Project-Based Learning Subscribe to RSS

New Guide Offers Assessment Tips for the Classroom

| Suzie Boss

Recently, I watched a team of ninth-graders share their vision for a city of the future. They had clearly done their research, investigating everything from the politics of ancient Athens to the principles of sustainable design in the 21st century. They summarized their findings online and then took their learning a step further to design a 3-D model of their ideal city.

As their classmates and teachers gathered around the scale model, the young urban designers pointed out the innovative features of their metropolis. Not only were these students able to apply what they had learned, but they did so with passion, eloquence, and creativity -- none of which would have been adequately assessed by a multiple-choice test.

If we hope to offer students more real-world learning experience like this one, we need to be willing to reconsider how we assess learning. It's a big challenge, affecting everything from the daily rhythms of the classroom to time-honored traditions like report cards. Fortunately, there's plenty of help available. Edutopia's brand-new classroom guide -- Top Ten Tips for Project-Based Learning Assessment -- is chock-full of assessment resources and good ideas ready to borrow.

PBL Strategies

I've organized these tips to follow the arc of a project-first planning, then active learning, then culminating event, and, finally, reflection. At each stage, paying attention to assessment pays dividends. Follow the links in the guide to find videos, online discussions, digital tools, and other resources from educators who have wisdom to share.

Project-based learning and authentic assessment are made for each other. In PBL, students engage in inquiry learning to answer a challenging, real-world question. As a culminating event, students typically share products they have made or information they have learned. Having an audience for these events not only adds motivation but also causes students to defend or explain their thinking.

Not surprisingly, many of the suggestions in this new guide have come from members of the Edutopia community, who tend to be enthusiastic about PBL. These creative educators aren't waiting for sweeping changes to take place on the national education stage. Instead, they're devising their own good assessment strategies now.

For example, teacher and author Shawn Cornally has been on a quest to rethink assessment as a tool "to create learning, instead of just to judge it." He shares his own strategies along with links to other educators who have inspired him.

High school science teacher James Rocco borrows the popular "Cash Cab" format from TV to create engaging, and fast, feedback moments with his students. He explains how in Edutopia's Project-Based Learning group.

Teachers from School of the Future in New York open a window on their comprehensive assessment strategies in Edutopia's newest Schools that Work series. Social studies teacher Andy Snyder has been fielding follow-up questions about the high-performing school's innovative approaches in Edutopia's Assessment group.

Big Questions Ahead

At the national level, conversations about school reform are increasingly focused on assessment. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called for rethinking standardized assessment to go beyond narrowly focused bubble tests, and new projects are in the pipeline to build a better system for gauging what students know and can do.

The National Educational Technology Plan, released in November, pulls no punches in explaining why the current system needs to change:

"Most of the assessment done in schools today is after the fact and designed to indicate only whether students have learned. Little is done to assess students' thinking during learning so we can help them learn better."

style="margin-left: 20px;">

Those last seven words are worth repeating: so we can help them learn better. That's the real goal of assessment. Getting assessment right takes time, resources, collaboration, and a willingness to rethink some of the most familiar practices of school. But it's worth the effort, according to those who have generously shared their thinking for this guide, because of the benefits for both teaching and learning.

What are your favorite tools and strategies for effective assessment? How do you use assessment to help students take learning to new heights? Please share your ideas so that we can continue learning together.

Click here to download the guide, and then pass it along!

see more see less

Comments (7)

Comment RSS
Retired teacher educator - UMass, EDC, various school systems

That N + 1 link,

Was this helpful?
0

That N + 1 link, incidentally, is here http://nplusonemag.com/death-by-degrees

Retired teacher educator - UMass, EDC, various school systems

Watch Your Fish

Was this helpful?
0

Now nearly 150 years ago, the teacher of a teacher of one of my high school teachers - Louis Agassiz - taught freshmen at Harvard in a lab. For the first six weeks he would walk the aisles and mutter "watch your fish," and keep his students from cutting anything at all, while their preserved fish sat in wax trays. After six weeks, he'd say, "draw the skeleton," and, a week later, "draw the organs," and a week after that, "find out if you were right."
PBL ain't so new, and it does not require experience from age 2 or 3. It exploits the curiosity of learners to their own benefit. The challenge for the teacher is to hold back from telling more than their students can use. It's rally very, very simple. Technology doesn't change it, just makes it simpler and more natural. It's the resistance of a putrid bureaucracy, enhanced by a stifling aristocracy of pseudo scientists that make it so difficult. Look at the remarkable analysis at N + 1 for why so much of this thread is woven dissemblance.

I appreciate Joe Beckmann's

Was this helpful?
0

I appreciate Joe Beckmann's response. The point that I should have made is that when the child's natural internal intellectual PBL experience is the base of their education starting at age 2 1/2 to 3 by the time that they reach high school they will naturally bring self-understanding and personal value to the experience that is only random in the persent system. At the high school level today you have to deal with each student's positive and negative survival choices that are related to their uncontroled history of survival choices. Teacher's today are expected the be able to overcome any student's history of negative survival choices. It can and does happen but not to the level that is the goal that education is expected now to achieve.

