Thursday, July 8, 2010

Experimenting with Assessments

Last school year, I taught six sections of American Government. And I had very positive results with the projects I designed for the class. These resulted in multi media products, presentations, self-reflections and other unconventional means of assessment. Nevertheless, most of the assessment for the class was dominated by a variety of conventional quizzes and tests.

I ended the school year determined to shake this habit. Somewhat cautious (or perhaps practical) by nature, rather than tackle the entire course in one fell swoop, I decided to address the first unit. My first impulse, as usual, was to over-complicate everything. I tried to correct this, but I'm sure I will create plenty of confusion on the first go-round.

Here are the main features:

* Students choose from a menu of assessments.

* Within the conventional testing choices there are options.

* A project assessment (two choices) is available instead of some of the testing.

* A pass/fail pathway is available to a top grade.

* Students can stick with conventional testing if they (or their parents choose).

* Students will track their own progress toward their grades.

Possible Strengths

- The variety of assessments should allow for more individualized personal assessment.

- This should work well as a pilot-- With three classes in the Fall I will generate lots of feedback.

- I think I have come up with a couple of interesting multimedia ideas that are valid tests of authentic knowledge.

Possible Weaknesses

- By only sticking a toe in the water of alternative assessment, I may actually generate little enthusiasm for the alternatives.

- It's still likely to be pretty confusing for students, I'm afraid.

- I want to try this out early in the semester so that I can build upon it if I choose, but the earliness may only compound the confusion.

Please check out the plan. Feedback of any sort is welcome:

"Studying Hard" Flickr Creative Commons photo by Dean+Barb


Vicky said...

I like this idea, because the multimedia presentation gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge rather than just memorize it for a test and promptly forget it. For instance, I can still remember most of the information from my 4th amendment project in 10th grade, because I had to use that information to create a power point and present it to the class. Yet it would be a bit more difficult for me to remember some of the information I was only tested on. Of course that could be because that was over three years ago now.

However, I can see some parents having a problem with the change from having a students knowledge only assessed by a test. On the other hand, students who are not strong test takers will love the idea. Since there are different options, it would seem to me that there would be fewer struggling students.

It will definitely be an interesting experiment.

Ms. Smith said...


I like the idea of giving the students choice for the assessment. The criteria for the media project is clear. I have questions regarding the scoring. What is the rationale for having the media project pass/fail as opposed to using a rubric? Also, the difference between the "A" and "B" criteria does not seem significant. Is it true that you are building an incentive for the non-traditional methods by "forgiving" a portion of the test percentage?

Larry Baker said...

Thanks for the feedback Vicky and Ms. Smith. Vicky, I've found that parents are pretty supportive if the students know in advance how they will be assessed. Hopefully having options will lower rather than raise anxiety.

I probably have created incentives the media projects. I also think the idea of using rubrics is good. At this point I am concerned about weighing the entire enterprise down with complication.

More later!

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