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To give, or not to give exams based on project work?

A variety of formative assessment techniques.

Why explore alternative formative assessment techniques

 One of the leading experts on formative assessments, Dylan Wiliam, begins his book “Embedded Formative Assessment,” by saying:

 Educational achievement matters – more now than at any time in the past. It matters for individuals, and it matters for society. For individuals, higher levels of education mean higher earnings, better health, and increased life span. For society, higher levels of education mean lower health care costs, lower criminal justice costs, and increased economic growth.

 Why would Wiliam begin a book on assessments by referring to the societal consequences of the lack of education, you may ask? Because the more students are assessed on a limited number of skills (linguistic-logistic), the more most of these students will feel abandoned by the system and so, in turn, abandon that system, thereby severely limiting their own future possibilities.

 If, on the other hand, non-linguistic/logistic skills are valued appropriately, these students might stay in school, finish their studies, and continue to contribute to society as world citizens.

 That’s why project-based learning is so important: because it helps students to both develop all of their skills and to be honoured for these skills; whilst formative assessment of project-based learning creates a more accurate picture of a student’s proficiencies.

 What weight should we give formative assessment with regard to the final mark?

 Depending on the ratio you decide on with respect to scholastic as opposed to soft (i.e., OECD recommended) skills, the information you gather from formative assessment of project work could represent at least half of the overall mark your students receive at the end of a period of study.

 Similarly, the weight given to different formative assessment techniques may vary from project to project. In some of my classes, formative assessment may represent 75% of the final grade, whereas at other times, it may be valued as 50% of the final grade.

So, on to those formative assessment techniques…

1) Fist to Five

Students raise their hands to indicate …

 - I don't understand at all.
- I need to go over this again.
- I think I got it, but am not completely comfortable.
- I got it.
- I can explain it to someone else.

2) Need to Know List (Self-assessment tracker)

 Students indicate where they are in the criteria for any given part of the project … 

-

I worked with my group members effectively today and helped our group progress in the project.

-

I understand the connection between the Mini-Lesson and the Enquiry Question.

-

It is clear what I need to do in the time  between today’s session and the next session.

-

I can explain the academic language presented in this session to a classmate.

 
3) Quick check

- Thumbs up = I get it
- Sideways = I’m not quite sure
-  Thumbs Down = I don’t get it

4) Daily Sign-in

 On five consecutive days, students answer a higher-order thinking question you have posted on Padlet, other digital white board software, or on the classroom wall.

Depending on the progress the students have made in their groups, the answers to this  question may change. Here are some examples: 

- How would you explain the reasons why a river changes its course?
- Why do cells divide and join?
- If you lived in the Arctic Circle, what five types of animal would you be most likely to see and which five types of animal would you probably never see? Why?

 5) Choose the best answer

You’ve just given a quiz on one element of the project. Choose five different answers to one of the questions. Ask each group to choose the best answer and explain why they’ve chosen it.

 6)What did we learn today?

At the end of a session, you ask groups to compile a list of 5-10 things they learned that day. Each speaker shares their group’s list, making sure not to duplicate any items that another group has already mentioned. If an important element of the project is not mentioned by any group, you’ll have detected a good topic to create a Mini-Lesson on.

 Great! But what about group versus individual assessment?

 As teachers, we often receive more information from peer assessment than in any other way. Peer assessment can be carried out by students at almost any age.

 Below is a simple chart that students can fill in at the end of every session:

My name:

My contribution during this session was …

 

Patricia’s contribution during this session was:

 

Carlos’ contribution during this session was:

 

As a group, we completed the following objectives:

 

 Whatever technique you choose to employ, the regular use of formative assessment can substantially improve student achievement and give you the information you need to plan Mini-Lessons or other ways of helping your students move ahead. 

Good luck and let us know how these techniques have changed the results of the projects you’re working on! 

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