The Senior Project represents a culmination of your work though out your educational experience icon

The Senior Project represents a culmination of your work though out your educational experience

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Students: The Senior Project represents a culmination of your work though out your educational experience.

  • Your school may have other specific requirements, but this guide provides you with tools to begin planning your project early.

  • You may wish to download planning and progress tools and begin working on your Senior Project early in your high school experience.

  • Check with your advisor or counselor to obtain specific guidelines for your school if they differ from the ones used in this document.

Begin with the end if mind…

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail…

Let’s get started with your Senior Project success plan.

^ Table of Contents

4 6 8

15 22 31 34
ntroduction to Senior Projects

Senior Project Roles

Section 1: Guidelines for Senior Projects

Section 2: Choosing a Senior Project Topic

Section 3: Research Papers

Section 4: Selecting a External Business/Industry Mentor

Section 5: The Product/Process Project

Section 6: Oral Presentation 42

Section 7: Assessment Process of Senior Project 54

Introduction to Senior Projects

High school seniors are nearing the completion of 12 years of education. They have taken a variety of courses and developed an assortment of skills during those years. Now is the time for seniors to combine their knowledge and skills in a Senior Project to show what they have learned. A Senior Project provides an opportunity for a student to choose an area of interest, conduct in-depth research and demonstrate problem-solving, decision-making and independent learning skills. It contributes to a strong senior year of challenging courses and practical experiences that prepare students for the next step in the workplace or when pursuing further education.

A Senior Project involves several steps.

  • First, the student selects a topic, gathers information, writes a research paper and keeps a portfolio of project activities.

  • Second, the student produces a product/process that applies some aspect of the research.

  • Third, the student makes a formal presentation to a panel composed of teachers, community leaders and peers who know about and are interested in the topic. After the presentation, panel members ask questions about the research and the product/process and find out what the student learned during the project as well as review the student’s portfolio.

The student is not alone during the project. Each student meets individually with his or her Tech Prep Teacher. The student may also work with related academic instructors depending on the design of their Tech Prep program. In addition, the student will work with a Product/Process Mentor who has expertise in the student’s field of study.

Senior Projects should be challenging. They should require considerable effort on the part of the student in showing what he or she has learned. If a student approaches the project step by step and meets the deadlines, she or she will be able to manage the project successfully. There are many benefits involved in a Senior Project such as:

• Foster student as “active learners”, capable of solving complex problems and constructing meaning that is grounded in the world beyond the classroom that encourages collaborative learning with industry and community partners

  • Organizing curriculum around authentic student projects which serve as a basis for learning from career and academic disciplines in an inter-disciplinary approach

  • Developing capacities not conventionally taught, such as, ability to work independently, problem-solving which involves students as expert-practitioners who use and demonstrate their knowledge and skills, etc.

  • Engages students in complex, challenging tasks which allow integration of learning, generation of knowledge, reflection, and creation of a product, and provides the student with the opportunity to work with business and industry partners

  • Meets rigorous and measurable standards for academic and technical performance that reflect global demands, are required of all students, and make a diploma meaningful

  • Serves as a capstone to a sequenced course of technical and academic study

Senior Project Roles

Role of the Student:

  1. Complete requirements of the project in accordance with the pre-established checklist and timetable.

  2. Select External Business/Industry Mentor

  3. Maintain copies (on disc and paper) of all work in process, rough draft, final draft, etc.

  4. Submit (on disc and paper) rough draft of research paper to Tech Prep

Instructor (or appropriate instructor based on design of Tech Prep program)

  1. Submit (on disc and paper) final draft of research paper to Tech Prep

Instructor (or appropriate instructor based on design of Tech Prep program)

  1. Document product/process project selection with Tech Prep Instructor

  2. Keep a project log or journal

  3. Develop copies of oral presentation outline for evaluation panel.

  4. Develop a portfolio to display work

  5. Write and distribute teacher approved thank-you letters to mentor and panelist

  6. Complete and return a Senior Project evaluation concerning this experience.

Role of the Tech Prep Instructor

  1. Assist student with selection of project topic and final approval of project

  2. Assist and advise student in the technical portion of the project

  3. Oversee student in accordance to project guidelines

  4. Review rough draft of research paper and advise student as to where revision may be needed.

  5. Evaluate final draft of research paper

  6. Allocate related class time to work with students regarding their senior project.

  7. Evaluate the product/process project

  8. Coach student in preparation for oral presentation and verify technical accuracy of presented materials

  9. Create an end of project student evaluation survey form for the purpose of project improvement.

  10. If there is no academic instructor connected to the design of the Tech Prep Program, the Career-Technical instructor will need to assist with the roles of the English Teacher that follows.

