As we think about ways to assess a student’s development authentically, we need to look at how they build teams for collaborative projects. This doesn’t necessarily mean we need to do away with assigning teams for certain projects, but watching children decide who they would like to work with shows us how well they understand their own skills and work habits, how well they are able to see potential teammates around them by choosing based on complementary strengths rather than on level of friendship, and how well they are able to negotiate within that team.
We already see some signs of this when we allow teams to be chosen. When children pick for academic projects, the children perceived as the brightest and hardest working are chosen first, while those who are slower or perceived as lazy or as cheaters are carefully avoided in the hopes another team will be stuck with them. When children pick for projects involving physical competition, the fastest and strongest are picked over those who would be better off cheering for the team on the sidelines. Children do size each other up, and they have an innate understanding of analyzing others for strengths and weakness and choosing them for a general, relevant strength.
But it’s just that. A general understanding. Often, what makes a child really strong isn’t always obvious or known to other students. Progressive school Quest to Learn works around this by having each child maintain a profile that shows what skills they have, what skills they’re working on, and where they stand in their skill development. Students looking to build a team for a project can then browse the profiles, looking for those students who have the skills they need to round out their team. These students are not only being taught to build the skills that they’re both good at and interested in, but they’re being taught to value that same insight in others, allowing them to build stronger teams well-suited to the task at hand.
Learning how to be honest with one’s self, how to fairly assess others, and how to build strong collaborative teams serves these students as they move through school and beyond into a society where collaborations are becoming more and more frequent, and more and more flexible. Those who are able to do all three of those tasks competently will be the ones who are more likely succeed.
And doesn’t that say more than any essay test ever could?