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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Do you have different criteria for all the different projects students do?

As you plan evidence of learning for students given the learning outcomes, do you sometimes hesitate to ‘get creative.’ Last week a teacher in Alberta asked me, “What do you do about setting criteria with students when they are all using different ways of representing their learning? Some of them are building models, some are writing, some are making videos and so on. Do I have to have separate criteria for each one?”

It’s a good question. I know teachers sometimes hesitate to open up assignment or project formats because of the dilemma it poses when it comes to grading or marking the work. How can one be fair and equitable? I wouldn’t recommend having a different criteria for different formats for exactly those reasons. First of all, it would be time consuming and teachers need to use their time wisely. Secondly, teachers might be perceived to be acting unfairly.

What can be done? Here are two practical ways teachers manage co-constructing criteria in this kind of situation.

Focus on ‘Quality plus….’

A high school teacher had multiple blocks of English. Early in the semester he asked students, “What’s important about quality? And then, as they worked on different assignments he would remind them of their criteria for quality and they would add whatever was needed for the individual assignment. The criteria became, ‘Quality plus…. ‘Here are two pictures of the criteria students and teacher co-created for quality.

I love the second one. Notice the title has been crossed out and renamed as, "Use to Check it TWICE"
Co-constructing Criteria for Representing

Another teacher wanted students to represent their learning for their research project in a variety of ways. They had previously co-constructed criteria about research methods. They had done projects together – all doing the same kind of project. But this time, towards the end of the year, the teacher wanted them to represent their learning in a variety of ways. This example is from Setting and Using Criteria by Gregory et al (2011, p. 30-32) available in English or in French.

The teacher waited until the students had determined how they were going to show their learning. Then the teacher said to them, ‘Think about the project you are working on. What do you want me to notice?” In response, each student thought about their project and contributed what they wanted her to notice about it. As everyone shared ideas and they were collected as a list on chart paper. The students said things like:

Clear and easy to read
Personal understanding
Creativity – original ideas
Facts and information
Realistic model

The teacher also added two or three ideas such as:

Select key ideas
Use a variety of sources
Representation format selected is appropriate to the subject matter

The teacher focused on what was needed to include in their project regardless of the form. When they were finished listing their ideas, the teacher helped the students sort the ideas into groups of similar ideas. Then, they looked at each group of ideas and determined the ‘big idea.’ The co-constructed criteria were:

What counts in a research project?

1.     Pose and answer a research question
2.     Summarize information showing personal learning 
        and understanding
3.     Communicate what you have learned through a 
        choice of representation

Each criteria had the collection of student ideas alongside it in a T chart so the students would remember the important elements or details.

When the projects were handed in the same criteria were used to assess and evaluate each project. Students, prior to submitting their project were asked to do a detailed self-assessment explaining how they had met each criteria showing where the teacher would find evidence of them doing so. When the teacher reviewed the projects what the students had said was considered and then added the teacher added more specific feedback.

The criteria encouraged all students to explore different ways of showing what they were learning and reach towards quality no matter what representational form they chose. The criteria also made it possible for the teacher to support all learners to move towards quality no matter what representational form they chose. Equal is not always fair. The co-constructed criteria gave the teacher the means to be fair and equitable while honouring quality work no matter what form it took.

As you begin this new year thinking about how to support every learner to show you proof of learning consider ways to 'open up' the evidence collection so more students can represent their learning in ways that make sense for their kinds of minds.

All our best,

Anne, Sandra, and Brenda

PS You can find more ideas and resources on our website: connect2learning.com

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