Managing Tasks and Time in PBL

This is now my 3rd post in my PBL series and this time my focus is on helping students succeed in their projects by ably managing tasks and their time.

In my first PBL post, I mentioned that project managers have to balance scope, time, budget, people and quality.  The second post talked about setting up collaborative teams which goes some way in terms of managing people; perhaps I’ll revisit this later with more ideas.  For now, let’s focus on managing scope, time and quality.

Some of you may have heard of scope creep, the idea of scope changing and quite often getting bigger and bigger (read: project is getting out of hand).  Clarity of Includes and Excludes is important.  For first-timers in PBL, it’s important that the teacher explains clearly what should be included.  Exclusions can be negotiated depending on student capacity and interests.  A corresponding rubric should support this.  I think that it should contain at least these 4 items or deliverables:

  1. Project Plan – an overall overview to how the team will proceed with the project.  This is a good one to check whether or not the students actually understand the work to be done
  2. Design – this is a more detailed documentation of what needs to be built.  This does not have to be a printed document as an electronic portfolio would work just as well, depending on the project
  3. Actual product – this could vary depending on the project.  This may be a movie, poster, booklet, website, etc.  Depending on the product, it may make sense to break this down into further details.  For example, a project on raising awareness might actually involve creation of movies, posters, presentations, websites, etc.  For the latter, I’m more inclined to break the project up into phases (see below).
  4. Evaluation – this is the group’s evaluation of the product/s and the process, including their roles and teamwork.  Aim to get both individual and group perspectives.
A good way to manage time, as with tasks/scope, is to chunk it.  This means that instead of one deadline, you will hold the teams accountable to multiple deadlines.  A straightforward way is to align the deadlines to the deliverables.  This helps teachers keep track of progress and ensure the students are keeping their focus on what needs to be done to get to the end.  Collect the deliverables at their respective deadlines.
What about changes?  We all know that rarely do we stick to the plan 100%.   We also know that if we keep changing, nothing gets completed as you’re forever stuck in the state of in-progress.
In real world projects, there would be the notion of Change Management – as with Risk and Issue Management.  While I would mention this to the class, I would not recommend going all out.
What is important to know is that we can expect change and that we have to manage it, as with issues and risks.  A project journal should suffice to record significant deviations.   For example, the design might call for filming at the park but come filming, the team decides to change venue.  The team has to record what changed and why.  This becomes a useful resource for the Evaluation product.
Each of these deliverables and deadlines are checkpoints for teachers to facilitate progress and provide quality feedback.  Use them. If students are doing a good job at each point, quite likely they will do good till the end.  Tell them what they are doing well and should keep doing.  If they are doing a bad job at the start, the teacher can help direct them towards the right direction.

Key Points

  • Manage scope by identifying deliverables
  • Manage time by creating multiple deadlines, preferably aligned to the deliverables
  • These task and time chunks should be reflected in the rubric
  • Manage quality by using the task and time chunks as checkpoint and providing quality feedback
  • Manage changes by recording in the project journal balanced again effects on scope, time and quality
  • Planning, creation and evaluation all involve process and product
If I think of anything else – or better yet, if you have other suggestions – there’ll be a follow-up post. 😉
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One thought on “Managing Tasks and Time in PBL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *