When I read the following
Seven Principles for Developing Performance Assessments
by J.S. McTighe
- Establish Clear Performance Targets
- Strive for Authenticity in Products and Performances
- Publicize Criteria and Performance Standards
- Provide Models of Excellence
- Teach Strategies Explicitly
- Use On-Going Assessments for Feedback and Adjustment
- Document and Celebrate Success
I thought this writer has hit the nail on the head for elementary students. We often want to step back and allow the students’ creativity to flow and this is true, but we must teach them first what our expectations are and show them what quality looks like. Then step back and let them work. When a child does good work, celebrate it and show it as an additional model of good work. This is also where when a student does not work up to the rigor expected that a teacher’s relationship with her students is critical. A teacher must work to establish the right culture and be ultra sensitive to her students’ feelings yet be able to give constructive feedback. When students understand that we learn sometimes even more from our mistakes than from doing it right, when it is safe to collaborate and let the room be the smartest one in the room, in this safe environment is where true learning will flourish. Allowing students to make improvements by giving ongoing feedback is another way to help assure students work will be the students best.
When developing our assessments, we established a lot of opportunities for continuous collaboration and feedback. In the Reflective Learning Log, we plan to meet with the students and brainstorm the process, discuss and share ideas and questions. The students will then write about the brainstorm session and add plans or further questions to their log. This will allow the teacher and peers and opportunity to offer assistance if needed. We even included a practice presentation of the cumulative product giving the opportunity to make changes prior to final submission. Since the entire process is back and forth between teachers, students, and peers, students will be active in the entire evolution of their own project and will have repeated opportunities to see how others solve the problem in a different way.
As a first-time PBL teachers, I know there will be things that will need to be adjusted and altered as we go. To be a good teacher it is important that you don’t wait until you know it all to do it. You will never innovate, create, or have a significant learning environment if you are not willing to take risks. Model this for your students, do your best to create a working PBL, but when you find something not working, remember, the smartest person in the room is the room, even if most of them are 8, you will be pleasantly surprised at the groups’ solutions.