Upper Primary, Secondary & JC Level – Bukit Panjang

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Junior College A-Levels Project Work – Tips

Project Work (PW) is considered a H1 subject for students taking the A-levels. Each year, groups of students (about 4 to 5) are given two vague topics and they are supposed to identify challenges and conduct research to come up with solutions. Ideas from each group are to be presented in a main report (MR; 3000 words), an oral presentation (OP; 5 mins per student), and individual reports that contains insights and reflections (500 words) are also required to be submitted. PW takes place throughout the entire JC1 academic year. Students are assessed by school teachers and possibly moderators. A few groups will do the OP together so there will be an audience during the OP.

JC1 students are justifiably anxious since they are not aware of the demands of project work. Here are some tips on how to do well in PW.

Tip 1: Get to know your group well – Students may be required to take personality tests to determine the group that they are joining. Since you have no control over who you are going to work with, you will need to invest some time to get to know your group members. You do not have to spend time in social activities as JC students are usually very busy. You can usually get to know your group better just by sending messages, doing group meetings online or during actual face-to-face meetings while working on PW. The key is identify useful strengths in each member. The key strengths are: computer knowledge, research, writing/typing (strong in grammar & language), good knowledge of current affairs, creativity and evaluation. Find out who is good at which area and then share the workload accordingly.

Tip 2: Choose a familiar topic – The topics given in the question paper is usually very general in nature. That can be good or bad. It is good because it gives students the freedom to choose almost anything they wish to write about. It is bad because it does not give enough direction and focus. You can work smart by choosing a topic that you are already familiar with or have a strong interest in. As you already know the subject well, you can spend less time on research. Your teacher may also like your recommendations better because you seem to know the subject well. More importantly, you are more motivated to work on your project work due to your strong interest!

Tip 3: Choose a possible GP topic – Some students do not realize that there is some overlapping when it comes to General Paper (GP) and project work (PW). Both require research and both require examples/evidence to support arguments and/or proposed solutions. Both require similar thinking skills such as evaluation. For these reasons, students should use PW to choose a possible GP topic. That way, they are killing two birds with one stone!

Tip 4: Pick multiple topics in one meeting – Many JC students are surprised at how much time they end up spending on PW. That is because topics get rejected over the course of the year and they have to go back to the drawing board to start from square one. Taking into consideration the tips given above, try to come up with A LIST of possible topics in a single meeting to save time. Rank your choices and then start submit the chosen topics to your teachers one at a time.

Tip 5: Understand specific requirements – Your school teachers should brief you on specific requirements for project work. For example, the main report should not be more than 3000 words. You will also need to learn how to present your report with proper chart and footnotes. All students should learn how to work with computer applications such as MS word, Excel and Powerpoint because these are skills that are indispensable. Besides, everyone needs to submit their own individual report and work on the oral presentation (in PPT), so try picking up the skills if you are not savvy!

Tip 6: Conduct comprehensive research – Ideally, the group should have a good awareness of existing solutions. Case studies and examples may be from Singapore or beyond our local shores. Students may then assess the current situation and make evaluations. They can also propose solutions (to be guided by teacher).

Tip 7: Contribute, don’t blame – I keep hearing students refer to their group mates as “slackers”. This is bound to happen in group work. However, be reminded that it is always easy to point fingers. No one will see himself/herself as the slacker. It’s always that “someone else” in the group. It is not advisable to assign blame because it brings down the morale of the group and causes conflict. In other words, it’s not helpful. Learn to be tactful and ask constructive questions like, “How can I help?” or “Should we seek advice as a group?”

You can also try to avoid the ‘free rider’ issue by working on Google Docs. This will create a trail of activities that are recorded.

Tip 8: Seek help early – In the event that the project is stalling and you guys have run out of ideas on how to move forward, don’t be afraid to seek help. Seeking help early may get the cogs back into motion. For instance, if you notice that a couple of group mates are not particularly cooperative (e.g. fail to attend meetings, etc.), and you have tried your best to rectify the situation, then perhaps it is best to involve the teacher.

Tip 9: Exercise patience and tolerance at all times – The final preparations for PW typically happen around promo exams. Some students may also be taking other H1 subjects like MTL. Everyone is under a lot of pressure. Hence, try to be patient and tolerant at all times. Flaring up and getting angry at one another is not going to speed up progress.

Deadlines may look something like this:

  • Identifying problem – End of Term 1
  • Written reports (5 versions) – From Term 2 to Term 3
  • Written report submission – Mid to End Oct based on National deadlines (Promos take place here!)
  • OP Rehearsals – Near end of Term 4
  • OP – Start to mid Nov based on National deadlines
  • Insights and reflections – Mid Nov based on National deadlines

Tip 10: Practise ACTIVE communication – Always be ready to communicate with your group members. You can do so by messaging each other regularly to check on progress. Passive group members will only dampen everyone’s spirits and become a ‘burden’. If you disappear from the group chat for a long period of time, no one knows you are doing any work. Talk, talk and talk more!

Tip 11: Develop skills – Make no mistake. PW is a demanding subject that requires a variety of skills. Students who are shy and introverted or who have poor organizational skills will struggle at this subject. Don’t forget, students are supposed to do oral presentations. So if you are don’t speak well, you may end up getting a poor score. Students who hate working with computers may create substandard PPT slides and end up messing up the presentation.

The good news is, you have one year to prepare for the assessment. Make sure you recognize your weaknesses and START DEVELOPING your skills early! You will need these skills in your tertiary education.

Tip 12: Practise with the audience – You will know who the other groups are in advance. Get in touch together and practise in advance so that everyone becomes more comfortable during the oral presentation.

Miscellaneous tips – Marks are not awarded for slides, although they can help spice up your OP. So technically, even if your slides are not working for some reason, you get still get an ‘A’. You may also be nervous and start to stutter BUT make sure you deliver the content all all cost! Don’t just keep quiet the entire time.

According to the marking rubrics, marks are awarded based on delivery (not content) so if possible, try to appear confident and engage the audience. When answering questions, students who are able to think on their feet will gain an advantage over their peers. It is possible to get an ‘A’ when your group members get ‘B’. If you feel that Q&A is not your strength, you can overcome this by spending some time to prepare the answers to a list of FAQs.

One final note – from previous stats, most students score ‘B’ or ‘A’ for PW. Many JCs even boast of A/B scores as high as 100%! So as long as you do your part, you should do well in the subject. Good luck!

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Thank you for your interest!