Assessment & Project Based Learning

Student achievement is measured in a variety of ways in Project Based Learning.  Of course the end product is the most important, but we cannot solely focus on it.  We must acknowledge that meaningful learning takes place throughout the project.  In PBL students learn more than just content.  They learn how to work with others, solve problems, clearly present ideas, and learn from mistakes.  Assessment in PBL acknowledges not only what the student has learned, but also how they learned it so that they can use it again in the future.  

The first step in effective assessment is to establish clear performance targets.  In my project, My Dream Playground, students are presented with a driving question or problem to solve from the beginning.  I have also outlined the subject area content standards that will be addressed in the project and created summative assessment rubrics that list my expectations for the final project model and presentation.  Throughout the project, students collaborate with their group members as they complete pieces of the project and they reflect on their work as they complete their group project checklist and learning logs.  Weekly feedback will be provided to the individual students and groups to help them stay on track, and improve their work so that they can be successful with the final product.  

Each group’s final playground model and presentation will be there own.  They will be given criteria for what makes a good project, discuss the qualities of good work with their classmates and me, and be provided with examples of exemplary projects.  However, in the end, they will use their own ideas and work together to create their model and presentation and no two projects will be exactly the same.

In order to meet the math standards for this project, the students will be taught how to measure, and find area and perimeter in a hands on way. We will do this by using the math worksheets I created and going out to the playground location to answer the questions.  Formative assessments of these worksheets and weekly quizzes will help me figure out who is understanding the concepts and who needs more help as the project progresses.    

When this project is finished, we will all reflect on its successes.  I will fill out an evaluation for how I felt the project went.  My students will also complete a self evaluation and peer evaluation and also reflect on the project as a whole–what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they learned, etc.   

My students have not had a whole lot of experience with self and peer evaluation.  I will need to spend time teaching my students how to take ownership of their own learning and take pride in their work.  We will also need to discuss constructive criticism and how to offer suggestions to others as they work on their projects and presentations.  I created a rubric for the peer evaluation of the practice presentations, but I would rather use that rubric as a teaching point with the students and have them help me edit it to make it their own once we have completed lessons on self and peer evaluation.   

What is Project Based Learning?

 

Project Based Learning is an instructional method where students actively work for an extended period of time to investigate and solve a real-world question, problem, or challenge in order to obtain knowledge and skills.  Students work with a partner or small group to perform research, present the material they have learned in the form of a project, and obtain feedback for their learning (BIE, n.d.).  

Project based learning and problem based learning have many similarities, but also some subtle differences.  Larmer (2015) identifies these differences between project based learning and problem based learning:

  • Project based learning often incorporates many subjects. Problem based learning most often applies to one subject.
  • Project based learning may take weeks or months.  Problem based learning tends to be shorter.
  • Project based learning has many steps.  Problem based learning has specific steps.
  • Project based learning includes the creation of a product in some form.  The final product in problem based learning can be a product or a proposed solution in written form or as a presentation.
  • Project based learning uses real world scenarios and tasks.  Problem based learning uses case studies or fictitious scenarios for investigation.   

Teachers should consider incorporating project based learning into the classroom because it moves students away from using rote memorization of information to pass a test.  After memorizing information for the test, students tend to forget what they have learned.  The hands on approach of project based learning capitalizes on student interest and provides real-world scenarios in order for them to obtain skills and knowledge.  Project based learning prepares students for the real world beyond their education.  It teaches students how to think critically, collaborate with others, and effectively communicate what they have learned to a larger audience.     

The Buck Institute for Education (n.d.) includes these essential components as part of project based learning:

  • The project should be focused on student learning based on content standards and skills including critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.   
  • The project should be focused on addressing the answer to a problem, question, or challenge.
  • Students should seek answers to questions through inquiry, research, and application.
  • The projects should have real world applications.
  • Students should have a voice in the project.  They can choose how they work and what they create.  
  • Students and teachers should reflect on learning including the effectiveness of the inquiry, the project activities, the quality of work, obstacles that were encountered and how they were overcome.
  • Students should give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process or products.
  • Students should publicly display or present their project to people outside of the classroom.

 

Larmer, J. (2015, July 13). Project-based learning vs. problem-based learning vs. x-bl. In edutopia. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pbl-vs-pbl-vs-xbl-john-larmer

What is project based learning (PBL)?. (n.d.). In BIE. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl