I’m still gathering information on project-based learning. My colleagues have approved a redesign of an interdisciplinary major, and the “culminating experience” course for seniors is changing from the traditional thesis to a research-based project. The course requires that each student’s project be problem solving-oriented, deliver a defined outcome with measurable effects, and be presented to the public.
Edutopia, a part of the George Lucas Education Foundation, has produced a very helpful guide on how to assess project-based learning. The guide is one example of how Edutopia is generating a tremendous amount of data-driven recommendations on active learning based on field testing in the K-12 environment. A simple example is the teaching of financial literacy to socioeconomically-disadvantaged students in Chicago.
Here, briefly, are the guide’s ten tips:
- Authentic, reality-based final products provide students with better ways to demonstrate what they have learned.
- Incorporate and assess “soft” skills, such as creative problem-solving and global awareness, to better prepare students for the future challenges they will face.
- When incorporating project-based learning into curricula, learn what the “big thinkers” in the field have to say about assessment.
- Because students will often be working on different tasks at different times, use formative assessment to ensure that students are mastering content and that students’ project development stays on track.
- Provide students with just-in-time feedback, in part to give them frequent opportunities to reflect on their reflecting.
- Teach strategies for effective collaboration, because students usually don’t know how to work well as part of a team.
- Embed assessment methods into the students’ use of digital tools; for example, an evaluated online discussion can result in greater participation among students who are reluctant to speak in the classroom.
- Provide students with an external audience; they will be more motivated to produce good work and will need to respond to challenging questions and criticism.
- Expand your repertoire of assessment methods and strategies through the free “do it yourself” professional development that is available on the Internet.
- Team up with colleagues — they are facing the same assessment-related demands you are.