Project Management: Personalization

Personalization is designing PBL units to meet students’ individual needs and preferences.  Systems that incorporate personalization promote:

  • Flexibility in End Products
  • Flexibility in Scaffolding
  • Flexibility in Assessments


Flexibility in End Products


Student Choice in Product Topics

Teachers can allow for flexibility in end products by giving students choices in their end product formats and topics.  In the Emerging Technologies project, students were able to choose any one of the NEA Engineering Challenges as the topic of the grant that satisfied the rubric below.

To support research into their choices, the Integrated Physics and Engineering teachers, Dr. Trinidad and Mr. Fishman, prepared the following Google Sheet to make students aware of possible choices and related resources.


Student Choice in Product Formats

Students can also be given choice over product format.  Students satisfied the rubric criteria below by either creating a sports science video or a sports science magazine article:

Flexibility in Scaffolding


Differentiated Curriculum Charts

Creating differentiated curriculum charts is one way teachers can enable student choice while scaffolding content objectives.  Differentiated curriculum charts give students choices on the learning activities they will use to develop mastery of content.  To read more about how to create differentiated curriculum charts, read this related blog article.

To see a sample differentiated curriculum chart, click the example below:


Flexibility in Assessments


Grade Cascades

Teachers create flexibility in the assessment process by offering students multiple opportunities / methods to demonstrate mastery of content.  One way Dr. Trinidad honors the fact that different students learn at different paces is to use grade cascades.  When students take tests, they can earn a grade cascade by passing the test.  If they pass the test, Dr. Trinidad replaces all related scaffolding grades (including ZEROES) with the grade on the test.  If students fail the test, they have until the end of the grading period to attend tutorials to prepare for a test retake and then take a second version of the test.  Students who succeed in the test retake also have their grade cascaded to related assignments.  Having a long retake period and applying the grade cascade helps Dr. Trinidad assign grades to students that honor the fact that some students need more time and more exposure to content to develop mastery.  The grade cascade system also rewards students who do not complete practice sets because they do not need as many repetitions to understand how to solve problems.  These students can recover points by demonstrating on tests that they fully understand the content.

127: Differentiated Curriculum Charts



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Offer students choices for learning learning targets by creating Differentiated Curriculum Charts:
  • The chart provides learning mode & extension activities for each learning target.  See below for example.
  • Students get to choose which activity to perform to explore learning target
  • For extension ideas, see the Analysis, Evaluation, & Synthesis products & trigger words in this article.
  • For learning mode ideas, see below.
  1. Auditory Products 
    • audio recording, autobiography, commentary, crossword puzzle, debate, dialogue, documentary, editorial, experiment, fact file, finding patterns, glossary, interview, journal, newspaper, oral report, petition, position paper, reading, scavenger hunt, simulation game, song lyrics, speech, story, survey, teach a lesson, video, written report
  2. Visual Products 
    • advertisement, art piece, brochure, collage, comic strip, diagram, diorama, drawing, filmstrip, flow chart, graphic organizer, greeting card, multimedia presentations, illustrated manual, magazine, map, photo essay, picture dictionary, poster, slide show, video, website
  3. Tactile – Kinesthetic Products
    • acting things out, activity plan, animated movie, dance, demonstration, dramatization, experiment, field experience, flip chart, game show, how-to book, jigsaw puzzle, manipulative, mobile, model, museum exhibit, play or skit, rap, scale drawing, sculpture, simulation game, survey, TV broadcast, video


Differentiated curriculum charts create options for students that fit their learning styles and readiness levels.  Charts like these can be used as tools to create scaffolding that fits the needs of diverse groups of students.


