Initially, my students see assessment as a way teachers judge and penalize students, often with a swipe of their red pens. It takes time in the classroom to help students see assessments are a way for both of us to see what they have learned.
First, looking at ideas from “What Kids Can Do”, assessment is for the students, not the teachers. It should be useful for the students, which is why assessment should not just happen as the summative event of a unit, when their assessment results are too late to allow them to correct their errors of understanding. In my American Literature PBL on Puritans, the students will take a reading quiz on each text as many times as needed, ensuring they have a foundational understanding of the texts to be analyzed. Additionally, students will participate in a digital discussion, and conference with a peer group and me before they finalize the information they will put in their presentation, the summative assessment for the unit. The students will have multiple times to evaluate their understanding of the material and adjust before the final assessment grade is given.
Secondly, assessment focuses on the work students do along the way, not just assigning a grade of the product at the end. In this PBL that will occur in the discussion, individual learning log, and conferences.
Thirdly, assessment should be public. One formative assessment in the Purtan PBL that particularly addresses this idea is the digital discussion. It will take place in a shared Google Doc that will be projected on the screen at the front of the classroom. Docs allow the students, and instructor, to see who has answered specific questions. Students will have access to this discussion at any time, so when they are working on their Puritan presentation, they can go back to the discussion, look at a particular answer, and the discuss that response with the student who originally wrote it, essentially keeping the discussion information active even after it is complete.
Finally, assessment encourages students to reflect and question. This sometimes means a teacher’s expectations may need to change from what he/she originally planned for a unit or assessment. General Patton said, “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking,” and for the classroom, this means the teacher needs to think of the students as givers of important ideas and views. Ultimately, that can allow the students to create the rubric that is being used to assess their products. The Puritan PBL will be the first unit the students will begin, happening within the first week of class. For that reason, even while students’ ideas for change will always be considered by me, the students will not be creating the grading rubric because we will still be establishing expectations for the class. However, I will have the students write project rubrics throughout the year, like the Humans of Granville project in the poetry unit.