Project-based learning assessment

When designing your project it is important to identify, from the very beginning, how and when you will assess student learning.

What does assessment look like in project-based learning?

Determining what content knowledge and general capabilities you want to assess in the project-based learning (PBL), such as collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking, is vital in order to identify learning activities that meet the needs of students at different points of the project and at the end of the project.

There are a number of opportunities for (assessment for, as and of learning) in PBL and the giving and receiving of feedback and feed-forward (DOC 303KB) to students throughout the project is embedded in the PBL process. Self-assessment and peer assessment form an integral part of the PBL experience and a number of strategies, such as success criteria, rubrics, gallery walks and tuning protocols, can be used to scaffold and support these processes to ensure the assessment is constructive. Further, culminating events and presentations of learning can be used as summative measures of student performance.

Detailed examples of strategies and protocols to support assessment can be found in the key practices that support PBL section of the toolkit.

Assessment should be an ongoing practice when implementing PBL. Assessment does not always need to be formalised or a common task – it can be conversational or through reflection; however, all assessment should be done in the spirit of informing teacher practice and tracking students' progress and achievements. The following are illustrations of assessment practices used in PBL:

  • Developing the initial 'Need to Know's at the beginning of a project will assess the students' existing breadth of knowledge and skill, help guide the project process, and indicate the depth of their knowledge.
  • Using an open-ended assessment strategy at the beginning of a project will help to identify priorities for explicit teaching and will determine what sorts of resources and materials will be useful to provide to students throughout the PBL experience.
  • Repeating the same open-ended assessment strategy at least once during the project will track student's learning in terms of the curriculum content, their progress towards the PBL outcomes, their collaboration, use of technology and other outcomes within the PBL.
  • Using the same open-ended assessment strategy at the end of the project (or a variation of the previous strategies, to make it similar but in an unfamiliar context) will enable you to compare student learning across the entire PBL experience and highlight possible changes to learning and teaching strategies for the future.

Success criteria

Success criteria are the evaluative measures that students use to determine when they have achieved the established learning goal or objective.

Success criteria typically break down the task or skill into meaningful, achievable chunks that relate directly to the work that students do.

Success criteria are not intended to be used as a checklist of what students should do or the process they should be following. Instead, success criteria are intended to be a reflective tool that enables students to evaluate and refine their work.

Developing the success criteria with students is an excellent strategy for teachers because it provides an opportunity for teachers to identify the level of student understanding of a concept or skill by listening to what students identify as being important to include in success criteria.

Success criteria are empowering and create transparency about the learning outcomes and assessment measure while making learning visible for students.

Success criteria are the evaluative measures that students use to determine when they have achieved the established learning goal or objective.

Success criteria typically break down the task or skill into meaningful, achievable chunks that relate directly to the work that students do.

Success criteria are not intended to be used as a checklist of what students should do or the process they should be following. Instead, success criteria are intended to be a reflective tool that enables students to evaluate and refine their work.

Developing the success criteria with students is an excellent strategy for teachers because it provides an opportunity for teachers to identify the level of student understanding of a concept or skill by listening to what students identify as being important to include in success criteria.

Success criteria are empowering and create transparency about the learning outcomes and assessment measure while making learning visible for students.

Success criteria are the evaluative measures that students use to determine when they have achieved the established learning goal or objective.

Success criteria typically break down the task or skill into meaningful, achievable chunks that relate directly to the work that students do.

Success criteria are not intended to be used as a checklist of what students should do or the process they should be following. Instead, success criteria are intended to be a reflective tool that enables students to evaluate and refine their work.

Developing the success criteria with students is an excellent strategy for teachers because it provides an opportunity for teachers to identify the level of student understanding of a concept or skill by listening to what students identify as being important to include in success criteria.

Success criteria are empowering and create transparency about the learning outcomes and assessment measure while making learning visible for students.

Rubrics

Co-constructing rubrics and success criteria with students will have a significant impact on how effectively students use these tools to evaluate and refine their work throughout the PBL process.

When they contribute to the assessment criteria in a meaningful way, students also typically perform at a higher level and tend to view assessments as meaningful opportunities for feedback and growth as they have a deeper understanding of their purpose.

Rubrics differ from success criteria as they focus on the level to which a particular aspect of the work has been achieved. Involving students in creating the descriptive statements that differentiate levels of achievement helps to clarify the expectations and enables them to ask for, give and receive very specific feedback on aspects of their work.

Glossary of terms

Feedback and feed-forward (DOC 303KB) can be offered by either peers or teachers. Feedback identifies what is evident in the work and feedforward provides suggestions for how the student can take the work further.

Assessment for, as and of learning are types of assessment strategies identified by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA), Teaching and Educational Standards when describing effective assessment processes.

Open-ended assessment refers to those assessments to which there is more than one possible solution, or indeed no 'right' answer. These assessments provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate the full extent of their understanding rather than being confined by needing to find one answer.

Open questions need longer answers, and often require the learner to provide an opinion. For example, a Physics teacher might ask: 'What will happen to the flow of water through a hosepipe if a smaller nozzle is fitted to it? Explain how this relates to the study of voltage, current and resistance in a simple electric circuit.' Open questions like this allow all learners to try to answer the question and be part of a discussion. You can then facilitate this discussion, asking questions to develop the discussion such as 'Tell me more about that' and 'Why do you think that?'

Dialogic teaching is a term that describes on-going talk between teachers and learners, which leads to effective learning. If you discuss ideas with your learners, you can get a clearer view of what understanding your learners have about a topic, and put right any misunderstandings.

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