Posted by Andrew K. Miller on May 31, 2013 in ASCD, Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on ASCD Express, a regular ASCD Publication focused on critical topics in education. This article appeared in Vol 8. Issue 12, the focus topic being assessment that makes sense. View Original >
People play games for many reasons, but a major reason is that games are designed in specific ways to ensure that you keep playing. You are challenged at just the right level while being given enough scaffolding to continue trying. This creates the “flow” where engagement is maximized. We take these, as well as other game mechanics, for granted, when in fact we should look to them as models of instruction and assessment. Here are three big lessons we can take from games to improve our classroom assessment practices.
1. Mastery and Freedom to Fail
Allowing yourself to fail is probably one of the most important and best things games do in terms of effective assessment. When you make mistakes in a game, you are given as many opportunities as you need to successfully complete the level. If your player dies in Super Mario Brothers, you simply start over at the level at which you left off. In other words, you are given freedom to fail until you are successful. Many of our antiquated assessment practices in education do not do this. We rely on points and weights to try to create an elaborate grade book that seems balanced. But in fact, it still punishes students for making mistakes in the learning process. Just like in games, we need to reward our students for their best work and give them multiple formative assessments that allow them to try and fail in a safe space, where mastery is truly valued.
2. “Just In Time” Feedback
Games give you feedback immediately. For those of us who play Angry Birds, we often fail a level, but we know why we failed—the game lets us know our mistakes up front. Although we’re informed of our failure by a crass “You Lose!” phrase that appears across the screen, we know that we have failed and can reflect on how we need to make adjustments in our game play in order to be successful. You don’t find out three hours later that you lost; you know immediately. Although it often takes time to give high-quality, lengthy feedback, we can prioritize feedback on a targeted instruction area to be given immediately. Technology can be a useful aid in sending or noting a quick response to an assignment. Formative assessments also allow for quick check-ins to note progress or needed adjustments.
3. Assessment of 21st Century Skills
Although many games do not assess the formal content in our classroom, such as world history, writing skills, or physics, they do assess crucial 21st century skills that can go overlooked in traditional classroom assessments. For example, Halo involves players both playing solo and working in pairs or teams to defeat enemies and conquer stages. Defeating these enemies requires not only strategic thinking and problem solving, but also creativity, collaboration, and communication. If you play a multiplayer contest and win, you have shown that you can collaborate and strategize in teams, and the game play is designed to assess these skills. In our classrooms, we can create rubrics and align student products to assess the same skills that games do, thereby valuing not only content, but also 21st century skills.
To really push the envelope of games as assessment tools, consider using them as a formative or summative assessment. It might make educators uncomfortable to trust games as rigorous assessments, but in fact, we often trust games as the best assessment tools. Stanford professor James Paul Gee captures this concept best: “If a student plays Halo on hard … and beats it, would you be tempted to give that student a Halo test?” The answer, of course, is no. The game was designed to demand that the player met specific, rigorous goals. We trust the game to accurately assess those goals. Well-designed educational games can be great assessment tools, or more generally, we can borrow from game design to improve classroom assessment practices.
This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >
Many schools are making major changes in structures and professional development to make sure teachers are implementing effective project-based learning (PBL) schoolwide. I’ve been honored to be part of that journey with many schools. I have seen many different kinds of PBL schools, and with it, many kinds of PBL projects. This work has also reaffirmed the belief that the principal is one of the cornerstones to effective PBL implementation. We know this! This is not new news, but because PBL is a change in the paradigm of curriculum and instruction, it means that implementation has unique strategies and challenges as well. Here are some straightforward ways I have seen principals at PBL schools lead toward excellent PBL implementation.
Create the Buy-In
It’s easy to jump right in and start PBL trainings and professional development, but this alone will not create the momentum. Some of the best schools I have worked with spend a lot of time creating the buy-in before even starting training or professional development. I’ve seen principals organize school visits to great PBL schools as well as debrief the process. I’ve also seen principals allow teachers to read short articles of blogs at staff meetings and create inquiry questions so that staff can explore and learn what they want about PBL. This requires a “hands-off” approach by the principal to truly honor teacher questions and concerns. If considerable time is given to this buy-in process, a principal can lead as a guide to bring teachers to a PBL implementation that will work for them and their schools.
