1.1. Synthetic description of the practice
Real project work consists of an order, requested by a real client, given by principal to an entire class, to be developed within the school year and inherent in the specific direction of the education / training course. All the students are involved, with a view of inclusion that includes common steps but also a differentiation and division of work; it is divided into phases which are divided into specific activities. The purpose of the Real project work is twofold: on the one hand it is an opportunity for learning and expression of specific sector and direction skills in a real context, on the other hand it constitutes motivation and a synthetic point of conceptual link between the apprenticeships and the real world.
1.2 In-depth description of the main elements
A real task for a real client (external or internal to the educational institution) in order to develop the professional skills of the sector. The task is assigned by the School, as the interlocutor responsible for student learning, which acts as an intermediary (Client) between the students / teachers and the final Customer. In the case of Cometa, the task is assigned by the School Management in the person of the Headmaster.
1.2.2 End users
The students: it is for their learning that a real customer is asked to accept some conditions regarding the possibility that the product / service is entirely developed and implemented by the students: they are responsible for it together with their teachers, who they are called to structure the teaching proposal in continuity with the skills necessary for the realization of the Real project work itself.
Structuring the school year (or a considerable period) in stages of work that become an opportunity for verifying the skills of multiple disciplines in a real situation. Therefore, not only the technical / professional disciplines are evaluated but also – in moments and related objects – the basic ones (in the case of a Technical Institute or Professional Training); potentially all the disciplines in a high school-type school environment are at stake.
an opportunity for students to take real responsibility with respect to their learning and the product / service that has to be provided, and in this way enhancing the acquisition of specific skills and a critical mentality, open to comparison, capable of reworking and re-adapting what is learned is capable of relating to the real problems that arise, and capable of grasping the link between knowledge and the dimension of work.
The result of this practice consists in a scheduling of the phases of the Real project work (GANTT model) which becomes a track for the structuring of specific modules within the disciplinary courses; for teachers and students, it consists in a scheduling of competency tests on multiple disciplines throughout the school year.
2. Phases and activities
List of phases of the practice “Training for internship: class level”
- Phase 1: Searching for potential project works; preliminary organization
- Phase 2: Real project work proposal to students
- Phase 3: Design of the product or service
- Phase 4: Realization and assessment of skills
- Phase 5: Evaluation of the Real project work process
2.1 Description of phases and activities
Phase 1: Searching for potential project works; preliminary organization
In this phase, the school search for potential customers; they can be public or private entities, or people. The selection of the client has primary importance for the success of the Real project work: the client must have some characteristics:
- being interested in the mission of the School;
- being willing to follow the planning and to dialogue with the students about the choices to be made;
- being willing to postpone production and delivery times due to the student status of the workers.
Furthermore, the product or service agreed with the client must be adequate for the skills already acquired by the students; alternatively, it must help students in developing new skills in parallel and in harmony with those envisaged by didactic planning.
Activity 1A: Customer research
The client can be searched through the contacts of the school. The school, however, must equip itself with a figure or an office in charge of this purpose. If the teachers are involved in the research of the client they will be more involved in the real project work. The research must begin in the middle of the year preceding the start of the Real project work itself.
Activity 1B: Sharing and approval of the Real project work with the Management and the Teachers involved
Once the client has been identified, the Real project work must be agreed with the technical-professional teachers to establish compliance with the required skills. Then it is shared with all the teachers of the chosen class, in time for the didactic planning (end of the school year prior to the Real project work to be started).
Activity 1C: Cost estimate and customer acceptance.
As mentioned in the introduction, the costs are to be calibrated in relation to the costs for materials and delivery times; the acceptance by the customer can take place in oral or written form, depending on the relationship.
Activity 1D: Planning of activities with the PM and the HRP (Gantt)
In the planning phase (end of the previous school year) the activities, the review meetings with the Buyer and with the Client must be planned according to:
- Product planning and implementation times intrinsic to the nature of the product itself and the learning time of the related skills; to be agreed with the Head of Real Project Work (HRP): they are normally a Technical-Professional teacher of the sector who has a dual task: completing the result (product / service) and verifying the acquisition of specific sector skills;
- School calendar schedule: to be designed with the Program Manager (PM). This is a role that can be covered by the class tutor or by an appropriately identified secretarial figure. The PM has two tasks: organizing the calendar of Real project work appointments, taking care of constant communication between all the actors involved.
Activity 1E: Design of specific modules related to the courses.
