Here we come to the last module of this course. It's time to roll up the sleeves and start working on assessments:
How do I assess the work, the outcomes, the learning?
FIRST, we need to start with the learning aims, often prescribed by educational curriculum. In Macedonia there are set outcomes for every grade and student's achievements have to be according to them. But those outcomes are sometimes with collision with (also) set of educational aims. So, what I usually do, is look for the links between certain aims and outcomes, make references, research and set outcomes that are more appropriate and in touch with the reality. To do that, I use rubrics. I'm a fan of RubiStar. Those rubrics are public and presented on my web-site for students, parents, school officials, Ministry and colleagues from all over Macedonia. I've started using assessment rubrics 7 years ago and so far, I've used them not only to assess my students, but also to motivate them to achieve better results in learning.
Here's a story behind my starting with assessment rubrics...
Seven years ago, I was browsing the web during the summer and came across 4Teachers.org. As a part of the bundle there's RubiStar. I wanted to play with it and printed predefined rubric and liked it, so I created a rubric for assessing essays. With the beginning of the new school year I introduced it to my students and to their parents and made a copy of it to display in every classroom I entered that year and on the bulletin board very close to teacher's lounge so when parents would come looking for a teacher, they'd see it. I had 5th graders that year and in Macedonia that was the first year of subject teaching. At the end of the first trimester, we're obliged to do grade our students, so there were a lot of parents that were surprised by the lower grades than they were used to in classroom teaching.
One day, there was a knock on the door during class and few parents were asking to see me wishing I explained WHY their children had such grades. I apologized politely, asked them to wait until the class was over and said I'd be happy to explain the grades their children were given for the first trimester. When the class ended, the parents were still waiting for me, but not to ask me WHY their children had such grades anymore, but to discuss with me HOW we can work together to get better results. When I asked them what made them change their minds, after all, they were ready to fight with me not 20 minutes before, they said they had read my rubrics, my assessment criteria and found out their children were indeed graded appropriately. They said they learned what their children should learn, but wanted to ask for suggestions on how to do it best.
Believe it or not, my playing with rubrics payed off. I'm using rubrics ever since. Sometimes I create them myself and explain them to my students. Other times, i create them with my students.
For my PBL plan, I intend to do the same: create some on my own, and create the steps rubrics with my students.
Here are 2 examples of rubrics I use. They're both in Macedonian, but still very much in use with my students.