With Love, Your Project Work Teachers

At this moment, we are probably just starting to get to know our project team members and also, starting to discuss what topics we are planning to choose. With nifty and practical tips given to us by our seniors, we certainly can’t miss out on what our teachers in Eunoia have to say! Thus, The Origin* has interviewed a few teachers in the PW department for their expertise.

Ms Iris Lee
1. Always choose to tap on each other strengths instead of picking on each other’s weaknesses. Strengths amplify strengths.

Ms Sonia Taj Marican
1. The importance of not only speaking to industry experts but treating them right. Industry experts not only give you insight into your problem and the usability of your solution if you make a good impression they can open up doors for you as well.

2. Be resourceful. Every bit of knowledge and information you gather from observations of daily life/ the world around you can be turned into something useful that will help you reach your goals.

I had a group last year who picked a target group who was highly inaccessible because they wanted to work with ex-convicts. I could tell they really struggled to answer some of the questions I posed to them about the applicability and suitability of their solutions for their target group. This problem persisted until, through sheer grit and perseverance, they managed to get a hold of representatives from an NGO helping their TG.

The behavior that struck me as particularly impressive was that students from the group didn’t stop at securing an interview with these representatives. Having to contend with the constraints placed on them because of their school timetables, they went and made the best of a bad situation by inviting their interviewees to school for the interview. They then took pains to make a good impression on them and were, therefore, able to keep channels of communication open for future questions and feedback on their project.

Using their own initiative, the students requested I book a fancy air-conditioned venue for them for their interview, managed to scrounge up Eunoia labeled water bottles for their interviewees, and prepared thank you gifts for their guests. The whole thing was extremely professional and clearly modeled on student observations of how schools treat VIP guests during school events.

After that, everything fell in place – through these representatives of the NGO, they managed to get access to 2 members of their TG with whom they were able to set up multiple interviews and correspond with; their solution, though not particularly innovative at first, became increasingly relevant and insightful because they were now furnished with experience and feedback from organizations and individuals who might potentially use their solution.

Ms Mohana Rani Suppiah
1. For groups that are having problems with group dynamics etc to raise the issue early to the STs rather than to surface it later, so that steps can be taken to try and help these groups early.

2. Based on experience with both kinds of groups, for the ones who surfaced the problem early, non-contributors could be spoken to and warned about their behavior and given time to change their attitude and start contributing earlier. For groups who only brought up the matter close to the submission of the Written Report, it was a little too late to do anything.

Mr Daniel Kwan
1. Treat the three WR drafts seriously as they are precious! If the group knows that they cannot produce a good quality draft by the deadline, negotiate for an extension with the ST way in advance.

2. Make sure that you have printed and bound the final WR before the submission date. Do not do it on the actual day as things may go wrong.
Anecdote: A group was so stressed up when the printer in the library broke down due to excessive printing of WRs. They submitted the WR just 3 minutes before the deadline and a member rolled around on the floor in the library crying in relief after that J

Ms Adrienne de Souza
1. The tutor-group relationship is special. Trust your PW tutor.

Anecdote: As the Written Report submission deadline draws close, we often see groups getting anxious. Groups talk to other groups, sometimes from the same class, sometimes from other classes. And they start to panic if other groups seem to have been given different advice from what they have been given. Some groups then decide to make fairly major changes to their projects based on what they had heard from friends, without consulting their tutor. And from my experience, this has always led to more problems. So yes, seek advice from those around you. Talk to people. But if you ever feel anxious about your project based on what you might be hearing from anyone other than your tutor, always, always, always check with your tutor first and talk to them about your concerns. Then trust your tutor’s advice.

2. Prototype. Pilot test your solutions (or parts of them). And be on the lookout for opportunities to leverage other activities.

