This is a tough one. How does a person best assess what a student has learned over the course of a year. The standard procedure is to give a test that will take the full 95 minutes. If it is a good test, there will be a portion of the students still working when the bell rings. Of course, these tests will be based on current state standards. The multiple choice questions will be carefully crafted from a bank of questions or better yet, the test generator that comes with the textbook. After all, those people are pros and know what a good test is all about. This is the way a final should be done, right?
I shudder to think that this is how countless students are being tested over the next few weeks as classes in many schools across the United States wind down.
Having said this, I better explain my thinking (if that is possible). I don’t know that a 100 question multiple choice test with a few essay questions tacked on for good measure is going to show what a student knows. Okay, I take that back. A student who does well on this type of test will know something, but this doesn’t mean that the student will be ready for the 21st Century workforce.
Over the past several years, I have given my fair share of lengthy final exams, and I have never been happy with them. This year, I decided to try something a little (or drastically) different and had a final project instead, and I am glad thatI did. The response was good from the students. I think some of them even had a good time doing the project, and I was able to see the fruits of the last 9 months of teaching.
The project was simple:
1. Choose a short story and have it approved by the teacher.
2. Write a press release for the story as if you were trying to sell it to the public.
3. Make a dustcover for the story (as if it were a book) that represents the story and is pleasing to the eye.
4. Do a project of your choice.
5. Present the 3 projects on the day of final exams in a digital format for the class.
These are the directions I gave the class. They wanted more direction at first helped them out a little, but I really wanted them to make some decisions and do some thinking on their own. For example, I did tell them that students who had realistic looking press releases would receive more points than those that did not. This required them to look for some examples and instructions on the web. As for the project of their choice, I didn’t help out a whole lot in this area. I told them to do something that they thought was worth 100 points. As a result, I have had some pretty good projects.
One of the best projects was by a student who approached me (with some trepidation) and asked me if she could write her own short story and do the projects with it. She wrote the story, then used Yudu to publish the story, complete with a dustcover that she designed.
After having done these projects in place of a final test, I feel that they are the way to go. Honestly, in doing these projects, the students covered almost all of the standards, and this was done with real applications rather than just answering questions on a test that might be applied to some hypothetical situation. I think that these final projects are the only way to go. This is one of the ways that teachers can ensure that student are truly ready to work in the 21st Century.