It is important to be able to stop and reflect on what went well, and what did not, in a project, in order to determine what will work best, and what will not, in project management, and in sound instructional design. In completing a post-mortem analysis of a project I planned and implemented in 2013 with my first year Spanish students, I can certainly say that I have learned quite a bit. In short, I was unprepared for the support, and interest I found in this particular project. I was also unprepared for the nervousness, and lack of confidence of my students who participated in this project.
Let me provide the background, and a brief description. First year Spanish students in our district must complete a unit on food in Spanish. Students are expected to be able to communicate in the target language about food, numbers up to 100, and basic useful phrases in Spanish. Since authentic assessment is crucial, and I could not, for time and financial constraints, take students to a Spanish-speaking country, I decided to create my own authentic assessment in the form of a market day. Students were consulted to gauge interest, administration approved, supported, and promised to attend; however, other teachers of the same content chose not to engage due to the work load. In the future, the support of those teachers would be a key to success. Gaining the buy in of those key stakeholders (Greer, 2010) was a critical, and overlooked step, in successfully managing this project. Teachers of other content areas; however, expressed a strong desire to be included in the event.
I laughingly, but seriously, recall the day of implementation as the quietest day of the year, in my class. Students had formed groups, prepared stores with posters advertising wares in a Spanish-speaking country’s currency. Exchange rates were provided, delicious treats were displayed for purchase, dictionaries had been created by each student to aid in bartering, and communicating on market day. But students still failed to communicate in the target language as intended. I should have recognized the early warning signs of nervousness from the students (Greer, 2010).
Students were issued paper currency, and police officers, upper level students, were on site to ensure the use of the target language. (Bad call). These same officers should have been awarding the use of the target language, instead of penalizing the use of English. If I had involved “all key project stakeholders” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, p. 106), I would have experienced greater success with the use of the language. If I had leveraged the support of the native speakers to model appropriate interactions, guide, and help in the target language, I would have met greater success. This is another key stakeholder group that I neglected to identify, and gain the support of (Greer, 2010).
In conclusion, do not underestimate the importance of correctly identifying key stakeholders, as I did, and gain the support of each stakeholder. This support is crucial to successful project management. Keep in mind that key stakeholders can appear in unexpected forms!
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom Ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.