As a teacher for the past ten years, I have discovered that testing only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to assessing student achievement. Even when it comes to giving a grade, there are still other ways of assessing student achievement. I sometimes feel that schooling has put way too much emphasis on testing and grading. There is less emphasis on the process of learning skills that will benefit the students outside of school and home situations. This is a problem. Therefore, I would like to discuss alternative ways to assess student achievement at its maximum potential.
Alternative Ways to Assess Student Achievement: #1 Project-Based Learning (PBL)
PBL is my go-to tool that I have been using for the past year or two. It is one of the best ways to get the students involved in the learning process in an engaging way. The great thing about PBL is that students can apply the skills they learn while doing PBL in real-life situations.
For example, if a student had a project that required them to create a podcast about the effects of too much homework on student well-being, it would help them in areas of researching the topic, creating the audio, editing it, then posting it, and sharing it with their class. These types of skills are becoming more and more relevant and would help students to become more confident. The students are still assessed on their final product but the focus is more on the process rather than the end goal.
Another aspect working in PBL’s favor is that it often encourages collaboration depending on the projects. For my classes, I like using collaboration because it incorporates many 21st century skills. Solving highly complex problems requires that students have both fundamental skills (reading, writing, and math) and 21st century skills (teamwork, problem-solving, research gathering, time management, information synthesizing, utilizing high tech tools) (Edutopia, 2007). All of the skills mentioned before are essential in today’s world. The students’ future will be better the more they go about developing these skills through collaborative activities like PBL.
Alternative Ways to Assess Student Achievement: #2 Discussions and Writing Reflections
Discussions are another way to establish a sense of how much a student understands and how much they may accomplish. It is essential to listen attentively to the student discussions. Then offer advice or guide the discussion so it stays on topic. Of course, a teacher cannot do this when it is a group discussion where the teacher is not involved. An important part of the teacher’s routine is to have group and class discussions. Students will open up if they are in a group with close friends. Compare this to having a class discussion where they may be a bit shy to express their thoughts in front of the whole class. Group discussions give the students more time to talk as the group is much smaller than the whole class.
The other aspect is reflections which are very personal and usually happen on an individual level. Written reflections are one of my favorite tools to use for students to open up about what they learned, how they felt about it, what they did well, and what they could improve on. By writing a reflection, it becomes permanent. This means a student can refer to their reflection at any time in the future to reflect even deeper on the topic. I would encourage anyone to practice writing reflections.
Recommended Reading: How to Take Smart Notes by Sonke Ahrens & My Zettelkasten Method
Alternative Ways to Assess Student Achievement: #3 E-Portfolios
The last aspect I would like to cover is e-portfolios. This is something I recently started practicing in my classroom. I have personally been documenting my own learning process, strategies, and theories on a blog that I have had since 2018. It is a place where I can showcase all of the things I have learned and created over the years. It has helped me to remember so much more than if I had done nothing. So I have adapted my own personal experiences with blogging and created a blogging-styled e-portfolio for my students to also keep track of what they have learned, researched, recorded thoughts, and any unique strategies or theories of their own within their e-portfolio.
Edutopia. (2007, October 19). Why Is Project-Based Learning Important? Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-guide-importance
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