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.
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.
This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >
A recent blog by Grant Wiggins affirmed what I have long believed about creativity: it is a 21st-century skill we can teach and assess. Creativity fosters deeper learning, builds confidence and creates a student ready for college and career.
However, many teachers don’t know how to implement the teaching and assessment of creativity in their classrooms. While we may have the tools to teach and assess content, creativity is another matter, especially if we want to be intentional about teaching it as a 21st-century skill. In a PBL project, some teachers focus on just one skill, while others focus on many. Here are some strategies educators can use tomorrow to get started teaching and assessing creativity — just one more highly necessary skill in that 21st-century toolkit.
If you and your students don’t unpack and understand what creativity looks like, then teaching and assessing it will be very difficult. Here are some quality indicators to look at:
Synthesize ideas in original and surprising ways.
Ask new questions to build upon an idea.
Brainstorm multiple ideas and solutions to problems.
Communicate ideas in new and innovative ways.
Now, these are just some of the quality indicators you might create or use. Don’t forget to make them age- or grade-level appropriate so that students can understand the targets and how they are being assessed. You might create a rubric from these quality indicators or keep them as overall goals for the students to work on throughout the year. Wiggins mentioned this rubric as a start. The February 2013 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership also has an article that includes a rubric.
Activities Targeted to Quality Indicators
We have all used activities for students to brainstorm solutions to problems, be artistically creative and more. Now is a chance to be very intentional with these exercises. In addition to just “doing” them, pick the activities that specifically work on quality indicators of creativity. They can occur at varying stages of a PBL project, whenever the timing is appropriate to where students are in the PBL process.
Voice and Choice in Products
We know that students can show knowledge in different ways. In a PBL project, for example, public audience is an essential component, and students must present their work. PBL teachers offer voice and choice in how they spend their time and what they create. This is a great opportunity to foster the creative process. Students can collaborate on how to best present their information, what to include, and perhaps even a target audience. Coupled with the other strategies mentioned in this piece, voice and choice can build creative thinkers.
Model Thinking Skills
There are some specific thinking skills that creative people use. You will often find these in the quality indicators of creative people and embedded in the language. One example is synthesis. In synthesis, people combine sources, ideas, etc. to solve problems, address an issue or make something new. Being able to synthesize well can be a challenge. If we want our students to do well with this creative skill, we need to model the thinking of synthesis in a low-stakes, scaffolding activity that they can translate into a more academic pursuit. I find that the more I help students understand and practice these thinking skills, the better prepared they are to be creative! These mini-lessons and activities occur within the context of a PBL project to support student learning.
Reflection and Goal Setting
Whether you are using S.M.A.R.T Goals or short reflective activities, this is a critical component of teaching and assessing creativity. Students need time to look at the quality indicators and reflect on how they are doing when it comes to mastery. They can also set goals on one or more these quality indicators and how they will go about doing it. This reflective process and metacognition also helps build critical thinking skills, and should be used throughout the process of a PBL project, curriculum unit or marking period. Let’s provide opportunities for students to think critically about creativity.
If we want our students to be creative, we must give them not only the opportunity to do so, but also the finite skills and targets to be able to do so. When you combine these strategies, creativity can become part of the culture of a PBL project and classroom in general. You may or may not “grade” creativity, but you can certainly assess it.
How do you intentionally teach and assess creativity in your classroom?