As I’ve mentioned repeatedly along this journey through the PLE, the practical classroom example is the class project, regardless of what form it takes. Class projects are a double-edged sword for teachers. On the one hand, many teachers spend years developing and refining project assignments to reflect the material they’re teaching, and the products they want to see result from the project. On the other, we’ve mistaken schools for factories, turning out perfect little drones. Granted, schools are fighting back and trying to create a space for practical, relevant projects, but they’re fighting against a growing sea of constraints in terms of standards, time, and available resources.
That’s a problem.
Class projects are great because they often not only show off what a student has learned about the specific topic being studied, but what the student has carried over from other subjects, from previous years, and even from their outside activities. (Teachers can forget this sometimes in trying to get through everything on their plate.) And in a classroom situation, the project is one very visible means of assessment. Students are typically judged on the content in their project, how they present the project (as in display or associated talk), and how well-done their project appears to be visually.
That’s all well and good, and when done correctly can give a teacher a really good idea of what knowledge the student utilized while working on the project.
But class projects aren’t the only way for students to demonstrate what they know. There is there other fallback – presentations, where a student completes research, develops a paper, diorama, poster, or slide deck. Peer teaching in small groups or one-on-one is a fantastic way to see where students are in their development. Engaging students in open discussions can also be enlightening as it shows off not only how familiar with the material a student is, but how they’re processing and connecting with it.
As we prepare students to take their place in this digitally-enriched world, blogs, social media, and the various creative platforms can also be incorporated into the assessment system. As students write and produce, as they interact and engage with each other and the wider online world, they show off their skills, their understanding of their skills, and their ability to express their knowledge about what they know.
The fact is, we have many tools at our disposal, many of which are really more authentic and more revealing than quizzes and tests. We just have to find the right ways to incorporate them into our teaching processes (especially since our students are already using them as part of their learning process).