Student products are anything produced by students in relation to the learning intentions of a program: a piece of writing, a film, sculpture, performance, using equations or formulae in mathematics; building models in science etc.; anything that is the product of engagement in a task that can be used to gauge learning. Tests or examinations also count as student products since they are one kind of evidence of learning. Student products are very important evaluation instruments in education, because they focus on student learning.
Why use student products?
Assessment of student products is a key source of judging the success of a teacher’s learning intentions in a classroom and is therefore an obvious source of evaluation of a teacher’s program.
Strengths and limitations of student products
Using student products as an evaluation device brings to the centre of evaluation the most outcome of whether students demonstrate in their work what the teacher has been teaching. Instead, teachers can assess the change in student products over time to gauge learning in a unit.
Student products give information from a moment in time. This moment may contribute to evaluating a teaching program and the use of the student product may end there. Alternatively, teachers may want to keep the student product as a demonstration of learning at that moment within a larger assessment of growth over time, connected into a longer term evaluation of the teaching program.
For the purposes of program evaluation, it is not always necessary to assess the student products from all students in the class or cohort. Instead, a cross-sectional sampling method could be used, for example, sampling a small number of students whose prior work indicates that they are ‘low’, ‘mid’, ‘high’ achievers in that subject area. Cross-sectional sampling can give you a much faster sense of how particular practices are working.
How do I use student products?
Student products are the key window into whether students understand the classroom work and are learning. The means of assessing student products needs to suit the nature of the task and the nature of the learning. An evaluation of a unit of work in primary classrooms with most students from language backgrounds other than English might, for example, measure writing growth over time from the Australian national 'EALD Progressions' document (ACARA, 2014). By comparing student writing at one point in time to a later time, teachers may be able to see growth (or lack of growth) in areas such as sequencing, subject-verb agreement, sentence variation, use of simple, compound and complex sentences etc.
Use of student products to evaluate the success of learning intentions does not necessarily need to be in a pre/post paradigm. Teachers of Mathematics, for example, may find it adequate to measure understanding of a particular topic at a particular time, rather than ‘growth’ on Mathematical knowledge more generally since an earlier time.
Nonetheless, teachers using student products to assess learning as an evaluation instrument will want assurances that the level of growth or understanding that they find is causally linked to the program being evaluated. This is why randomised control trials are sometimes used in cases where the effects of an intervention are being measured.
Teachers’ prior knowledge of students is an important source of insight about growth, including whether growth occurs because of a particular program. However, it is useful to be able to point to specific characteristics of student products to aid the process of assessing success or growth – such as assessing student skills in creating particular effects in writing by using techniques taught in class.
Student products could also be collected (or viewed etc) and assessed by people other than the teacher in order to evaluate learning in a particular program. This could include other teachers, other students or outsiders with some expertise in the discipline. Possible stages include:
Stage 1 – Design/planning
During unit/program design, one or more criteria are developed for assessing Student Products as a measure of successful learning (e.g. ‘If a cross-section of Student Products show the students can do X by the end of the unit, then…’). Discussion among teachers at this stage may lead to focusing on one area of student experience more deeply in a unit of work. The point of focusing on assessment here is to use Student Products as a measure of program evaluation, rather than for other purposes.
Stage 2 – Implementation
Students are set an assessment task that details what they should know or be able to do by the end of the unit/program. This task is revisited during the unit itself, particularly at moments when the target skill/knowledge is being practised/discussed.
Stage 2 – Analysis
A cross-section of Student Products is assessed against the learning criteria for Student Products agreed at Stage 1.
When do I use student products?
Student products can be used to assess student learning, understanding or engagement through a formative or summative process. Below is an example of use at different points in time:
At the beginning of a project/study
Throughout the project/study
At the end of the project/study
To assess what students already know/can do.
To evaluate the 'implementation' of a program (‘How are things going?’)
To evaluate the 'impact' of a program (‘What did they learn?’)
In an English unit in which the skills of presenting a narrative point of view are to be taught, students complete a piece of imaginative writing in which narrative point of view is important.
Students write a paragraph demonstrating their use of a narrative point of view as taught during the unit.
A complete short story in which narrative point of view is important and demonstrates learning from the skills taught in the unit.
What might be used in tandem
How long does it take?
This depends on the length of the unit of work/the program itself.
With the students
What the research says
Appropriate research in this area would be research on assessment in the particular subject/Key Learning Area being assessed. Good coverage of issues in assessment is found in Dylan Wiliam’s 'Black box' series – for example:
- Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam (2005) 'Inside the black box', Vol 1
- Bethan Marshall and Dylan Wiliam (2006) English inside the black box: 'Assessment for learning in the English classroom '
- Jeremy Hodgen and Dylan Wiliam (2006) 'Mathematics inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the Mathematics classroom'
Resources and references
Any resources on assessment for the particular subject/KLA area being assessed can be relevant.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2014) 'English as an Additional Language or Dialect: Teacher Resource: EAL/D Learning Progression: Foundation to Year 10' Sydney: ACARA.