Assessment Matters

October 21, 2013

Teachers often ask our school coaches, “What does assessment look like in PBL?”  Clearly it would be a mistake to cut students loose and 3 weeks later hold them accountable to the rubric.  Continuous assessment matters in PBL and the type of assessments depends on what phase of the project you are in. In the launch of the project, you are checking to make sure student understand the project and have enough breadcrumbs to start their own research.  In the early phase, it’s important to know the teams are getting themselves organized and that they are headed in the right direction.  In the middle of the project, you are assessing how well the students are learning the material and understanding how it applies to the project.  Near the end, the focus of your assessment is around the rubric and making sure students have mastered the material well enough to produce a thoughtful product with lots of opportunity for feedback.  During the culminating event, use the rubrics to measure the final product, their communication skills, and the collaboration skills.

Key Considerations:

  • Most assessment in PBL environment is formative not summative.  Not everything has to end up in the grade book to be valuable.  Ungraded assignments can help students be less afraid of being creative, experimenting, and failing.
  • Always balance individual assignments with group tasks so that individuals still have a measure of accountability.
  • It is just as important to assess the process of PBL as the unit’s academic content.  As a teacher, you should know if the students are struggling to work effectively as a team, if they are unclear what their next steps are, if their research is unproductive, or if they are managing their time.
  • The clearer your rubrics are and the more you provide opportunities for students to revisit the rubric, the better your student will perform against your criteria.
  • Always allow time for students to deeply reflect upon and articulate what they learned in the course of the project both academically and personally.  Asking students to communicate what they might do differently next time is a great way to prepare them for the next project.