Category Archives: 4.4 Assessing/Evaluating

Candidates design and implement assessment and evaluation plans that align with learning goals and instructional activities.

EdTech 542 Self-Evaluation

This class has been a challenge. Not because I do not understand Project Based Learning, but because I simply have not had time to process and create. I feel that the aspects of Project Based Learning that I understand best are the Driving Question and the Entry Event. The Driving Question is essential to PBL, because it guides the inquiry. Students should be required to dig into the material and come to their own conclusions. In order for this to happen, the question must be open-ended and not tied to a specific event or time period (if possible). The Entry Event is where you grab the students’ interest. If the Entry Event is not compelling, if the problem or project you present is not interesting, then Project Based Learning will not attract the students any more than direct instruction because the work will just seem like work.

I don’t think that there is anything about Project Based Learning that I don’t understand, but what has challenged me most is managing the process. I understand the concepts, but I know that I struggle with balancing direct instruction and independent learning. I tend to instruct too much or let the students have so much freedom that they don’t really know what to do. The key is to try to prepare as much of the material ahead as possible. I know my students will need some instruction on source citation and on research. I also know that they will need some guidance on organizing their notes. I can prepare materials in anticipation of their questions. Another key to my struggle with managing the process is time. I need to be sure that I have time to check the students’ work so that they can receive feedback. Formative assessments aren’t really formative if you never grade them. Because of time constraints in the past, that has actually happened. I hope that by preparing all of the rubrics ahead of time (I know; it’s obvious) I will be better prepared to evaluate the students’ progress and determine their needs as we progress through the project.

I came into this class without any real expectations about what I would learn, but I have learned so much. PBL is similar to Understanding by Design in many ways, so I was familiar with the process of backward design and driving, or essential, questions. What is different, is the focus on the project teaching the content, rather than demonstrating understanding of the content. Using the project to teach makes so much sense. As I read the class materials and the textbook, I realized that this was what I already believed. What I didn’t know was how to implement it. Having to create an organized website for someone else to use has helped me to focus and to plan ahead. If I had come up with my project ideas during the school year, not as part of a graded class, I would have jumped in and expected the students to figure things out with me, without any support materials in place – no rubrics, no templates, no instructions. I would have conducted an Entry Event and orally given the students directions. This is what I have done in the past. So having to create a project for a grade has forced me to slow down and plan out every aspect of the project before using it. I have learned to slow down and to plan ahead. I have learned to force myself to pay attention to the details. I am still plugging all of the details into my website, I have a lot of materials to create, but I feel more organized and my ideas feel more well-thought-out than in the past.

I plan to use my Lead an Expedition project with my students this year. We start school next week and will probably start the project in mid-September. We will not work exclusively on the project, because we need to spend time on literature as well, but I am excited to see how it plays out. Since this is supposed to be part of a larger, year-long project, I plan to work out the details for part II as soon as possible and possibly implement that part of the project this year. As a teacher leader at my school, I plan to encourage other teachers to work collaboratively with me to develop this project, and a couple of others I have in mind, into interdisciplinary projects. This particular project would work best with social studies, but I have a couple of ideas that would work well with science as well.

In all, this class has been invaluable to my education. I didn’t necessarily learn any new content, but I have learned to slow down and prepare in detail. Now I just need to learn to speed up the process of preparing materials.

Here is the link to my PBL website. I am still determining the overall project title, but I have renamed the Part I project to Lead an Expedition. If I have time, I may reorganize the site to separate the three projects that make up the larger, year-long project.

After PBL – Debriefing

Debriefing is an important part of the PBL process. Once a project is over, you need to analyze what worked and what did not. For instance, in planning my Create-a-Civilization project, I am unsure about the overall project timeline. So, assessing how well the project worked in my 3 month time frame will be part of my debriefing process. To determine whether the time frame is appropriate, I will look at what each student learned and was able to accomplish during the project, as well as solicit feedback from the students. Since I am not collaborating with another teacher on this project, I will ask for feedback from colleagues, but the student, and even parent, feedback will be more useful.