Preparation Steps
  • Recruit teacher team to help gather all the scaffolding.
  • Analyze standards and rewrite in terms of long term and supporting learning targets
  • Develop activities for each learning target that go with each learning mode – see above for example.  Use suggested products above and here for ideas.
  • Create learning centers to house the activities for the different learning modes.  If many resources are posted online, this can be as simple as different wall segments (1 per learning mode) that house QR codes to activities.
  • Create a grading system for crediting students’ different choices – a simple way to do this is to require 1 activity per learning target and assign a daily grade to each
Early Implementation Steps
  • During scaffolding days, allow students to select 1 activity per targeted learning target.  Explain how to get to resources and how to get feedback on work.
  • Provide a lot of formative feedback on the work and (if possible) grade student work in class in conjunction with formative discussions with students.
  • Use other formative assessments to ensure that ALL students are developing an understanding of learning targets.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop a bank of short rubrics for assessing various types of products that appear frequently in differentiated curriculum charts.
  • Use formative feedback data to determine which learning activities are the most engaging and effective and incorporate similar activities into upcoming differentiated scaffolding

126: Taxonomy of Thinking





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  1. Knowledge
    • recall, remember
    • Trigger words: tell, recite, list, remember, memorize, define
    • Products: worksheets, quizzes, tests, skills work, vocabulary work, facts in isolation
  2. Comprehension
    • restate concepts in own words
    • Trigger words: restate in own words, give examples, explain, summarize, translate, summarize, translate
    • Products: drawings, diagrams, responses to questions, revisions, translations
  3. Application
    • transfer knowledge from one context to the next
    • Trigger words: demonstrate, use guides, maps, charts, etc., build, cook
    • Products: recipe, model, artwork, demonstration, craft
  4. Analysis
    • understand how parts relate to a whole
    • trouble shoot
    • understand structure and motive
    • Trigger words: investigate, classify, categorize, compare, contrast, solve
    • Products: survey, questionnaire, plan, solution to problem report, prospects
  5. Evaluation
    • judge value of something using criteria
    • support judgement
    • Trigger words: judge, evaluate, give opinion, give viewpoint, prioritize, recommend, critique
    • Products: decision, rating/grades, editorial, debate, critique, defense, verdict, judgement
  6. Synthesis
    • reform individual parts to make a new whole
    • Trigger words: compose, design, invent, create, hypothesize, construct, forecast, rearrange, imagine
    • Products: lesson plan, song, poem, story, advertisement, invention, other creative products


The Bloom’s taxonomy levels can be used to create questions and activities at different levels of thinking.  The varied products can be used develop menus of products that match the same learning targets to differentiate instruction.  The top 3 levels can serve as extension activities for gifted students.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards and write aligned long term and supporting learning targets
  • Determine which cognitive levels match a range of thinking that is appropriate to the learning targets
  • Use range of cognitive levels to design different options for scaffolding learning targets that can be used to differentiate instruction and offer student choice
  • Use trigger words to design good questions sequences that explore range of cognitive levels for each learning target
Early Implementation Steps
  • Initiate discussions that involve ALL students using questions sequences designed by using learning targets and thinking trigger words.  See this article for ideas on how to increase student participation.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Teach students Thinking Levels and associated trigger words and products.  Use this as a tool for students to ask better questions and to create alternative product choices for project.
  • Incorporate thinking level activities and learning targets into scaffolding that uses differentiated curriculum charts to offer students choices on how to learn and demonstrate mastery of learning targets


36: Instructional Practices that Deepen Understanding (2 of 2)




