193: PBL Tips on Planning Assessments





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Design projects that align with standards.
  • Align projects to standards, not textbooks.
  • Keep standards accessible to teachers and students.
  • Plan assessments based on standards at the start of the project.
  • Projects go deep.  Focus project on essential standards and important topics.
  • Consider standards and SCANS skills and Habits of Mind while designing projects
  • Prioritize standards that students need to understand for projects
Include students in project and assessment designs:
To read more about involving students in assessment and rubric design, see these articles: Teaching students how to generate questionsModels, critique & descriptive feedback, and Engaging students with data
  • Plan a rough outline of project and involve students in filling in the details of that outline
  • Processes for involving students in project design
    • communicate learning targets that project must cover
    • brainstorm how to approach learning targets? supporting skills?
    • brainstorm roles needed for project
    • make contractual agreements related to learning and collaboration
    • ask how will we know if the project is a success -> rubrics.  For more ideas on how to involve students in rubric writing, see this article: Models, critique & descriptive feedback
    • as year progresses, invite students into more decisions on project design
    • use student expert groups to investigate how well project topics could address  learning targets
Set clear expectations for students:
  • Make rubrics available early in the project
  • Involve students in creating and refining rubrics
  • Make sure students can explain rubric criteria in their own words
  • Have discussions around the criteria that make expectations more transparent
  • Set high expectations (higher order thinking) with rubrics
  • For more on rubric design, see: Rubric design & implementation
Use models to show examples of excellent work
  • Use previous student work or real professional samples to show students model work
  • Use models to trigger new ideas for products
  • For more on the use of model, see: Models, critique & descriptive feedback
Determine a fair method for weighing individual and group grades:
  • Favor individual grades over group grades
    • 75% individual, 25% group
    • use individual assessments for the individual grade
  • Could weigh group and work equally (50% individual, 50% group) to encourage students to create high quality group products
  • For more on fair grading practices, see Effective grading and reporting and Grading smarter, not harder


Assessment design is key to designing standards-based projects.  Assessments should be designed before / early in the project in order to develop a clear picture of what evidence students need to create to show mastery of learning targets aligned to standards.  Once a clear, layered picture of student evidence of understanding is determined, it is easier to design scaffolding that supports student learning of learning targets.  Involving students in designing assessments can create buy-in in assessment practices.  Using models to help students understand and develop assessment criteria can increase motivation and quality of products.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards and develop product ideas that relate to key concepts in standards.
  • Brainstorm what SCANS skills and Habits of Mind would best support student success in learning the standards
  • Develop academic and character learning targets that align with standards, SCANS skills, and Habits of Mind
  • Develop assessments that make students generate evidence of mastery of  academic and character learning targets
  • Gather models of products
Early Implementation Steps
  • .Facilitate discussions about assessment that involve students in the collections of assessments that will be used to assess project’s academic and character learning targets
  • Facilitate discussions that revolve around models of products and generate rubric criteria based on noticing what works in the models
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Involve students in progressively more elements of project design as the group progresses: learning activity ideas -> rubric design -> project context
  • Have students create their own assessments that they can produce to demonstrate mastery of learning targets



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