CEP 811: Assessing Maker-Inspired Assignments

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Geralt. Evaluation. 2016.

Now that I have a good understanding of how to design maker activities and the effects they have on student learning, it is time to explore how to assess these activities in the learning environment. I have always struggled with the idea of assigning a percent grade to any learning activity that does not have absolute values, like the design of products, presentations and collaboration. Assessment of right and wrong answers seems so much easier compared with assessments that focus of real world applicability, but have multiple correct answers and gray areas. Grading in black and white may be more automatic and less time consuming, but what is lost by implementing summative assessment rather than formative assessment? Multiple choice questions do not have much ability in dealing with the gray areas or telling us great detail about the learner’s current level of knowledge. Thankfully there are ways to easily set expectations and assess the learning of maker-inspired assignments.

As described by Grant Wiggins, “We can and do measure anything: critical and creative thinking, wine quality, doctors, meals, athletic potential, etc.” (2012). Grant Wiggins’ rubric on creativity gives me hope in the ability to appropriately assess learning within the maker space. Having a rubric for students and instructors to reference establishes the values that will count towards a numeric grade. Assessment becomes transparent and includes important elements such as creativity, professionalism, focus on audience and purpose. Breaking these criteria down into a rubric makes grading much easier compared with attempting to assign a grade while thinking of all the elements together. The rubric allows the grader to focus on the specific criteria to fairly grade the assignment one element at a time. One simple way to think about grading creativity is based on whether a learner’s product was engaging or not. Wiggins found, “students easily understood the difference between “engaging” and “not engaging” and accepted the assessment criterion as common sense. Oh, you mean you don’t want it to be dull and boring, said one kid? Uh, yes. Oh, we didn’t think that mattered in school writing, said a girl. Exactly” (2012). The previous example rings true with me. I recall how robotic my work was at all levels of my education. With a new focus on creativity, I see that my past work would not have meet the rubric criteria. Fortunately, we now have building support to promote and assess creativity in the maker space.

Another important style of assessment is brought to light by James Paul Gee in terms of grading with games (2010). He talks of how video games constantly assess the player and provide feedback as to how well they are doing every step of the way. The player can fail, reflect and try again. We can imagine how this relates to the maker space. Learners are designing, building, moving and interacting while instructors provide constraint support and feedback. This assessment allows the instructors to view the representation of the learner’s current state of knowledge and opens a pathway to intervention and teaching moments. The production of such projects also allows instructors to compare learner’s first iterations with final protects over time. Gee also makes on interesting observation in relation to reading the game manual before playing the game. He compares this to reading a text book before interacting with the subject in the real world. Gee did not understand the textbook until he first experimented with the game. But after playing the game, the manual made sense as he then knew the elements referenced in the book. Gee could have memorized the manual, never interacted with the game and passed a summative assessment, but would that be a fair assessment of understanding? Could he utilize that information in the real world? I believe, for the most part, we would all agree “no”. So as I move forward into the assessment of maker-lessons, I will regularly revisit my planned activities to verify the assessment meet desired objectives and to make sure learning develops into understanding that can be utilized to solve real world problems.

Gee, James Paul. “James Paul Gee on Grading with Games.” YouTube, uploaded by Edutopia, 20 July 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0.

Geralt. Evaluation. 2016, JPEG, Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/district-evaluation-assessment-1264717/.

Wiggins, Grant. “On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should.” Granted, and… ~ thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins, Friday, February 3rd, 2012. https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/ Retrieved on August 16, 2016.

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