Saturday, April 07, 2007

Questioning projects and assessments

The importance of generating good, meaty, essential questions, especially for student projects, is something everyone agrees on. However, those of us in a school with an explicit inquiry-based learning framework in place often feel ahead of the game.

For example, at Doug Johnson's EARCOS 2007 pre-conference workshop for teacher/librarians on Designing Projects Students (and Teachers) Love, those of us at PYP schools felt his 4-level Research Question Rubric -- where Level 1 asks for simple recall, Level 2 asks a specific question, Level 3 asks for personal response, and Level 4 includes a call for action -- simply reflected different stages in the inquiry process.

Using Kath Murdoch's inquiry cycle model, a Level 1 question is equivalent to Tuning In, a Level 2 question might be Finding Out or Sorting Out, a Level 3 question reflects Going Further or Making Conclusions, and a Level 4 question falls under Taking Action followed by Sharing/Reflection. So, while he was trying to get us to generate a Level 4 question to assign to students, we all felt the rubric was just a spiral students would move along themselves in any one project or unit of inquiry.

When the question of appropriate assessment (or assignments) came up at the IBAP conference, Prof. Stephen Heppell had a few great substitutions he threw out to us (likes scraps to hungry animals) -- especially after the IB Diploma students participating in the forum complained about two years of effort being assessed in a 2-hour handwritten exam worth 80% of their grade.
  • ~ instead of an 80% exam, why not require a 3-nation collaborative task for students?
  • ~ instead of assigning a 1,500 word essay, why not require either a) scripting and posting a 3-minute podcast, or b) managing an online discussion for a week, or c) annotating 10 website links?
  • ~ instead of bemoaning the availability of "free online essays" for students to pinch, why not assign the task of choosing 4 "free online essays" and critiquing them, and then improving on one of them?
I mentioned this to my daughter and a friend, both of whom are about to take the IGCSE/GCSE exams, and they leapt onto the last idea, saying how useful it would be for them to critique other people's essays -- to internalize the examiners' rubric and understand more fully what it is they are being asked to perform.

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