Managing the Learning Project Cycle

Managing and guiding the four stages of the project cycle in a student learning project
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Understanding, guiding, and managing the key activities to be accomplished in each phase of a learning project

Method Components

The foundation for effective management of learning projects is the project cycle, which consists of five key phases – the industry-standard Project Management Institute terms for these phases, and the alternative, more informal names for these phases, used by some educators, are:
(To see this table please download the full version of the micro-credential)

Understanding and guiding each phase of the project cycle – Initiating (Defining), Planning, Executing (Doing), Monitoring & Controlling (Monitoring), and Closing (Reviewing) – helps improve project results and collaborative team processes and can deepen student learning. Having students decide on and record answers to important questions in each project phase can help ensure a successful learning project.

Managing the Learning Project Cycle elements:
(to see the graphic associated with the full project cycle, please download the full micro-credential.)

Suggested Preparation

Student project teams can brainstorm, discuss, and list what they think are the most important steps in doing any kind of project, and then organize these steps into a few general phases; they can then share and compare their results.

Introducing the Learning Project Phases

Introducing and discussing the five project phases students can use to organize and manage their learning projects can be helpful (also see the “Managing Project Cycles” Digital Promise Educator Micro-credential), explaining that the sequence of phases is not hard and fast – jumping back-and-forth between these phases to refine the project activities during a project is very common:

  • Initiating (Defining): setting the goals, roles, main activities, and desired results of the project
  • Planning: creating a plan for the flow of activities, roles, and resources in the project Work Plan
  • Executing (Doing): carrying out the project plans and making changes as needed
  • Monitoring & Controlling (Monitoring): continuous checking and adjusting of project processes
  • Closing (Reviewing): reflecting on the quality of the project results, lessons learned, and team processes

[Note: There are five additional PMIEF Micro-credentials that explore each of these phases in more depth.]

Initiating the Learning Project

Student project teams can write a Project Definition with answers to such questions as:

  • Why is this project is needed?
  • What is the project about?
  • What are the goals of the project?
  • What is the driving question, problem, issue, or perspective that motivates the project?
  • What will be the end results (deliverables and learning outcomes)?
  • What will the project not do (even if it could)?
  • What type of learning project is this (inquiry, design, debate, expression, or a combination)?
  • When will the project need to be done?
  • Where will the project be done?
  • What resources are needed to do the project?
  • How will the project be evaluated (project results, learning outcomes, and processes)?
  • What risks are involved in the project?

Student project teams can write and sign a Team Agreement (also see the Digital Promise “Productive Teamwork” micro-credential) including answers to questions such as:

  • What are the team goals?
  • What are each member’s strengths, expertise and preferences?
  • What roles will each team member play?
  • How and when will the team communicate and meet with each other?
  • How will outside experts, coaches and advisors be used?
  • How will decisions be made?
  • How will project changes be handled?
  • What are the guidelines for team behavior and interacting?

The Project Definition, Team Agreement, and all the other important project documents (Work Plan, Check-ins, Deliverables, Project Evaluations, etc.) can be captured and placed (on paper or electronically) into a Project Portfolio – a complete project “briefcase” containing all the important records of the project – that all project team members can easily access and update as needed.

Planning the Learning Project

Student teams can create a Project Management Plan or Work Plan that includes such items as:

  • A list of project deadlines for each phase
  • A list of project tasks in the order they need to be done
  • The owner(s) of each task
  • The resources needed for each task (materials, tools, funding, expertise, etc.)
  • Time schedules for each task

Executing the Learning Project

Student teams can do regular Monitoring & Controlling activities or Check-ins answering questions such as the following:

  • What has each member completed recently?
  • What is each member working on now?
  • When does each member think the current task they’re working on will be done?
  • What does each member need to keep the work on track with good quality?

Closing the Learning Project

Each student and each student team can review, reflect, and summarize their Project Evaluations of:

  • The project results – the quality and usefulness of what was produced in the project
  • The individual and group learning outcomes – what skills, understandings, and mindsets were learned during the project
  • The team project processes – how well the team worked together through all project phases

Take time to have students present their project results and celebrate project successes and lessons learned as part of the Closing of the project!

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Knowing that all projects follow a project cycle consisting of five phases, each with differing tasks and activities to perform – Initiating (Defining), Planning, Executing (Doing), Monitoring & Controlling (Monitoring), and Closing (Reviewing), though there is much skipping around between these phases – helps both educators and students better manage their learning projects.

  • Project Management Institute Educational Foundation. “Foundational Guide – Project Management for Learning.”, PMIEF, 27 May 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2015
  • Heagney, Joseph. Fundamentals of Project Management. Fourth ed. New York: AMACOM, 2011. Print.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items to submit and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. In each category an applicant can earn 3, 2 or 1 points. To earn a micro-credential an applicant must earn at least 17 points and cannot receive a score of one in more than one category (see scoring rubric below).

Part 1. Educator Overview questions

(200-word limit for each response)

  • Activity Description: What kind of project activities did you and your students engage in to become more proficient in applying the project cycle phases strategies to improve learning and project success? Please describe the learning activities and strategies you used.
  • Activity Evaluation: How do you know your students increased their proficiency by engaging in the Managing the Learning Project Cycle activities and what evidence did you collect that demonstrates these learning gains?

Part 2. Student Work Examples/Artifacts

Please submit examples of student work from two students (writing, audio, images, video, etc.) that demonstrate progress toward the Managing the Learning Project Cycle competency.

Part 3. Student reflections

(200-word limit for each response)

For the two students whose work examples were included above, submit their student-created reflections on the Managing the Learning Project Cycle activities they experienced. Use the following questions as guidance:

  • How did the project cycle activities and guiding documents produced help you be a better project team member and have your team produce better project results?
  • How did the project cycle strategies change your views on how projects work and how you can use projects to motivate your learning in the future?

Part 4. Educator reflection

(200 Word limit for each response)

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as guidance:

  • What was the impact of engaging your students in the Managing the Learning Project Cycle activities?
  • How will experiencing these project activities shape your daily future teaching practice?

Submission Guidelines and Evaluation criteria scoring rubric

This scoring rubric reflects each of the submission guidelines described above, and passing criteria for each. To see this rubric, please download the full version of the micro-credential.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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