In 2017, I had a group that used their ViA project as an opportunity to implement and pilot test one part of their project solution – it was about using art for therapeutic purposes. And what was great to see was that because they actually implemented the art therapy aspect of their solution on their actual target group, their project was more than a proposal on paper – it became something real, that made a real difference to the community that they reached out to. And because they leveraged their ViA project to do this, as an added benefit, there was a nice synergy between the ViA outcomes and the rich learning that they derived and documented in their final Written Report, based on observations and data collected from the pilot test they conducted.

3. Be a honey badger – be ingenious, be resilient. Be ready to fail, try again, fail again, until you succeed. (Watch this video to learn more!)

Mr Omar Basri

  1. Maintain a good working relationship with your peers. While you do not have a choice of groupmates, you have a choice in terms of how you treat your groupmates, the effort you put in during group and how you communicate with one another. As such, understand the importance of working efficiently as a team, and put in equal effort as everyone else. You not putting in effort means that your groupmates have to pick up the slack. Over a period of time, resentment starts to seep in and the working dynamics may end up toxic. As such, cooperate with one another and put in effort.

    2. Consult your tutors regularly. We are always here to help you, but this also means that you should be ready to continuously put in effort and work hard as well. At the same time, avoid consulting us at the very last minute; consultation needs to be done regularly.

Note: A big thank you to all the teachers who took the time and effort to help us out with their valuable advice!
Interviewer: Jacey Teoh

Project Work 101 (explained with babies)

“Project Work is like a baby, it takes 9 months and a lot of hard work to complete.”

Project work. Perhaps one of the most contentious subjects in Singapore, PW is the only subject that every JC1 student has to go through. Casually scrolling through the social media posts of our seniors would tell you that PW is very much like birthing a child. It always starts off slow, and you don’t really know whether you’ve managed to conceive a good idea (or baby?). Then, over time, things start to pick up pace as your elders (or PW teachers) start trying to tell you what eat and not to eat, saying it’s best for your baby (or idea). To make matters worse, you have to start working with your teammates (or partner) to make sure your baby meets its developmental goals and ensure it doesn’t end up being born prematurely or as a miscarriage altogether. Finally comes the big crunch when you have to push really really hard in order to make sure that your baby is born healthy. At the end, the culmination of the PW journey is met with collective jubilation and relief, just like a newborn, as it marks the end of countless and never-ending brainstorming, proposal revisions and draft edits.

Constituting a heavy weightage of 10% of the overall A Level grade, it is undeniably the culprit of the many sleepless nights that all JC students have to suffer. As the official school curriculum begins, many of us J1s are faced with the daunting and unfamiliar prospect of tackling PW. Fear not, we’re here to help you through your motherhood!

Taking into account the experiences of a PW Veteran (mum) who has traversed this journey and lived to tell the story, we hope that we can shed some light on a couple of aspects to take into consideration so that your PW journey can be a smoother one.

Conceiving your baby (Choosing your topic):
As the old adage goes, given that you’ll be working on this subject matter for the rest of the year, do ensure that it is one that you are genuinely interested and passionate about, and not just because it is a “sure A” topic. It is frankly pointless to be fussing over a project which you do not like. Raise a child you would love.

Eating healthy for you little boy (Scoping and working with PW teachers):
Much of that initial spark that we start off with are usually too broad in scope. It is hence imperative to narrow the scope down to a more specific area of interest so that you can better distill your ideas
into that relatively short 3000-word Written Report (WR) and come up with more customised solutions. For example, if you are interested in myopia in Singapore, it would be appropriate to narrow your topic down to investigating myopia prevalent in a specific age group because it would be easier to find a solution that can be more tailored towards the need of that particular topic. Don’t be daunted by countless rejections and redrafting your PW teachers will put you through — afterall, they’ve raised more children than you.

Working with daddy (Conflict and Communication):
Arguably, the “make-or-break” factor of any successful project would be effective communication (or lack thereof). Effective communication is essential for delegating work within the group and ensuring a clear direction of thought. It also allows diverse and sometimes diametrically opposing ideas and feedback to be shared in a dynamic and conducive environment where every member’s opinions are valued and can contribute to the overall improvement of the project.

