Resources for Assessment in Project-Based Learning

June 2, 2016

Project-based learning (PBL) demands excellent assessment practices to ensure that all learners are supported in the learning process. With good assessment practices, PBL can create a culture of excellence for all students and ensure deeper learning for all. We’ve compiled some of the best resources from Edutopia and the web to support your use of assessment in PBL, including information about strategies, advice on how to address the demands of standardized tests, and summaries of the research.

PBL Assessment Foundations

10 Tips for Assessing Project-Based Learning (Edutopia, 2011)This comprehensive guide from Edutopia goes over many best practices for assessment, including authentic products, good feedback, formative assessment, and digital tools. Teachers can use this as a professional learning tool and primer for PBL Assessment.

Embedding Assessment Throughout the Project (Keys to PBL Series Part 5) (Edutopia, 2014)Watch this video to discover how assessment can be integrated seamlessly into project-based learning to measure student understanding from the beginning to the end of a project:
Demonstrating Authentic and Rigorous Learning (Edutopia, 2015)Angela Haydel DeBarger describes research-based strategies for implementing PBL projects that are rigorous and engaging: the importance of having students create products that address the driving question, providing ongoing opportunities for feedback and reflection, and presenting work to an authentic audience.

Assessment and Project Based Learning: Frequently Asked Questions (New Tech Network, 2016) Explore responses to questions directed toward teachers in the field, in this post by Andrew Larson. You’ll find strategies for reporting on content and success skills; educators also describe the use of traditional assessments like quizzes and tests.

Practical PBL: The Ongoing Challenges of Assessment (Edutopia, 2012)High school teacher Katie Piper shares honest feedback about the challenges associated with assessing students fairly during the PBL process, where collaboration is key and critical. Some strategies include conducting individual assessment of team products, as well as “weighted scoring” and “role-based” assessment practices.

Going Gradeless: Student Self-Assessment in PBL (Edutopia, 2016)In this blog post, classroom teacher Matt Weyers explains how he shifted the conversation in his classroom from getting a grade to student learning. He shares his step-by-step plan and also the great results.

Expeditionary Assessment: PBL Lessons From Ron Berger (Getting Smart, 2013)Read about how PBL school model Expeditionary Learning approaches assessment within project-based learning, in this interview with Ron Berger. Berger emphasizes student ownership of the assessment process and references several videos of sample PBL project assessments.

PBL and Formative Assessment Practices

PBL Pilot: Formative Assessment in PBL (Edutopia, 2015)In another blog post from Matt Weyers, find great tips on using formative assessment within the PBL process to drive student learning. Weyers explains how to use the driving question to prompt reflection and the “Need to Know” to check for understanding.

How to Get High-Quality Student Work in PBL (Edutopia, 2013)John Larmer, editor in chief for the Buck Institute for Education, shares practical strategies to ensure students submit their best work, including reflective questions for teachers to use: questions around rubrics, formative assessment, authenticity, and time for revision and reflection. These assessment practices help students improve and share exemplary work.

Using Formative Assessment to Put Students on the Winning Streak (ISTE, 2015)Writer Suzie Boss explains how formative assessment within project cyles can empower students to learn more and experience more success. Along the way, she underscores the value of framing mistakes as learning opportunities, the excitement of risk-taking, and the importance of describing clear learning goals throughout a project.

PBL and Standardized Tests

The Challenge of Assessing Project-Based Learning (District Administration, 2012)In this article for District Administration, regular Edutopia blogger Suzie Boss tells the story of how schools are meeting the challenge of standardized tests and moving past the “bubble” exam; she also highlights how educators are overcoming fear and anxiety around assessing critical thinking and content.

Rigorous Project-Based Learning Transforms AP Courses (Edutopia, 2013)This Knowledge in Action research project from Edutopia and the University of Washington explores how well-designed PBL can meet, and in many ways, surpass what the AP exam assesses, including both content learning objectives and goals around 21st-century skills. The highlighted projects are from an AP Government class:

PBL and Standardized Tests? It Can Work! (Edutopia, 2012)Edutopia blogger Andrew Miller provides specific and practical strategies to address the demands of standardized tests while doing great PBL projects. In addition to embedding standardized tests prompts within the project, Miller suggests implementing PBL projects where they fit, targeting power standards, and examining standardized tests to see what students will need to be successful. Because these projects are powerful learning tools, there’s no need to wait for testing season to get started.

PBL Assessment Research

Project-Based Learning Research Review: Evidence-Based Components of Success (Edutopia, Updated 2015)Read about PBL assessment that supports student success in this page from Edutopia’s comprehensive research review on project-based learning.

Knowledge in Action Research Helping to Make the Case for Rigorous PBL (Edutopia, 2013)Winner of 2013 NCSS Award for Exemplary Research, this project examined the whole story, from start to finish, of implementing PBL in AP Courses, the project shown in the video above. This piece goes in-depth into the results and research.

BIE Research on Project-Based Learning (Buck Institute for Education)The Buck Institute for Education has compiled, as well as conducted, comprehensive research on PBL. Many of the studies shared on this page specifically address assessment practices and results.
We hope these resources on PBL Assessment help ensure that students learn not only content but also the skills they need to be “future ready.” Use these ideas and tools to alleviate concerns you have around assessment and PBL and to support the design of effective PBL projects.

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