High School Spanish Teacher MN

Students need a variety of

Was this helpful?
0

Students need a variety of ways to show what they know. Depending on the corresponding subject matter and unit, different types of assessment are going to lend themselves more useful in each particular situation. As with anything in life, we as educators should employ a variety of methods and techniques for achieving student mastery. PBL might be perfect here and multiple choice might work great there. I have many students who prefer to just show up and take the test and they moan in disgust when I mention the word "project." Others BEG for them. Balance is the key word.

PBL...Really?

Was this helpful?
0

In my experience, what is called "PBL" in many classrooms is in reality diorama building or diagraming. The level of engagement is great because students love to work with their hands and do stuff, but the level of learning is relegated to the application level of Bloom's Taxonomy. Rarely have I seen true "new knowledge" being developed. I have seen online postings of classroom projects and webpages devoted to teacher's outcomes, and I can't help wonder if I am seeing actual work. I recently visited a "tech academy" charter school that prided itself on doing nothing but PBL. On the day I toured, ONE class was doing a project, and most students were doing nothing more than copying from Google and pasting into a graphic organizer. I would love to hear of other's experiences, as well as seeing complete analysis of classroom projects.

Retired teacher educator - UMass, EDC, various school systems

Science/Schmience it's an awful lot simpler than this jargon

Was this helpful?
0
Quote:

I am writing about underlying scientific aspects that your perspective is presenting. It is about the need for educational agreement on what the fundamental educational goal is and the scientific understanding of the natural way to implement the goal. If the agreed upon goal is the natural intellectual development of each child educator's need to understand that that is not the science base of the historic present educational experience. The basic scientific difference that you are presenting is the importance of student's internal motivation that project based experience can naturally provide. The growing educational awareness that there is any value in student internal motivation is a human evolutionary development that is beyond educational improvements. This evolutionary change is the result of scientific and technological developments of the past two centuries that have been gradually changing the human survival need from physical energy to intellectual energy. The historic educational process has been evolving for six thousand years as an externally motivated elimination process. The science that is the base for the present system is the science of the individual student's responses to the system external motivation. They are based upon their personal survival history. The educational problems are the result of each student's negative survival intellectual energy choices that are expressed or suppressed as a result of their perceived survival success. If the natural intellectual development of each child is the goal formal education needs to begin when intellectual consciousness begins it's natural development in the age span of 2 1/2 to 3. At that point the educational goal is to understand scientifically how to provide an environment that as positively as possible facillatates the natural positive internal development of that process. Any ability for humans to consciously implement an evolutionary change at this level is evolutionary in itself.

The goal is to help kids learn as much as possible and perform to their highest satisfaction. Teachers come - close - but second. The distinctions between PBL and traditional drill & practice fade when kids access technology, and everything they do can be seen as either a project or an assessment. I'm sure Mac Shane's observations are well intended but they ignore these obvious but paradoxical conditions: kids are the measure of what teachers do (not the other way around), and all evidence of knowledge gains is at least worthy of some recognition.

The absurdity of a content-based content-driven curriculum, of bubble tests as the exclusive vehicle for everything from promotion to salaries to college access, is another one of those paradoxes. Meanwhile we've got between 20 and 30 years of good data on "soft skills" - from teamwork to inquiry, from responsibility to negotiation - that get ignored in the course of these paradoxical if pedantic dialogs. Kids, employers, parents, teachers, and colleges all understand the significance of such "soft skills" but, until now, nobody seriously teaches assessment on such metrics, nor collects evidence of achievement against such standards.

Technology is the great leveler, since kids can prove they know lots of stuff with online documentation - in writing, video, sound, graphics, poetry, dance and sports. They do it already in Facebook. What we need is a more legitimate, more "scholarly" and more academically tuned (not limited but tuned) forum for this kind of expression. And then the colleges, employers, parents and others can celebrate the brilliance of youth.

Those kinds of documents can be anything from a year-long project at New Tech or High Tech, or an hour's quiz in a drill & practice event. If we leave that choice to the kids themselves, we learn how THEY value what THEY consider they learn, which is infinitely more useful than eternal wrangling about science, methodology, and test scores.

And it doesn't preclude any of the other stuff. And it can be done by kids with kids, ideally with teacher support but, if they're too busy, let'em miss the good stuff.

I am writing about underlying

Was this helpful?
+1

I am writing about underlying scientific aspects that your perspective is presenting. It is about the need for educational agreement on what the fundamental educational goal is and the scientific understanding of the natural way to implement the goal. If the agreed upon goal is the natural intellectual development of each child educator's need to understand that that is not the science base of the historic present educational experience. The basic scientific difference that you are presenting is the importance of student's internal motivation that project based experience can naturally provide. The growing educational awareness that there is any value in student internal motivation is a human evolutionary development that is beyond educational improvements. This evolutionary change is the result of scientific and technological developments of the past two centuries that have been gradually changing the human survival need from physical energy to intellectual energy. The historic educational process has been evolving for six thousand years as an externally motivated elimination process. The science that is the base for the present system is the science of the individual student's responses to the system external motivation. They are based upon their personal survival history. The educational problems are the result of each student's negative survival intellectual energy choices that are expressed or suppressed as a result of their perceived survival success. If the natural intellectual development of each child is the goal formal education needs to begin when intellectual consciousness begins it's natural development in the age span of 2 1/2 to 3. At that point the educational goal is to understand scientifically how to provide an environment that as positively as possible facillatates the natural positive internal development of that process. Any ability for humans to consciously implement an evolutionary change at this level is evolutionary in itself.

see more see less