Model the PBL Process in Professional Development
Whether using the inquiry-circles method for investigating a problem practice or setting up a driving question aligned to school goals, principals can easily model some or all of the aspects of the PBL process. Principals might present a problem of practice to a team of teachers, have them investigate, and then have them present their information and solutions to other teachers and stakeholders. “Need to know” lists might live in the staff room or virtually, where all can access the list, ask questions, and provide answers. Additionally, protocols that are used for student revision can be used by teachers to receive ongoing feedback on their projects. Through modeling, principals can built trust and also help ground teachers in the PBL process.
Create PBL Projects
If you want teachers to believe you “get it,” know what it feels like to create a rigorous PBL project, and know the essential elements of design, then you must create a PBL project. Principals can show efficacy by creating, revising, and reflecting on PBL projects they design and implement. As teachers build their projects, principals should build with them and participate in the professional development and training. Principals will not only learn more about PBL but also build relationships and create a culture of revision and reflection with faculty and staff.
Set Clear Expectations for Projects
It’s important to start small, but this can look different from school to school. Some teachers are more ready for project-based learning than others. Some schools have structures that allow for easy collaboration and integration of subject areas. All of these factors contribute to making reasonable goals for the number of PBL projects in the first year as well as the level of integration. Set these goals with the input of teachers and be clear to all on the rationale.
Although these suggestions for leading PBL might seem basic, they are sometimes overlooked in the process or sometimes seen as not needed. I feel that as an instructional leader, it is critical for the principal leading a PBL change to model these attributes by creating meaningful buy-in, modeling the process, creating projects, and setting reasonable goals that come from experience in PBL. These are just the first steps in a long journey of growth for the PBL principal, teacher, and school.
Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Apr 8, 2013 in ASCD, Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original
When I work with educators on their professional development needs, rubrics frequently come up as something that teachers want to understand better and be able to find quickly and easily from a variety of sources for immediate use in the classroom. Often, however, rubrics found on the Internet are not of good quality—they may not be grounded in learning targets or the language may be too vague and confusing for students. The good news is that there are many great resources and tips out there to build your own rubrics. Here are some ideas to start.
Use Common Rubrics. For some students, school is one of the few stable routines in their young lives. Let’s support this safe and supportive culture by using common rubrics across subject areas or grade levels. This will help to ensure that each teacher is looking at student work objectively and lets students know that the expectations are the same regardless of the classroom. These common rubrics might be based in content or even 21st century skills. Students will appreciate these common expectations and common language around learning.
Decide Between Checklists or Rubrics. I used to fall into the trap of having too many numbers in my rubrics. I listed different numbers of sources, sentences, and so on, under each level, from approaching to exceeding a standard. Numbers don’t indicate quality. Focus on quality indicators when creating rubrics. However, if students need to have a specific number of something as a nonnegotiable, then create a checklist for them. Ask yourself, is this better on a checklist or a rubric?
Use Them! Rubrics are useless unless you use them. Why do students often throw them away or lose them? Because they don’t see the value in them as a learning tool! It is critical to have students use a rubric for an entire curriculum unit, project, or even over the course of a year. Use rubrics to set goals, provide peer- and self-assessment, and reflect on learning. Through intentional and meaningful use, rubrics can become a tool that students see as invaluable.
Focus on Learning Targets. Unless you are truly assessing creativity, it may not be appropriate to list creativity on the rubric. Similarly, neatness may not be appropriate if it isn’t directly related to the content or core discipline you intend to assess. Make sure you focus on learning targets, which could be standards or specific criteria, when you create the rubric. Articulate what the learning will look like in terms of approaching, meeting, and exceeding standards.
My biggest recommendation is to collaborate with others to create rubrics that are specific to your school, district, and learning targets. Whether they are state, Common Core, or 21st century standards, some of the best rubrics can be developed in-house. Use these tips as well as books from ASCD to support your work in building the best rubrics.