and support as they undertake their Year 10 Personal Project

If we were on campus at Glen Waverley, where I would usually be located, our students would all come together in Cato Hall for a briefing on effective work processes as they undertake their Personal Project journey. In our current environment, we’re providing that support through a series of ‘5 mins with Ms Berch’ videos on our WiSE Class Page alongside a range of other resources, plus added guidance by each student’s supervisor.

Glen Waverley student, Lotus Billington, says her supervisor has been instrumental in helping her refine her investigation into the impact of healthy eating and physical activity habits. ‘I’ve been lucky enough that Ms Barclay is my supervisor and my tutorial teacher as well, so sometimes after an MS Teams meetings for tutorial group we have a quick chat,’ Lotus explains. ‘I’m able to let her know where I’m at with my project and she’s really supportive and helpful, with lots of feedback and suggestions.’

Our students have completed the first phase to identify an area of interest and personal learning goals and criteria, and are now planning and developing their product, and using entries from their OneNote journal to write their draft report, up to 3,500 words, which outlines and evaluates the processes they’ve used, before their showcase.

Preliminary sketches by Lauren Mayhood, whose Year 10 Personal Project involves researching events that reflect particular values in three countries and illustrating these in a series of paintings
Preliminary sketches by Lauren Mayhood, whose Year 10 Personal Project involves researching events that reflect particular values in three countries and illustrating these in a series of paintings
Agents of their own learning

In this time of great uncertainty, our students have demonstrated they’re well in control of their own learning, using their academic knowledge and skills, and soft skills from problem solving, critical thinking and creativity in readiness to showcase their Personal Project in Term 3.

Jillian Berchtenbreiter is the Assistant Curriculum Coordinator, MYP Service as Action Coordinator and a Physical and Health Education teacher at Wesley’s Glen Waverley Campus.