In several ways it's been a challenging week for the project! We seem to have got over the initial novelty of the new programme and working with new people, and the reality of how much work there is to do is settling in. The following are a few observations/reflections on the process thus far:
Finding a balance of structure and flexibility that works for each individual is quite a challenge. During a couple of 'family meetings' that have erupted spontaneously (and I suspect are becoming part of the culture of our project) students have indicated that they are finding the lack of directed 'whole class' structure a challenge. Not having set times to do 'English' or 'Art' and the like, and being able to take a break and make a coffee whenever they want, while initially sounding like a great idea is actually quite hard to deal with. Comments like "It's too easy to keep putting off completing a task because you've got all day. Then it's the end of the day and you still haven't done it" have been made more than once. This has made me question how much structure I, as the project leader, should have built into the project. Did we under-plan? Or are we moving through a period of learning how to be better self-managers, in what will ultimately prove to be a really productive development?
We're currently experimenting with students blogging their daily goals first-up each morning, and then reflecting on their progress three times a day in an attempt to help establish more structure for each individual. So far this has helped to bring a bit more accountability, but I suspect it is taking more time than is necessarily beneficial, and that a daily goal and reflection is probably more than enough. Based on one of the students setting her daily goal as "get the IT man to block Blogger so we don't have to blog each day" I may not be the only one who thinks this! You can read their blogs by following the links on the lower right hand side of this page.
The main tasks our students have been working on over the past couple of weeks have been researching background information on the artists they hope to interview for the articles they will write, and making contact with those artists to set up interviews. As someone who is a rather word-based person the idea of doing this really appeals, to me but I know for a number of the students it has become quite a hard slog - reading and reading and reading, and coming across the same information in slightly different forms as they visit various gallery websites.
However, in the last few days, as artists have begun to reply to the students and emailed interviews have got underway there seems to have been a renewed vigor in the work. When you're about to speak to someone about their work in person there is a real pressure to make sure you know what you're talking about, and you're not asking silly questions!
Being transparent -
Interwoven into the development of the Curriculum Integration Project (and in particular through this blog) is a philosophy of making the process transparent: sharing our failures as well as our successes and making explicit the thinking behind the actions we're taking. As I've been thinking about what to write for this blog update I've found that a bit of a challenge. Sharing your adventure when it's in the planning and imagining stages can be inspirational and exciting. Sharing it when some of the students are less than thrilled about their day to day activities, and you're feeling like the project running a week or two behind schedule is a different story!
Still, I remind myself that it'll be great to be able to look back and accurately recall the process we went through, and that for others who are planning similar projects it could be encouraging to see that our path hasn't all been rainbows and roses!