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WHERETO Framework: Framework for developing good scaffolding
  • W: How will I let students know WHAT they are learning and WHY they are learning it?  How will I communicate my expectations for the unit?
    • display driving questions, project rubrics, and exemplars in a class bulletin board
  • H: How will I HOOK and engage students in their learning? How can I connect student interests to curricular goals?
    • start projects with an interesting mystery or challenge
    • other HOOKS: counterintuitive phenomena, provocative essential questions, emotional encounters, humor, controversial issues, authentic problems, problems based on student interests
  • E: How will I EQUIP students to meet learning goals? What learning EXPERIENCES will deepen their understanding of key ideas?
    • use balance of constructivist learning experiences, structured activities and direct instruction.  See this article for simple idea for deciding which experiences go with which types of knowledge.
  • R: How will I encourage students to RETHINK prior knowledge? And also REFINE and REVISE their work?
    • use this R with difficult to understand, counterintuitive content
    • techniques: play devil’s advocate, present new info, conduct debates, regular self assessment
    • use prompts to encourage self-assessment:
      • what are you most proud of? most disappointed in?
      • how does your preferred learning style influence … ?
      • how will you make use of what you’ve learned?
      • for more ideas, see this article
  • E: How will we EVALUATE student learning and student work?
    • 5 minute paper – what have we concluded? what remains unanswered or unresolved?
    • attach self assessment to each product
    • 1 minute paper at end of workshop – what was learned? what is confusing?
    • train students how to use rubrics to self assess to plan next steps
    • start class with burning questions from 1 minute papers and debrief at end of class to check if questions were answered
  • T: How can we TAILOR learning activities to match students’ interests, learning profiles and readiness levels?
    • See all blog articles under the Differentiation tag
    • Use diagnostic and pre-assessments to identify student needs
    • Cluster student needs and design scaffolding for these
    • Give students some CHOICE in their scaffolding and products
  • O: How will learning experiences be ORGANIZED or sequenced?
    • Introduce the HOOK early and revisit often
    • Teach enabling skills when they are needed to make sense of a problem
    • Revisit the WHY often
    • Cycle between learning-doing-reflecting
    • Cycle between whole-part-whole
    • Use 6 facets to design scaffolding that deepens understanding
  • W  – Communicating end goals and essential questions can help students organize knowledge. Student can better organize their own learning when they are aware of the overarching ideas and goals of the project.  Students are more likely to produce high quality work when expectations and models are communicated early in the project.
  • H – Engaging topics help students apply knowledge in novel contexts.  Education should be an itch, not a scratch.
  • E – Building enabling skills in the context of complex tasks will build relevance for those skills and enable students co create better products.
  • R – Big ideas need to reconsidered and big understandings must be refined over time.
  • E – Building self assessment skills can improve products and develop student independence.
  • T – Tailoring to specific learner needs can make learning more accessible to more students.  Tailoring to specific interests can make learning more engaging.  Identifying and resolving learning gaps can make learners more able to solve complex problems.
  • O – Organizing in ways that use cycles gives students opportunities to grasp and re-grasp new material.  Resisting the urge to frontload information and reserving instruction for just-in-time moments will create more willing learners.
Preparation Steps
  • Use WHERETO framework to design and evaluate scaffolding, assessments, driving questions, and project calendars
  • Use WHERETO framework to refine project prior to launching it
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project – identify, observe and document learning events that fit in the WHERETO framework (or missed the mark)
  • Used WHERETO evaluations to finetune scaffolding
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Design and implement a WHERETO graphic organizer that students can use to evaluate projects
  • Design and implement a similar WHERETO graphic organizer that students can use to evaluate their own collaboration and project work

34: Classroom Management That Supports Responsive Teaching





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Classroom Management Strategies that Support Responsive Teaching
Managing Time:
  • Use homework, personal agendas, etc to balance need for whole class and self-paced instruction
  • Provide anchor activities (PBL project work) for students who finish early
  • Move slowly with differentiation – tackle one remediation and one topic at a time
Controlling Noise:
  • Provide and use signals for noise reduction
  • Teach students to monitor noise levels as needed
  • Use headsets or earplugs for students who need less distractions
Classroom Movement:
  • Use task and room charts to help students locate where they should be for what they are doing
  • Designate one student per team to gather materials
  • Make seating area that faces away from active parts of classroom for students who need freedom from distractions
Flexible Use of Classroom Space:
  • Experiment with ways to move furniture to create learning spaces
  • Use center-in-a-box – partitions on the floor that serve as designated work areas
  • Designate an independent working area for students who need extra practice or need to move ahead
Organizing & Distributing Resources:
  • Design a table or area for storing and distributing key materials
  • Use in-class folder filing system with student names, class periods, and team numbers
Monitoring Student Work:
  • Use checklists of criteria to record competencies and trouble areas
  • Record observations on sticky notes and store in a notebook that has at least 1 page dedicated per student.  Review notes at least once per month
  • Have students turn in work to designated physical and online locations
Make Time for Small Group Instruction:
  • Let students know when you are off limits and why
  • Establish experts who will answer questions while you are teaching small groups
  • Use materials already available to you for small group activities
  • Grade less daily work
  • Go slowly but deliberately to differentiate
  • Use guided practice, anchor tasks, personal agendas, centers, learning contracts, and other strategies and routines to help students work independently



Responsive teaching needs to be supported by classroom management routines that are both orderly and flexible.  Research has shown that teachers who maintain orderly classroom environments are more likely to teach for meaning and understanding.  PBL work can be complex and chaotic.  Framing PBL work in terms of orderly routines and strategies can build student confidence.

