Chapter 8 in Markham, John Larmer, and Jason Louis. Ravitz. Project Based Learning Handbook: A Guide to Standards-focused Project Base Learning for Middle and High School Teachers. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education, 2003. Print.
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 questions, Models, 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.
- 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