Role of English Teacher (If Tech Prep program design includes the academic connection)

  1. Instruct the student in the proper form and process of the research paper

  2. Collect and evaluation all written documentation pertaining to the Senior Project

  3. Review rough draft of research paper and advise student as to where revision may be needed

  4. Evaluate final draft of research paper to pre-established standards

  5. Discuss with Career-Technical instructor regarding the content of research

paper and integrate evaluations of form and content to final project grade

  1. Coach student in appropriate methods of giving an oral presentation

  2. Conduct a post presentation discussion with the student for the purpose of

project improvement and implementation.

Role of External Business/Industry Mentor

  1. Assist and advise student in technical aspect of research paper and/or product/process project.

  2. Serve as resource to the student in all stages of the product/process project development

  3. Allocate time and make arrangements for student to work on project as needed

  4. Sign Mentor Agreement Form

  5. Provide accurate and honest verification of student’s work

  6. Additional assistance could be provided by:

  • Reviewing student research materials

  • Evaluate their product/process project

  • Advise students in planning their oral presentation

  • Attend oral presentation

Guidelines for Senior Projects General:

The Senior Project is an integral part of a student’s final year of high school. It integrates skills, concepts and data from the student’s program of study into one culminating project. ^ Students work on individual projects. Although, the product/process portion may have some joint relationship to other product/process project by other students, each presentation is completed independently.

A Senior Project consists of a written research paper, a major product/process and an oral presentation. Individual instructors will dictate how the projects are graded although this manual contains sample rubrics that might be helpful.

Senior Project Topic Selection:

  • Topic must be developed around the student’s career focus

  • Initially, the student will select several possible topics for teacher approval. (Sample Senior Project Topic Selection Sheet)

  • When topic is finalized, the student will complete the Senior Project Commitment Form. (Sample Senior Project Commitment Form)

Senior Project Components:

Part 1 - Research Paper – a formal paper that encourages students to develop and demonstrate proficiency in conducting research and writing about a chosen topic.

  • Must be research-based utilizing at least 3 types of sources of information and a total minimum of 7 individual sources. Types of sources would be periodicals, library references, Internet, personal interviews, technical manuals, etc.

  • Documentation of related research information through note cards or other means of note organization develop the initial outline of the paper.

  • Paper must be word-processed and conform to MLA or APA standards. A Rookie’s Guide to Research is included in this manual as a reference to MLA standards.

  • All research papers should be 5-7 content/text pages in length. In addition to the content/text papers, there should be a title page and a bibliography. An Appendix support is optional based on topic.

Part 2 – Product/Process Project– a tangible creation based on choosing, designing and developing an item related to the student’s research topic.

  • The student will spend a minimum of 15 hours outside class work on a project related to the research topic.

  • The Tech Prep instructor will approve the Product/Process Project. (Sample Senior Product/Process Project Approval Form)

  • The student identifies an external mentor to assist with the project. The mentor should be an adult accomplished and experienced in the chosen project area. Student will meet a minimum of three times with mentor.

  • All documentation of the Product/Process will be included in a portfolio. The following items may be included

  1. A log of the student’s hours, including dates and times in an hour-by hour log and a description of what you did during these times. Travel time, thinking time or time spent practicing your presentation DOES NOT count toward your 15 hours. (sample)

  2. Journal entries about each of the student’s experiences (including dates). Entries should note obstacles, challenges, meaningful activities and encounters in a written discussion. (sample)

  3. Photographs or other visual documentation

  4. Letters of Recommendation from mentor or work-based connection as related to the project

  5. Include any notes, papers, flyers, and/or charts that you may have collected and/or created about the project

  6. Include a clean copy of your research paper

  7. Include a completed mentor sheet. (sample)

  8. Other items will also be included in the portfolio. (see Section 5)

Part 3 – Oral Presentation– a formal presentation of the project before a panel of judges. The presentation consists of a speech, an explanation of how learning was applied in developing the project and a discussion of lessons learned by the student.

