I remember back in the day (or do people still do these?) when teachers in 4th or 5th grade tended to assign “the state” or “the country” report. Way too often the assumption was made that the students pretty much knew how to do these. The teacher would pass out the “packet” that explained the project, showed an example of a bibliography and often included templates for specific information that was to be included (state name, population, area in square miles, draw a map labeled with specific information and so on). Photos, usually from cut up National Geographic Magazines or brochures from travel agents were required. Typically the report was due in a month or six weeks. Each week they would have students check in with their progress and to allow students to ask questions about anything they didn’t understand about the report.
Like science fair projects it often appeared like someone a bit older (and maybe with a college degree?) might have “helped” somewhat … or they were incomplete or were of poor quality. Some did well, but how much learning actually occurred was questionable. This was the way this had always been done, it was “challenging” and, like the infamous science fair project, expected.
One of my main concerns about these projects was the assumption that students knew how to do all the work that went into the report and this was just a chance for them to put together a big project integrating all those skills. AND, after all, they were allowed to ask questions about what they didn’t understand (like they would even know exactly what they didn’t understand or know how to do). Since these were really long-term homework projects the teacher didn’t see the work being done which made facilitating difficult.
Read the whole story at Learning is Messy.