Content Creation Based Assessment

We just had our first alternative assessment for our unit on functions. Alternative assessments are getting traction as educators look for new ways for students to demonstrate their learning in place of traditional tests.

The Problem With Implementing Authentic, Project Based Assessments
When I started out teaching, I really struggled to design alternative assessments that were an accurate reflection on what the student could actually do. There were so many instances of students having a parent or tutor doing the work for them. For group projects, often the alpha student would lead the discussion, work and the beta students would follow suit; their lack of in-depth understanding only to be highlighted after a final test. I've seen more than my share of differentiated project based monstrosities that are more of a reflection of student's interests rather than the intended learning standards. I've had to give many a student a sad appraisal of their tech infused creation because although it looked flashy, it failed to communicate essential understandings.

Infusing 21st Century Skills with Learning
The real challenge is to design a project with all learning standards in mind, not just a narrow swath. We remember 90% of what we teach to others and one of our school's 21st century skills is to develop students who are content creators, not merely regurgitators. I took these standards:

  1. Which best represents the graph of y = 2x − 5? Standard 3.3
  2. Students solve simple linear equations and inequalities over the rational numbers Standard 4.2
  3. Graph linear functions, noting that the vertical change (change in y-value) per unit of horizontal change (change in x-value) is always the same and know that the ratio (“rise over run”) is called the slope of a graph. Standard 3.3
  4. Plot the values of quantities whose ratios are always the same (e.g., cost to the number of an item, feet to inches, circumference to diameter of a circle). Fit a line to the plot and understand that the slope of the line equals the ratio of the quantities. Standard 3.4 
  5. Solve two-step linear equations and inequalities in one variable over the rational numbers, interpret the solution or solutions in the context from which they arose, and verify the reasonableness of the results. Standard 4.1
  6. Graph functions of the form y = nx 2 and y = nx 3 and use in solving problems. Standard 3.1 
  7. Graph linear functions, noting that the vertical change (change in y-value) per unit of horizontal change (change in x-value) is always the same and know that the ratio (“rise over run”) is called the slope of a graph. Standard 3.3
 and wrapped them into a project rubric like this:

Graphing Linear Functions Rubric

Near the end of my unit, I had a set up a station wherein students could record themselves solving a function. I asked them if they want a standard, advanced, or highly advanced level problem to allow for challenge by choice which makes the curriculum accessible and challenging for mixed ability classroom.

Using a simple document camera, students recorded their own instructional video on how to solve a function which they could upload to the school's or their own personal "You Tube" account.The practice allows students to build their digital footprint and market their own brand.

Alternatives to traditional testing are giving some variety of how students might demonstrate educational objectives. Although I still do use traditional testing methods, I find them quite dry and uninspiring. I may be happy with my class for having well on a test which supports good teaching, scaffold, etc, I always find myself asking: "What are students going to do with this skill and knowledge?".

Education needs a makeover and we need to design ways that students don't merely learn something to appease the teacher. Student learning should be shared with the world, inspire others and not be confined to only the teacher and select students. Through web networking tools, student blogs, students can share their learning with a greater audience. They can use their knowledge and skills to help others, solve problems and apply creative solutions in a way that traditional tests can never do.

As much as I liked this project, I think that the document camera is on it's way out. It's limiting to have only 1 recording device for my students to all cycle through. We just got our first IPad cart up and running yesterday and already the students are creating videos like this with the app "explain it to me" as mini formative-lessons for others:

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