  • An 8-10 minute oral presentation (with note cards) given to an audience that might include administrators, teachers, student peers, parents as well as business and industry representatives.

  • Speech content should include information about the research paper, the product/process project and how the student personally gains from completing the senior project. (See Oral Presentation information sheet)

  • Include at least two types of visual components such as transparencies, computer generated graphics, PowerPoint, posters, etc.

  • Student’s portfolio of information should be brought to the oral presentation for review by the audience. Students should be prepared to answer questions from the audience or review panel.

^ Suggested Time Line

Week #

in One


Week #

in a

















Identify topic




Begin research




and get parental





Begin product/








Community or






Submit initial


process plan



Review project

status and


Outline Speech




Submit final





Design Visual





Review project

status and















Journal /

Product Due


Presentation to






Orient 11th

graders to the

Senior Project










^ Student Activity Checklist Getting Started

All journeys begin with an important first step. The first step in a Senior Project is to choose a topic that interests you, will be fun to study and is worthwhile. Refer to the chart before and begin planning next steps as outlined.







Commitment Form

^ Research Paper



First Draft


Final Draft


Mentor Identified

Plan Submitted

Parent Approval


Compile Portfolio



^ Oral Presentation

Speech outline submitted

Note Cards Developed

Visual Aids Developed

Portfolio Completed




Thank-you notes


A rubric sets criteria or standards that can be used to evaluate student learning, and gives observable indicators of various quality levels. Some teachers say, “I know good work when I see it,” but they have a hard time putting those criteria or standards into words. The description of quality levels included in a rubric allows teachers to identify what a specific level of work looks like.

Many teachers use rubrics to assess project-related processes, products and/or student performance. Benefits of using rubrics include the following:

  • Rubrics provide clear and accurate definitions of 3-5 quality levels

  • Rubrics allow teachers to customize their assessment of projects by choosing the most appropriate criteria.

  • Rubrics allow teachers to be accurate and consistent in their assessment of processes, products or student performance.

  • Students can understand what is expected of them – before, during and after project participation. (To encourage student buy-in to criteria included in the rubrics, students can be involved in developing criteria.)

  • Rubrics accept and do not penalize creativity.

To gain an understanding of the components of rubrics, take a few minutes to examine several of those included in this manual. Notice there are criteria that will be used to access a student’s work. The remaining columns describe different levels of student performance.

Web sites that have useful rubrics:

^ Rubric Template Visit this page for an all-purpose rubric template. Also check out the examples from teachers who have used this template to build their own rubrics.

.www.esc20. net/etprojects/formats/webquests/summer99/northside/spu rs/ru bric

Web Publishing Rubric This rubric has ways to evaluate projects, which culminate in the publishing of a web page.

Analytical Thinking Process of Problem Solving Rubric: This rubric assumes the difficult task of assessing the though processes behind problem solving.

^ Oral Presentation Rubric: A short rubric for teacher and self-assessment of a student’s oral presentation. http://projects.edtech health/ru brics/oralpresentation .html

Problem Based Learning with Multimedia: A rubric for assessing multimedia use, collaboration and project content.

The Rubric Bank: Numerous rubrics in pdf format as well as some tips for choosing which one is right for you. ml

^ Senior Project and Project-Based Learning: Some Helpful website and Samples

Before you start re-creating all your own documents, it is great to surf websites from organizations and schools involved in senior projects and project-based learning that provide information, forms, resources, rubrics and sample projects. http ://

Choosing a Senior Project Topic

A Senior Project is about doing and learning something that you want to do and learn about! This is your chance to choose a topic that will be interesting and worthwhile and will extend your knowledge of your Tech Prep area. However, making the decision may not be easy. Choose carefully, consult with your Career-Technical Instructor and remember to keep your project manageable. Here are some guidelines that might help you.

  • Topics must be related to the student’s career and technical area of interest.

  • The topic must be broad enough to provide adequate resources and to yield a written report of the desired length and depth of study.

  • Topics must be narrow enough to be covered within the time frame of the project.

  • Topics must lend themselves to a manageable and affordable product/process project.

Sample Senior Project Topic Selection Sheet

Student Name
















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