Frequently Asked Questions

1)  What is Senior Project?
2)  What does Senior Project consist of? What are its major components?
3)  Why has Senior Project changed to Senior Project 2.0?
4)  Where did the model originate?
5)  What is its history at PHS?
6)  Why is it mandatory from 2007-2008 on?
7)  What about students with special needs?
8)  How is Senior Project assessed?
9)  Where is there more information and support?
1)  Q What is Senior Project?
Senior Project is a year-long exploration of a topic of a student's choice. The exploration is driven by an essential question and at least two supporting questions. Each student completes a proposal, conducts and documents research, works with an adult mentor to develop, create or execute a product, reflects on the process, and presents the conclusions and product to a panel of adult judges. Senior Project determines the level of proficiency a student has in research skills, writing for a variety of purposes and audiences. long-term project development and completion, and speaking/presentation skills. Senior Project is aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
2)  Q What does Senior Project consist of? What are its major components?

1. Proposal

  • Each student chooses a topic of personal interest from a variety of domains such as planning and hosting an event, creating or designing a physical product, improving something in the world, conducting research, or providing a service to a person or group.  Students often choose topics that relate to a possible career choice.
  • Each student develops an essential question and at least two supporting questions that will guide a full exploration of the topic and foster meaningful research.
  • Each student writes a formal proposal that introduces the essential question and at least two supporting questions, explains the interest in the topic, discloses any previous background and/or experience, specifies a mentor, delineates the product that will result from the exploration, and clearly explains the learning stretch.

2. Mentor

  • Each student secures a mentor that fits the criteria outlined in the handbook.

3. Reflections

  • Each student writes monthly reflections that discuss the previous progress, the current status, and project upcoming work.
  • Reflections also chronicle the progress of the product work with the mentor.
  • Students are invited to be honest about the successes and challenges each faces during the process.

4. Research

  • In order to fully explore the essential question and supporting question, each student conducts research that includes an interview with an expert in the field of study.
  • Students write annotations using MLA format.
  • Annotations include a summary of the source and commentary on the source's relevance to the essential/supporting questions.

5. Product

  • Each student creates a product that demonstrates the learning stretch.
  • Products can be tangible items, events, programs, or experiences.
  • However, each student MUST produce some tangible evidence of their learning stretch.

6. Portfolio

  • Each student will compile all the evidence from the year's study into a portfolio that will be housed online.
  • Students are encouraged to be creative and personalize some of the elements of their portfolios.

7. Forms

  • Students must provide a variety of signed documentation including an ethical commitment form, mentor consent form, parent release form, signed time log, verification of the interview, and the mentor's evaluation of the product.


3)  Q Why has Senior Project changed to Senior Project 2.0?

The Senior Project Steering Committee and the 12th grade Instructional Focus Group reviewed the data for Senior Project over the last several years. They determined Senior Project was not fostering a true spirit of academic research and that it was often difficult to align the persuasive research component to students' chosen projects in such a way the resulted in quality papers. The decision was made to change Senior Project from a focus on a product to a focus on inquiry-based learning under a single essential question. Some of the changes also aim to create a more authentic and purposeful student/mentor relationship. Senior Project will move toward more meaningful integration of 21st Century skills using technology effectively.

4)  Q Where did the model originate?
In the late 1980s a group of educators in Oregon, led by Carleen Osher, wanted to keep seniors engaged in learning in a meaningful fashion and developed the model for what is now called Senior Project. It is now world-wide and completed by students in many countries as well as most states in the south and many in the west. The organization that Carleen Osher now runs is The Partnership for Dynamic Learning.
5)  Q What is its history at PHS?
PHS started SP in 1999 and has been piloting groups of volunteer students ever since. Department members in English, Physical Education, Math, Modern World Languages, Family and Consumer Sciences, Art, Applied Arts, Science, History, and administrators have participated in training sessions around the country through funding from the East Bay Educational Collaborative to implement SP here at PHS. Students who have participated claim it was one of the best experiences of their lives!
6)  Q Why is it mandatory from 2007-2008 on?
State mandated Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements (PBGRs) are in place for the class of 2007-2008. Schools had to choose two options to implement. PHS chose Senior Project and Common End of Course Exams to assess students. The school community supports this combination to show what students know and are able to do when they graduate from PHS.
7)  Q What about students with special needs?
The Special Education department works closely with the SP teachers and coordinator(s) to support students, guide students and modify all work when necessary. The handbook has been written with all levels of students in mind.
8)  Q How is Senior Project assessed?
  • The proposal is reviewed by faculty members. Proposals will be rated either "passing" or "not yet". Those that are "not yet" are returned to the student with feedback. The student revises and resubmits until the proposal is rated "passing".
  • Reflections and research assignments are graded by the students' English teachers.
  • The product is rated by the mentor using a rubric. 
  • The portfolio is rated by the English teacher using a rubric.
  • The presentation is rated using a rubric by a panel of adult judges from the faculty, staff, administration and the community.  This score counts as the student's final exam score in English 12.
  • All components are considered pass/fail for graduation purposes. 
  • Students must successfully complete and pass Senior Project as part of the PHS diploma plan.
9)  Q Where is there more information and support?

The Senior Project Handbook is currently being revised to incorporate the Senior Project 2.0 changes.  It will be available soon on this website.  In the meantime, individual documents are loaded on the website for ease of access. 

Feel free to also ask the school's SP Coordinators, administrators, teachers, guidance department members and past participants. Email the coordinators at, or call 683-2124 ext. 2510 to speak with them.  There is also a contact form available on this website.