At the end of the year, the teachers involved design modules or entire training units in connection with the Real project work, from the point of view of the skills to be evaluated ex-post (for which the Real project work therefore represents a test of “Authentic task”) or from the point of view of the knowledge or skills necessary for the acquisition of skills through Real project work (ex ante).
Phase 2: Real project work proposal to students
In this phase, the main purpose is to spark the interest of students, making sure that:
- the reference of the Real project work to their specific sector (profession) is clear;
- the difficulty of the task is sufficiently perceived so as not to diminish it;
- the space for possible personalization (self-expression) is clear.
Activity 2A: Organization of the presentation (Principal, individual teachers or group)
The presentation must be institutional and shared. It must be presented by the school management in the person of the Principal or their representative as a Buyer. Teachers must present, concurrently or in the days immediately following, how their teachings and lessons can be linked to Real Project Work.
Activity 2B: Research and definition of the identity of the Institute (Moodboard)
The activity consists in offering some lessons whose content is a reflection on the history, on the values of the institution, or on the way in which an identity is communicated (a concept similar to that of a corporate brand). The students are asked to create a moodboard that interprets this identity of the school and the mood that is intended to be proposed and that arises from it and from the personality of the student / group of students. Individual work is preferable in the early years, while in the final years it is also possible to do it in groups of 3/5 people. The moodboard is usually a panel (digital or paper) that collects images, keywords, materials, color chart. Students are asked for this work before they are told anything about the particular nature of Real project work, this due to the distinction between the competence in identifying and re-expressing a brand and a mood compared to that of designing a specific product.
Activity 2C: Review and correction of student proposals regarding the identity of the Institute
The School Management (Buyer) takes care to evaluate (“give value”) with feedback the creative re-elaboration present in the moodboard, while the reference professional technical teacher (HRP) also evaluates it from the point of view of the skills expressed and possibly in form numerical. This double evaluation is important for teaching purposes because it keeps the certification of the skills that the school forms open and at the same time keeps the Client and Buyer free to evaluate and choose according to taste and liking.
Activity 2D: Communication of the nature and characteristics of the product / service and of the final Client
Once the feedback on the moodboard has been given, the student can receive communication of the particular nature of the product and the Client in the contingency of the school year. Normally it takes place through the Buyer and the HRP who will guide the realization process.
Phase 3: Design of the product or service
The design starts as soon as the requested product / service has been communicated, but it must always be connected to what was produced in the previous phase.
Activity 3A: generation of ideas
The activity can be very diversified in the method depending on the class and the product or service. You can proceed with brainstorming, wordmaps, wordclouds, sketches, drawings and sketches. The reference as regards the mood and the message is the moodboard panel, from which one cannot radically depart but rather is a guiding tool. The design can be a single product or a group product.
Activity 3B: provision of specific modules in individual courses
The individual disciplines are concerned with making specific contributions to the content and skills of the Real project work, in two ways:
- ex ante: trying to deliver specific contents regarding the history, meaning, contexts of the location / product / Client.
- ex post: setting up one’s own course making explicit reference to the skills that Real project work implies and which would have already been the subject of the course, and which will be assessed by the teacher of the subject on the occasion of the delivery of the product / service or intermediate outputs of it.
Activity 3C: review with the Principal and with the final Client
The PM organizes meetings with the Buyer (the Principal) and with the final Client, taking care of the scheduling of the possibility of participation of the other teachers where possible, while also ensuring that the final Client receives the students’ proposals when these have already been reviewed by the Buyer. This is to safeguard an aspect of the school’s own evaluation that filters the proposals according to its own identity and value criteria, thus taking care not to evaluate the student in front of the Client nor leaving it to the Client alone to choose according to his own taste ( which may not fully correspond to what the School wants to present as its proposal).
Activity 3D: Definition of proposals in terms of costs, materials, timing, skills
Students’ responsibility is to be aware of the expenses that their proposals incur, in terms of materials to be used. Prices are quantified according to cost, this cost estimate can be compared with market prices for a useful awareness of the value of one’s work. The delivery time is not decided by the Client but follows the learning times of the students unless there are deadlines dictated by mandatory contexts (scheduled events). However, the delivery must never take place beyond the end of the school year: it is in fact an essential moment for evaluating the work done and an indispensable source of awareness.
Activity 3E: approval of estimates and final proposal
Following the logic of the previous activity, the Buyer and the Client agree on a definitive proposal based on the models / prototypes presented and quantify a price.
