Differentiating Instruction for students with varying abilities within a classroom can be challenging. This is especially true in middle and high school classrooms. Assigning independent study projects related to the course content can be an effective and fun strategy to promote mastery of content while allowing students to showcase their talents.
Here are some tips for successfully implementing independent study projects:
- Assign the project when you introduce the new course content. This serves to heighten students' interest in the topic and allows them time to plan.
- Develop a rubric that clearly defines the parameters of the assignment. This will help students and their families understand the expectations of the project and alleviate some of the confusion around grading.
- Provide a structured format for students to write out their plans step by step.
- Provide good and poor examples of projects so that students understand what your expectations are.
- Allow students to have input into how their projects will be evaluated and graded.
- Give students ideas about resources that they can use to research their topics.
- Build in time to work individually with each student. If you provide some class time for students to work on their projects you can schedule five to 10 minutes with each student to discuss their progress. More time can be added for students who need additional assistance.
- Set up a "consultant program" with students at higher grade levels. Have these students visit your class during regular intervals to support your students in implementing their project plans.
- Provide students with choices about how to share their project with others in the classroom.
For a collection of assessment rubrics and graphic organizers that can be used as tools for independent study projects, visit Kathy Schrock's website.