OnHand Schools Home


Assessment or Project Based Learning? ... BOTH!

Dec 03, 2013

As I sit at my desk and reflect on the types of assessments I had in school growing up, I see bubble sheets, essay tests in blue booklets and PSSAs. However, it never really occurred to me that the fun projects we did in school were, in fact, assessments. Those type of assessments, to me, were fun and exciting-

Project Based Learning

a time to work with friends or show everyone my crafty capabilities [move out of the way Pinterest]; I never really viewed projects as tests. Thinking back on it, those were probably the most helpful types of assessments. Sure I can memorize like the best of them, but then have issues recalling those facts months down the line. Those projects, however, were the ones where I took ownership. Not only to make the project look awesome, but to know what it was about. NEWSFLASH: These projects have a name: Project Based Learning or Cornerstone Tasks.

Now I know what you’re thinking, DUH! Project based learning has been around for ages. Sure it has. If you want to get specific; in 1897, John Dewey promoted this very notion with his idea of “learning by doing.” Essentially, his thoughts were to introduce constructive activities that let the students apply what they know to solve problems and produce results. Today, Project Based Learning is basically the same thing. There are two mindsets around PBL; 1. Learning by doing- Actually going out to a location, viewing, experiencing, actually do said task at hand, OR 2. Completing in-depth projects, rather than formative or summative assessments, that assess learning. Both options require more planning on the teacher’s part, obviously, but in the end, the students benefit tremendously.

We try to assess students with what, true false? Multiple choice? The dreaded essay- and by dreaded I not only mean for students but for teachers alike, who honestly wants to sit down for 4 hours and grade essays… yuck. But seriously, don’t our students get enough multiple choice tests with standardized assessments? Memorize a bunch of facts, spit it all up once you take the test, then forget it in time for the next one. I know assessments are necessary- but they don’t always have to be pencil and paper. Why not challenge our students to think outside the box? Full circle? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather grade a project than a paper.

So where do you start? GOOGLE. There are so many resources at our fingertips. Pinterest, Blogs, Colleagues. You pick. The options are endless. How do you get started? Pick a topic. What are you trying to have your students master? Come up with an essential question and your learning goals. Carefully choose the standards you are going to be assessing with the project. Now design your project. Come up with a few ideas- talk to your fellow teachers- see what they think. You can even let there be an option for student project ideas- as long as you approve of course. OK- the hard part- DO THE PROJECT YOURSELF. What better way to see what goes into the project, than you doing it? You may want to create a project plan- that you and your students can follow the plan during the project. Also, create a timeline for your project with provisional deadlines and check-ins for your students. Lastly, plan out your assessment. Write your rubric. Consider self-assessment as well as peer-assessments in addition to your own assessment of the project. One thing you have to remember during this process: be flexible. Your students may open your eyes on some changes or other ideas regarding the project. See how it goes, play it by ear, don't be afraid to stray from your norm.

Be on the lookout for more on Project Based Learning to come!

Category: Tips

About The Author

Ashley Bartko