Preparation Steps
  • Investigate available classroom space.  Brainstorm different furniture configurations that will create different learning spaces.  Trial these spaces with students.
  • Create diagrams that represent positively-tested furniture configurations
  • Train students to move furniture between different configurations and the purpose of these configurations
  • Set aside storage areas and turn-in areas (online, physical) for students to turn in work
  • Survey students to see which noise reduction signals work best
  • Create checklists that describe skills and common errors related to key concepts
  • Pre-assess and assess students to determine who can serve as experts on select topics
  • Gather resources for small group instructions
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement small group instruction that uses data to determine appropriate goals for specific learning groups
  • Implement system (includes experts and resources) that allow students to work independently while teacher is focused on small group instruction
  • Use formative and pre-assessments to let students know when they need to attend workshops and when they are workshop-exempt and can skip to project work
  • Make connections between workshops and good project work explicit so students understand the relevance of workshop
  • Grade less daily work – see Grading Smarter, Not Harder for ideas
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use tools such as Aurasma to add another virtual learning layer on top of areas of the room
  • Teach students how to use assessment data to set and track goals and plan related next steps – See Checks for understanding and Engaging students with data articles
  • Use tools such as Nearpod to let students know during workshops if they are understanding content as it is being presented

33: Clustering Student Needs For More Efficient Planning


Chapter 6 in Tomlinson, Carol A., and Jay McTighe.  Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids.  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2006. Print.



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What does clustering learner needs mean?
  • use patterns to identify and plan for common student needs
Common Clustered Needs & Remediations:
  • Need for reading supports:
    • Optional reading partners on new texts
    • Make highlighted and marked up texts available
    • Teacher reads aloud complex parts of text
    • Provide audio recordings of texts
  • Need for vocabulary building:
    • Provide vocabulary lists with clear explanations
    • Pinpoint and focus on key vocabulary
    • Students hunt for vocabulary in textbooks, editorials, cartoons, TV, magazines, etc
    • Word walls
    • Vocabulary posters with words and related visuals
  • Difficulty Staying on Task:
    • Think pair share groups
    • Student choice on learning tasks and learning modes
    • Multiple modes of teacher presentation
    • Shift activities during a class period
    • Graphic organizers designed to model the flow of ideas
  • Strengths in Specific Areas of Studies:
    • Jigsaw groups
    • Interest groups, interest centers
    • Use learning contracts and learning centers to personalize learning
  • Need for targeted instruction and practices:
    • Routinely meet with students in small groups
    • Assign homework targeted to key skills students need
  • Varied Levels of Readiness
    • Tiering
    • Compacting
    • Think-alouds
    • Varied homework
    • Text digests
    • Writing frames
    • Small group instruction
    • Learning contracts
    • Learning menus
    • Materials with varied lexile levels
    • Word walls
    • Guided peer critiques
  • Varied Interests
    • Interest centers and groups
    • Expert groups
    • Web quests and inquiries
    • Group investigation
    • Independent studies
    • Personalized criteria for success
    • Design-a-day (personalized daily agendas)
  • Varied Learning Profiles
    • Visual organizers
    • Varied work options
    • Varied entry points
    • Intelligence preference tasks – see Differentiated curriculum charts.
    • Opportunities for movement
    • Varying modes of teacher presentation
  • Multiple Categories 



Clustering needs is more efficient than fulfilling IEP’s for every student.  More students benefit from intended remediations than initially intended.  It’s easier to plan units with built in remediations that address common needs than to identify these during the unit and make them a la carte.

