Here's a quick post for today on strategies that I find helpful when utilizing project based learning.
Keep a task list on the board for the project. Write the tasks out specifically but concise. My board always has three tasks for each project and they are labeled birdie, par, and bogie. Students are able to clearly tell what pace they are moving at. I don't pressure students to move at a birdie or par even. Usually, students put the pressure upon themselves.
I don't stress over the grading. Instead I utilize a level of game theory in the project. A student can't move on to level two, until they've successfully completed the level one. For example, once you pass the measuring test you can begin to look for ideas for your design, once you have two ideas for your design, then you can sketch five of your own ideas, once you sketch your ideas then you can make an elevator pitch to me about your project, once I'm satisfied with your pitch and your five ideas, then I give you a glue stick to start your prototype. Shop admission isn't granted until the prototype is done, a parts list is made with front, top, right part drawings, and an isometric sketch is completed.
I've had pretty good luck maintaining student completion by making each level slightly engaging and interesting than the last. Every now and then, I'll meet a discouraged student who thinks measuring is stupid or that they can't draw so they wont, but I give them a pep talk, or they see another student building their prototype and eventually they come around.
The other strategy I use is requiring "Reflect and Plan" as an exit ticket every day. Students must specifically state what they did that day, and what they will do the next day. General answers such as, "I will work hard" are not accepted. They are instructed to write the planning comment out as if they had to hand the comment to another person and that person could start the exact task by reading only the comment.
The start of class is a quick meeting with students telling ME the task they have for the day. The higher my expectations are for the planning comment, I've found, the quicker this meeting goes, and the happier both students and I are.
Visual cues are extremely helpful with all of the transitions that must take place in this format. I have a yellow light programmed to go off 13 minutes before the bell rings. This gives students 6 minutes to do their "Plan and Reflect". The yellow light turns off, and a red light turns on. Now, students know to wrap up their "Plan and Reflect" and to start clean up. (That's a whole other system).
I free wrote this in 21 minutes, so please, don't hesitate to point out my typos or ask for clarification.