As an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons in multiple ways, including both formative and summative assessments. I currently use formative assessments such as exit slips, a “What stuck with you today” wall and verbal discussion with students or groups. Summative assessments include written tests, published writing pieces, cross-curricular projects, presentations and performance based assessments. All summative assessments utilize rubrics, except for written tests (i.e. end of unit tests). My team has already done a good job using project based learning in first grade. We create many opportunities for students to work individually and in groups to solve real-world problems using a variety of resources. However, since I want all my students to succeed (and to make things move quicker), I often guide their thinking in the direction of one solution to the problem. Obviously, this diminishes their creativity. Realizing this, I need to make a change with how my students can be assessed on both understanding standards and using their creativity.
Since my elementary school uses a 1-4 standards-based grading system (4 being exceeded expectations and 1 being below expectations), rubrics are consistently utilized to guide assessment and instruction. As a first grade teacher I need to be very concise with expectations for projects. Along with the rubric, I create checklists for my students with “I can” statements (and visuals for ELL/SEN students) that align with the expectations and standards for each rubric. When introducing a project, I share the rubric with my students and then read through their checklist as well. I feel that most, if not all, students are aware of what is required of them. I use these checklists as informal assessments when conferencing with individuals and groups during their project.
In a perfect world, students would be able to understand the project expectations without any preparation. However, we all know that skills needs to be taught in a meaningful way in order for students to use them on their own. Rubrics provide the opportunity for students to understand certain skills (i.e. collaboration) by explaining the expectations and modeling them from the beginning. As Wiggins mentioned in On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should, “The more we focus on impact – did you achieve the goal of such a performance? –…the more students can practice, get feedback, and self-assess and self-adjust on their own” (2012). Another aspect of assessment I would like to include is self-assessment because it’s important for students to reflect on their work. Using the rubric to rate themselves and choosing an area to improve before they turn in their project would give students the opportunity to learn even more.
One aspect that is rarely assessed by our first grade team is creativity. We assess creativity in all of our writing units, but haven’t applied it to many other subjects consistantly. Including creativity in our rubrics and providing exemplary examples could fuel students creativity to produce a high-quiality project because expectations are raised. In addition, including creativity in rubrics would keep me accountable for allowing student exploration in solutions.
I recently accepted the position as grade level leader for the 2015-2016 school year and with all of the above in mind, I could really relate to a post called Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core about project-based learning (PBL). I especially was interested in the challenges they needed to overcome, which included:
- Throughout any given project, we must be able to informally touch base at any time.
- Backup resources should be available (when computers fail, for example).
- We need to plan together in a very detailed, day-to-day way.
- We have to be able to easily communicate “on the fly.”
- How we introduce the project to students is much more important than we thought (and we thought it was very important).
- As a teaching group, we must maintain a flexible, problem-solving attitude to productively work through the inevitable implementation challenges (Isselhardt, 2013).
After reading these articles, I have some things to keep in mind while refining the PBL units with my team this year.
Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/PBL-aligned-to-common-core-eric-isslehardt
Gee, James Paul. “James Paul Gee on Grading with Games”. https://youtu.be/JU3pwCD-ey0
Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/