Phase 4: Realization and assessment of skills.
Activity 4A: actual realization of the product
The HRP sets the course in such a way that it leads to the actual realization of the product and so that all students take part in it and that the skills involved can be developed.
Activity 4B: administration of the individual tests by competence to the students
As mentioned above, the tests for competence concern those competences that are the subject of specific disciplinary courses and take as their object the product or service or intermediate output of it. Eg. the “Economics and Law” course, which taught how to make a business plan, evaluate this competence having as its object the Real project work. The evaluation of the test shows the student’s learning and in this sense it stands out and goes beyond the outcome of the Real project work.
Activity 4C: delivery to the Client and collection of feedback
As mentioned above, the delivery to the Client is a fundamental moment of awareness and it is all the more powerful the more the feedback is structured and intentional. It can be done through evaluation forms from customers, satisfaction questionnaires, feedback from experts and / or other teachers in the sector.
Activity 4D: feedback with students and self-assessment
Following the collection of feedback, students must also self-evaluate in a metacognitive sense and therefore on the process followed and the learning achieved. It will be the responsibility of the HRP and the most involved teachers to generate the formulation of the self-assessment criteria together with the students, and to establish a numerical scale that excludes an equilibrium position (from 1 to 4, for example) accompanied by words that explain the content of the numerical value ( 1: extremely dissatisfied; 2: partially satisfied; 3: very satisfied; 4: extremely satisfied)
Phase 5: Evaluation of the Real project work process
In this phase there is the confrontation activity between the parties regarding the organizational aspects. This phase is very important and involves adults with an active role in the Real project work to share an opinion on different aspects:
- assessment of the quality of the learning achieved; through the competency assessment tests administered and through the highlighting of the results obtained;
- evaluation of the effectiveness of the training plan; between adults involved (the class council) it is necessary to discuss the choices made on the level of intersections between the Real project work and the disciplines in terms of:
- opportunity with respect to the gradualness of each discipline involved;
- real impact on students’ skills;
- correspondence with the professional skills required by the address subjects.
Activity 5A: evaluation of the effectiveness of the followed process
To be done preferably between involved adults and on the basis of the criteria already mentioned above but with a focus on the scheduling of appointments and on the real timeframe for acquiring skills.
Activity 5B: any change in the planning and design of the following year
Preferably to be done only among the adults involved in view of the re-planning for future years, keeping the aims of the Real project work clear: a) learning of sector skills in a real situation b) growth of awareness and relational capacity of the child with the reality in all its implications (doing, knowing, contexts, resources, culture … ect.)
- Buyer: the School, in the person of the Principal, is the one who invests the children with the task and supervises their correspondence with the identity values of the school.
- Client: preferably external to the school, but can also be linked to the world of the school itself.
- Students: they are the workers, invested individually and as a class group, of the professional task, they are responsible for the conception, design, realization and delivery of the product.
- Basic teachers: take care of aspects related to culture
- Technical-professional teachers: they take care of learning their own skills for what Real project work makes it an opportunity to acquire.
- Head of Real Project Work (HRP): he is preferably the main teacher of the technical professional subject of address, has the dual responsibility of a) using the Real project work to lead students to the acquisition of the specific skills involved in it b) guaranteeing a result delivered to the Client unless there are serious reasons that may compromise the delivery due to an educational opportunity and student awareness. c) accompany the students – especially those most in difficulty – to seize the Real project work as an opportunity for growth without ever replacing their work.
- Program Manager (PM): is the person in charge of managing the scheduling of appointments and coordinates the sharing of organizational information and content in connection with the HRP.
- Class tutor: where present, he is an ideal candidate for the role of PM
- Technical material: instrumentation and equipment of the sector laboratories,
- Teaching material: set of ad hoc lessons for basic subjects,
- Evaluation material: set of tests for competence and related evaluation grids (with indicators and level descriptors)
- GANTT model: to schedule the most important appointments
For this practice the spaces are those of teaching and mainly of professional technical laboratories. In particular, it is necessary to visit and inspect the target contexts of the products and customers.
4. References and further contents
- Fornasieri, F. (2019). Educare alla creatività di fronte alle sfide della Industry 4.0. Il metodo della Scuola Oliver Twist di Cometa Formazione, Tesi di Dottorato di ricerca in Formazione della Persona e Mercato del Lavoro – ADAPT-CQIA XXXII° ciclo.