Last week, Gas Station without Pumps had a post about the problems with group work. I just did a group project in my CS class which I didn’t think went quite the way I wanted it to. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. In part, it’s my fault for not setting better parameters for how the group project should go, but I think it’s also just really hard for students to do group work in a real sense. They’re too worried about how they’re going to be assessed to contribute in an authentic way. Stronger students often take over or the work gets divided up in ways that aren’t really useful; it’s just convenient for the students, especially for the assessment piece. I plan to do some further research about how to make this work better. I believe in group work. I think I just need to include the right kinds of assessment tools to recreate the authentic experience one would get in a work situation.
I’m constantly struggling with assessment. I’ve been teaching for over 20 years, and it’s this issue that I always get hung up on. I like project-based learning, and for the most part, it works for me, but then I also want to include ways of testing for concept understanding. What’s happening to me a little bit is that students rely on me and the textbook or other materials to complete their projects. They’re copying a lot of code and altering it. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but then I’m never sure if they really understand what they’re doing. So I have started having tests to make sure they really get a concept. But I’m not sure that works that well either.
Last year, I mentioned that I was primarily focusing on the creativity in the projects. The more explicit I was about that, the better the projects were, and the less “code copying” the students did. So, often, my issue with assessment is really an issue of me not laying out the guidelines. Of course, creativity is a subjective thing, and I hate turning something like that into a rubric (though I do for middle school). Basically, I want them to create projects that make me say, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” But I can’t put that on the assignment sheet. Sigh. I’d love to hear from others about assessing projects or even assessing inquiry-based learning, which is something I want to do next year.