Given that project work allocations cannot be chosen, it is unlikely that you would get a group with all your ideal groupmates. Some form of conflict is inevitable and will happen at some point during the course of the preparation period. Just like how in any marriage, communication is key, ensure that both sides keep talking, especially when you’re angry at each other.

1. Maintain a positive outlook and stay optimistic!
2. The best way to convince someone is by listening to them , so attempt to understand your groupmates’ viewpoints and recognise that they have as much say as you do.
3. Attempt to persuade your groupmate in a calm manner and try to come to a compromise.
4. Practice good anger management and do not vent your anger or frustration on social media (our ‘mum’ here is speaking from experience)

Is PW necessary?
Sheepishly admitting that she thought PW to be “a useless subject” at first, our ‘mum’ later changed her mind because she thought it built her argumentative skills, especially during the proposal drafting process. Despite feeling overwhelmed by PW, she also had an unexpected takeaway of finding her true friends, whom she could rely on and be supported by, after going through thick and thin together.

Hence, while the rigour of Project Work might not appeal to all of us at first, we must still recognise that PW does indeed imbibe participants with values like responsibility and skills like conflict management, thereby facilitating personal growth.

So embark on your PW journey with an open mind and beautiful thinking, and always remember that when your little boy is finally born, it’ll be well worth it.

Top 5 worst things that could happen in PW

As we embark on a new term, the dreaded unknown that is H1 Project Work is back! To prepare you for this arduous process ahead, the Origin* has put together a 3-part series as a Project Work crash course, with this first installment delivering the worst possible things that could happen in PW, and a little bite-sized piece of advice on how to handle it. Mentally prepare yourself.

  1. Have personal issues with someone in your group.
    Having beef with someone is never a good idea. It makes conversations way harder than it already is, and it can really hinder you from progressing sometimes. So be the bigger person, and don’t let personal issues affect your work.
  2. Not gaining approval for your project work proposal.
    As bad as this sounds, it has happened before, and it can happen to you. It is heartbreaking and utterly tragic when you spend half a year on a WR but end up being told to scrap that idea and start anew brief months before the final submission
  3. Group members pulling a disappearing act.
    Having to meet outside of school during the weekends is already a burden, so for someone to suddenly provide a completely ridiculous excuse for not showing up for the meeting that’s in an hour’s time, is genuinely infuriating and irresponsible. Shout out to that one guy that “decided” to go to Malaysia on the morning before our PW meeting session, you certainly did the best you could to avoid your responsibilities!
    If you happen to be stuck in this situation, confronting that person face to face may help to set things straight, but if things get worse, you should turn to your PW tutor to resolve this issue.
  4. Submitting the WR late
    Deadlines have a purpose, and it is the student’s responsibility to meet them. However, sometimes, things are just fated to end in a certain way, and unfortunately, that could mean being unable to complete your work on time. You could seek desperate consults everyday after school during the last week before submission, you could pull an all nighter to edit your WR, but along the way, everything could just go wrong. The WR submission date seems so far away in the future, yet when that day comes, and you’re not ready to submit your work, there will be consequences that you need to be responsible for.
  5. Forgetting your OP script
    Public speaking is daunting, and this fear is further compounded when your grade heavily depends on your performance in that 5 minutes. Under this intense pressure, while trying to enunciate and project your voice, you could end up forgetting your lines. If this really happens on your OP presentation day, take a deep breathe to calm yourself down. Glance at the screen if you need your slide to prompt you, and continue as if nothing happened. Having fifteen pairs of eyes watching you as your mind blanks is not that bad…right?

Even as each item on this list progressively gets worse, this list is sadly, non exhaustive. A lot more could go wrong throughout your project work process. Nevertheless, don’t be discouraged! Project Work is a dynamic subject and everyone will experience it differently. At the end of the day, each challenge you manage to overcome will simply make you a better person. You become more knowledgeable on how to deal with people, and you learn how to be a better public speaker. Just dive right in and go with the flow, everything will be alright.