Sunday, January 20, 2013

Projects As a Tool to Demonstrate Learning

Let's start by thinking about how students usually demonstrate their learning in a typical classroom.  The first thing that often jumps to my mind is TESTS!  

The students sit quietly at their desks, smiles on their faces, as they happily take one of those engaging paper-and-pencil tests.  They are so excited to show us what they have learned by answering those questions that they stayed up until midnight memorizing the night before.

 And the best part is, they still remember that information six months later, after they've repeated that process five more times.  Right? 

Uhhhhhhhhh, wrong.  While I concede that some students may fit the descriptions above, the majority of students do not!  So, how can we make assessment of student learning more engaging?

One way to do this is by allowing students to create projects to demonstrate their learning.  No, I am not proposing this should be the only way to assess students; however, I am advocating that it should be one way!

I've discovered that when students can choose a vehicle with which to show what they've learned, their engagement automatically increases.  

Often times, in my classroom, we give the students a list of learning expectations, and they get to decide a final project to show us they have met those expectations.  Here is a list of different projects the students often choose to demonstrate their learning:

  • Power Point Presentations
  • Posters
  • Books
  • Brochures
  • Mobiles
  • Dioramas
  • Documentaries
  • Rap/Song
  • Models
Yes, some students even choose to write reports, versus what may be considered the more creative outlets, and that is just fine!  

While the project is a way to engage the students' through the use of their creativity, it is ultimately not the end-all for the assessment.  Part of their score needs to be their ability to explain their learning.  As part of their project, the students also must choose an audience to present their learning to.  This can be a friend, a group of friends, the entire class, another adult in the building, another classroom, or even the whole school at one of our Celebrations of Learning!  

The student has to discuss her learning with us if we are unable to watch their presentation to their selected audience, but that typically only takes 3-5 minutes.  

When students get the opportunity to use a project to demonstrate their learning, in combination with an oral presentation to a selected audience, the likelihood of them remembering the information increases dramatically!  

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