Preparation Steps
  • Survey students interests and learning profiles
  • Pre-assess students to see who will need extra (less) support and what topics need extra resources
  • Determine what are the common clustered needs and variations – the top 3 that will serve most students
  • Gather and create resources (see above) that match common needs and common sources of variation
  • Assign students to groups that match activity types – it’s possible to use more than one grouping over the course of a project – learning groups could be different from product groups
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement learning strategies that align to common clustered needs and sources of variation
  • Use formative assessments with all students to give feedback on their progress so they can improve and to improve activities
  • Use student reflections to improve activities
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Design and implement systems that teach students how to set, track and reach academic goals
  • Continually survey students to check if the identified clusters of needs are the correct ones

32: Flexible Classroom Elements for Effective Responsive Teaching





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How to Change Several Classroom Elements as Part of Good Responsive Teaching
  • Negotiate extra time on tasks for students who work diligently, yet slowly
  • Compact or exempt advanced students on work related to topics they’ve already demonstrated mastery
  • Use stations, homework contracts, and learning centers to help students work on deficits on precursor skills
  • Create a quiet zone in room where noise and visual stimuli are minimal
  • Post and use several seating arrangement charts so that students can rearrange room quickly
  • Collect textbooks at different lexile levels
  • Bookmark websites at different lexile levels and languages
  • Use audio and video clips to teach
Student Grouping
  • Use prearranged groups and established work areas so students know where to sit during group work time
  • Plan to use multiple group styles: homogenous, heterogenous, interest, and learning profile groups
Teaching Strategies
  • Teach with both part-to-whole and whole-to-part emphasis
  • Intersperse lecture with small group discussions.  See Writing breaks and Classroom Conversations articles.
  • Make connections between key ideas/skills and students’ cultures and interests.
Learning Strategies
  • Provide practical, analytical, and creative options for student work.  See differentiated curriculum charts article.
  • Provide tiered assignments and assessments
  • Encourage students to work alone or with a peer
  • Use expert (jigsaw) groups to teach key ideas
Teaching Partnerships
  • Have students perform all classroom functions that are not imperative for a teacher to perform
  • Survey parents for insights into students’ interests, learning preferences and needs
  • Work with other teachers, especially those who are good with Differentiated Instruction


While “varying” instruction for responsive teaching, it’s good to know or be reminded of how many elements can be readily changed to meet students’ needs.  Also it’s important to know and experiment with how changing classroom logistics (use of space and time) can impact student learning.


Preparation Steps
  • Recruit thought partners
  • Gather websites and textbooks at varied lexile levels and formats for upcoming projects
  • Decide what seating configurations work for different workshop types and activity types
  • Experiment early in the year with seating configurations before creating diagrams
  • Train students to switch classroom seating between seating configuration types
  • Label group work areas and other key work spaces
  • Set up and communicate a flexible due date policy
  • Pre-assess students to see who qualifies for compacting and exemptions
  • Set up student groups – heterogeneous for product groups and homogeneous for learning groups
  • Design menu of learning activities that will serve students in different learning groups
  • Develop good questioning sequences for facilitating workshops and for reflection prompts
  • Elect and train classroom officers who lead students in key classroom functions
  • Survey parents to learn about student interests, learning needs, and challenges
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use student team roles to make sure team members in heterogenous groups all have meaningful group tasks
  • Lead small group workshops to align to specific learning groups needs
  • Observe students to determine who qualifies for compacting, exemptions, and delayed dead lines
  • Use interest groups and learning groups to deliver workshops that match students’ needs & wants
  • Use stamping method (or similar tracking system) to give lots of formative feedback and to track that students are moving towards mastery in key topics
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Consult students on strategies that can be implemented in the future to improve bridge between content and student needs and interests
  • Teach students how to effectively track their progress and select good next steps to meet academic and project goals