To begin the debriefing, I will ask students to write about how they felt about the project. Although I want this discussion to be as open-ended as possible, I will provide students with some questions to answer so that they don’t just say they liked it or didn’t like it and then not give any more input. I will ask the students to discuss how they felt about the amount of time provided, the access to resources to complete the project, the grouping strategies, and the materials provided. I will try to keep questions about these components as open-ended as possible.

On my own, I will look at the quality of the assessments, both formative and summative, and the students performance on those assessments. I will decide whether students needed more support, whether the assessments were clear and well-structured, and whether the assessments really assess the learning objectives.

Assessment of a PBL is not a one-time process. It should occur before and after you use the unit. I also think it is useful to reflect on the effectiveness of the PBL throughout the school year, each time the students are required to retrieve content knowledge or use skills that should have been learned during the unit. Is it an effective PBL unit if the students cannot replicate the skills months later? In order to keep a record of my reflections, I will probably create a hidden blog page on the PBL website. This will allow me to keep all of my materials for the PBL in one place. If I decide that my reflections would be useful to someone else, I will make the page public.

Managing the PBL process

As I include more project-based learning in my classroom, I will have to change the way I teach. I have always enjoyed having my students complete projects to learn, and I have required them to work in groups, but I haven’t always adequately prepared materials in advance of projects. One thing I will have to change about my teaching is that I will need to prepare far in advance. Rather than creating a rubric days before a project is due (or just grading without one), I will need to create, or include my students in creating, a rubric that spells out the requirements of the project, and I will need to create the rubric before introducing my students to the project through the entry event.

Another change that I will need to make for effective PBL to occur in my classroom, is that I need to be a better facilitator. In the past, I have over-helped student groups while moving around the room to check on them. Or, I have gone to the other extreme and completely ignored the students and graded papers while they worked. I will need to move around the room with purpose and be prepared to steer students in the right direction without over-directing or making decisions for them.

I believe that the project I am currently designing will be a good project for students to learn the skills they will need to complete other assignments. The purpose of the project is for students to practice research and writing skills, which are basic skills they would need to complete any future projects. I am hoping that this project will prepare my students for the rest of the school year. I plan to begin this project about 3 weeks into the school year, so my students will be well-prepared for future writing assignments. This project will also introduce my students to the themes of Need and Choice which we will use to examine literature throughout the year.

The main change I will need to make as a teacher, is to prepare ahead of time for projects. I often have an idea, usually of epic proportions, and I jump right into it the next day (or later the same day) without taking the time to prepare materials, decide upon final products, or determine its requirements. To be successful in using PBL as an instructional strategy, I will need to slow down, organize, and prepare in advance. Once a project is up and running I am usually adept at mentoring students in completing it, if it has been properly designed. So, the real change will be taking time to completely design projects in advance.

Here is the website for my current PBL, (currently titled) What do You Need?

School Evaluation Summary

Over the past 3 weeks I have had the opportunity to analyze my school’s technology plan. This was a difficult assignment because I have always been frustrated by my school’s lack of technology, or a real plan to acquire and use it, but the other teachers and administrators at my school, have been proud of how much technology we have. When I moved here from Idaho 10 years ago. the school I had been student teaching at had the same number of students at my current school. It also had 5 or 6 open computer labs and 5 or 6 classroom labs. Teacher computers were replaced every three years. I couldn’t understand why the situation was so different in my new district in California until I understood the demographics. 70% of the students at my school are on free or reduced lunch. That’s much larger than the school I was at in Idaho.

Regardless of income, a school can and should have a plan. I was embarrassed to look at my school’s plan, especially because I’m on the technology team, because there isn’t really a plan. California now ties funding to LCAP plans. Those plans include a technology plan and the state department of education has requirements about what a technology plan has to look like. My school’s plan looks nothing like that. It is really truly a list, with items crossed out and in different colored ink. We have a lot of work to do. I plan to mention our lack of a real plan at our technology team meeting this week. I’m not sure I’ll be very popular when I point out that we need to create a formal plan and invite parents and students to give input. If we don’t do those things, we can’t move forward.

Here is the link to my School Evaluation.

Here is my School Evaluation Survey.