Projects/Presentations as Assessment
What is important about using projects and performances to check for understanding? In what ways are projects and performances sometimes misused in the classroom? How might you use projects and performances in your teaching?
Projects and performances are an extremely useful assessment tool for the sheer memorable qualities they possess. I still to this day remember my fourth grade History Project. I remember spending hours upon hours cutting paper, doing research, writing, drawing, coloring, and pasting- all in order to create a model of the Alamo. I still remember the effort I put into preparing, I still remember the commitment with which I pursued the project’s completion, and I still remember the amazing feeling of accomplishment I relished in for the two weeks following my presentation. One can easily forget writing a paper or taking a test, but it is not so with a project. Therefore, the possibilities of checking for understanding within project-based work are endless. The students will be excited with the material, they will put forth a great deal of effort in their work, they will even use all the knowledge previously learned so as to better prepare themselves for their presentation; meanwhile, a teacher can be assessing their performance. By using projects and performances as an assessment tool, teachers not only provide their students with opportunities for personal creativity, they also allow teachers to better understand their students’ minds.
All too often, projects are misused. Too many teachers focus on providing their students with the opportunity for personal creativity and intuition, ignoring the actual purpose behind performance-based assessment. Projects must be research and material driven, meaning one must be required to soak with the subject matter before being able to create the piece. The more thinking a student puts into his/her project, the more academic growth he/she will experience. If the performance is too open, too vague, students will take advantage of the opportunity presented and not truly resonate with the knowledge they may gain from an appropriate reflection of the material. Therefore, teachers must always strive to create specific, functional, purposeful projects. Only then will students not only creatively respond to the material, but will also learn the material!
In my teaching, I hope to create projects that are competitive. I firmly believe in the healthy attempt to prove one’s learning over another. Performances where the top-three (as graded by the class) receive extra credit, projects with some kind of prize involved, or public competitions (science fair, Washington middle school History Day, etc) all entice students to actively participate and put forth their best effort. This not only encourages students to engage in the project, but also improves the overall learning of the class and allows me to better assess their growth.