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Teacher Hub: Performance Based Assessments

A recent article in Ed Week discusses how a teacher in 1989  worked to create an engaging lesson for his students. He brought someone in with a summons for William Golding (Lord of the Flies) to court. The students then took on the roles of lawyers, dressing in suits and ties, prepping for court, etc. The culminating project was the trial. This was the final assessment for the book. Not an essay, not a multiple choice exam – an engaging project. Again – this happened in 1989!

So what happened? Performance based assessments are not nearly as popular or successful as they should be! Yes, standardized testing and the ‘teach to the test’ argument is alive and well. It is a stress that we all know too well. But is that a reason to not integrate performance based assessments? Can’t we prepare our students for success in more than one way? We believe you can! And, you can even give the students more choice and say in the matter.

Now more than ever, students need to become problem solvers. Fear not – the multiple choice questions and essays will still be around on those standardized tests. Whether you are teaching math or social studies, project based assessments are more than possible. Take the opportunity to pose a ‘problem’ to the class. It needs to be a problem that the students are invested in and is realistic. From there, give the students some options in solving the problem – or don’t put any parameters on the project and give the students creative license.

When we say “don’t put any parameters on the project,” we don’t mean to just let the students go. Give them requirements of what to address and questions to answers. But when it comes to the mode, there is no need to direct them to use a powerpoint or create a website. You may even find that they have more creative ways of presenting information than you do. We’ve seen students create movies, start podcasts, and even write songs. Let them immerse themselves in their passion, while also learning something new. Crazy right? And to think, some teachers in the 80’s were doing it!

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