31: Core Beliefs Connecting Curricula to Student Diversity




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All students should consistently experience curricula rooted in the important ideas of a discipline that requires them to make meaning of information and think at high levels
  • All students develop products that apply knowledge of core ideas
  • Differentiate for enabling skills that help students understand core ideas and skills
Students need opportunities to learn the basics and opportunities to apply them in meaningful ways
  • Communicate connections between basic and complicated applications
  • Do not deny any students the opportunity to use their skills to play the game inherent in the discipline
There is a need for balance between student construction of meaning and teacher guides.
  • Play 3 roles as needed:
    1. Direct instructor – for teaching simple concepts
    2. Facilitator – for teaching deeper understandings of core concepts
    3. Coach – for teaching skills
  • Guide student reflections on how they are progressing towards enduring understandings
Students need to know the learning goals of a unit or lesson and criteria for successfully demonstrating proficiency with goals.
  • Share learning goals and rubrics early in lessons and early in projects
  • Students regularly reflect on how what they are doing relates to big goals
Research has shown that both high and low performing students benefit from classes that use meaning-driven, thought-based, application-focused curricula.  Applications of ideas give meaningful contexts for knowledge and skills.  Students must make meaning for themselves, it can not be imposed on them.  Having students construct meaning will enhance their ability to learn new content.  Students need a framework of goals and expectations to help them prioritize their ideas and goals.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards – identify related key understandings, enabling skills, and misconceptions
  • Design and implement pre-assessments that assess student knowledge, skills, and misconceptions related to learning goals
  • Interpret pre-assesment data in order to develop remediation and advanced learning activities (if needed)
  • Design project contexts that create meaningful ways for students to apply core and foundational knowledge and skills
  • Develop project rubric prior to launch
  • Determine types of learning that will occur in workshops and the appropriate teacher roles that go with these learning targets.  Design lessons that match the learning goals and the teacher roles that makes the most sense.
Preliminary Implementation Steps
  • Share the rubric early in the project and facilitate an activity that has students develop knows, need-to-knows and next steps that tie to the rubric
  • Implement workshops acting as direct instructor, facilitator, and coach depending on the types of learning targets
  • Use formative assessments frequently to provide specific feedback that students use to improve their products and learning and that teachers use to improve scaffolding
  • Design activities and tools that make connections between foundational and core skills explicit and clear to students
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop and implement tools that students regularly reflect on how their completed tasks relate to their understanding of big learning goals
  • Engage with classroom dialogues that use student input to create and refine project rubrics

30: 4 Assessment Principles that Honor Student Differences & Promote Learning





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1 – Assess before Teaching: Use un-graded pre-assessments to help prepare for varied student interests and varied levels of readiness.  Related strategies include:
  • Pre-assessments focused on essential understandings, related skills and misconceptions
  • Pre-assessments precede related lesson(s) and are ungraded
  • Use pre-assessments to get insights into students’ interests and preferred learning modes
  • Varied formats include: 3-2-1 cards, Frayer diagrams, journal entires, quizzes, checklists, concept maps.  Also see this article on assessing prior knowledge.
2 – Offer Appropriate Choices: Offer assessment choices aligned to learning targets that permit students to use their strengths to express content mastery.  Related strategies include:
  • Use common set of criteria (aligned to learning targets) to assess products, regardless of form
  • Use secondary set of criteria to evaluate details specific to specific product formats
  • Make sure student choices do not trump learning goals – example – student can not opt out of writing if the learning goal involves writing
  • Options must be worth the time and effort required for the product
  • Consider feasibility – not all assessments can be varied by student choice
  • Also see article on differentiated curriculum charts
3 – Provide feedback early and often: Provide timely, specific, understandable feedback and allow time for students to use feedback to improve.  Related strategies include:
  • Use student friendly language in rubrics
  • Use models and exemplars to demonstrate high quality work.  Also, see this article on models and descriptive feedback.
  • Give opportunities for students to use feedback to refine products
  • Make sure feedback clearly communicates what students have done well and what they need to improve
4 – Encourage Self-Assessment & Reflection: Use self assessments to make students more aware of how they learn and what they are doing to set and reach goals.  Related strategies include:
  • Leave spaces on rubrics for teacher, peer, and self feedback
  • Ask student questions such as:
    • What do you really understand about … ?
    • What question do you have about … ?
    • What was the most (least) effective in … ?
    • How could you improve … ?
    • What would you do differently next time?
    • What are you most proud of?
    • What are you most disappointed in?
    • How difficult was … for you?
    • What are you strengths (deficiencies) in … ?
    • To what extend has your performance improved over time?
    • What grade do you deserve and why?
    • How does your learning connect to other learning?
    • How has what you’ve learned changed your thinking?
    • What follow up work is needed?



Pre-assessment data can help teachers design appropriate remediation and advanced work.  A one-size-fits all approach to assessment will favor some students and neglect others.  Specific feedback can be used by students to improve.  High levels of metacognition support high levels of academic achievement.  Reflection on goal setting helps student develop ownership over their choices and results.

Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards – identify related key understandings, enabling skills, and misconceptions
  • Design and implement pre-assessments that assess student knowledge, skills, and misconceptions related to learning goals
  • Interpret pre-assesment data in order to develop remediation and advanced learning activities (if needed)
  • Select from question prompts above (and others) to design regular journal prompts for students to reflect on their learning and goal setting progress
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use frequent formative assessments to give students feedback on their learning and products and to fine-tune instruction
  • Give students time to use feedback to improve learning and products
  • Use reflective journal entries throughout the project to makes students more aware of their learning and goal setting processes and to improve these
  • Use clear rubrics and models/exemplars to communicate expectations for high quality work
  • Use clear rubrics to guide self- and peer- feedback on student products.  Allow students time to use this feedback to improve projects
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Offer student choices (within reason) on assessment and product types
  • Develop and use rubrics that allow for flexibility in product formats but still assess common key understandings in student work

29: Responsive Teaching: Assessment Principles





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1 – Consider Photo Albums versus Snapshots: Use multiple pieces of evidence to assess students’ progress towards curricular goals.  General strategies include:
  • Use multiple assessments including:
    • select response format,
    • short answer,
    • performance assessments (extended written products, visual products, oral performances, demonstrations),
    • long-term authentic projects,
    • portfolios,
    • reflective journals,
    • learning logs,
    • informal observations enhanced by checklists of key look-fors,
    • self-assessments,
    • peer reviews
  • Observe the maxim: students are ignorant until proven otherwise
2 – Match the Measures with the Goals: Use different types of assessments to address 3 different types of curricular goals:
  • Declarative knowledge (what students know and understand)
    • Use traditional assessments (multiple choice, fill in the blank)
  • Procedural knowledge (skills)
    • Use performance assessments for procedural knowledge
  • Dispositions (habits and attitudes of mind).
    • Use evidence gathered over time to assess dispositions
  • Of the 6 Facets of Understanding the most important are:
    • Explain – put things in own words, justify, show work
    • Apply – use what’s known in new situations
Inauthentic assessments:
  • Fill in the blank
  • Select an answer from given choices
  • Recall questions at end of chapter
  • Solve contrived problems
  • Practice decontextualized skills
Authentic assessments:
  • Conduct research using primary sources
  • Debate controversial issues
  • Conduct a scientific investigation
  • Solve real world word problems
  • Interpret literature or data
  • Do purposeful writing for an audience
  • G: real world goal
  • R: meaningful role for a student
  • A: authentic or simulated audience
  • S: situation involving real world applications
  • P: culminating products and performances
  • S: performance standards for judging success
3 – Form Follows Function: way assessments are used should match goals for gathering assessment data.  Different purposes and strategies include:
  • Summative: aimed to evaluate understanding over a long period of time
    • given toward end of unit
    • summative test, performance tasks, culminating projects
  • Diagnostic: pre-assess student misconceptions and skills related to upcoming learning goals
    • given at start of unit
    • quiz, knowledge survey, interest learning preference checks, checks for misconceptions
  • Formative: refine instruction to bridge the gap between student needs and learning goals
    • given throughout the unit
    • quizzes, oral questions, observations, think-alouds, concept maps, portfolio reviews, rubric check-ins, draft reviews, rehearsals


Due to measurement error, single assessment snapshots tend to be unreliable.  Visualizing evidence of understanding helps keep lessons aligned to learning goals.  Using multiple assessments favors students with varied learning profiles.  Select response formats favor students with good recall, not necessarily good understanding.  Teachers need good data to develop adaptive lessons that meet student needs.  Recognizing and using multiple purposes for assessment can help one interpret the data effectively and use lessons learned to develop better learning tasks.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards in order to determine what types of knowledge (declarative, procedural, disposition) are needed to be successful
  • Research, select, and create assessment tools strategies that match the types of knowledge that tie with upcoming learning goals
  • Research and develop pre-assessment tools that can determine students’ levels of related skills, student misconceptions, and student interests
  • Gather and interpret pre-assessment data.  Use interpretations to refine upcoming learning activities.
  • Use GRASPS principles to design authentic assessment opporunities
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement formative assessments throughout the project and use their interpretation to fine-tune instruction
  • Prepare students throughout the project for upcoming summative assessments at end of the project
  • Use combination of inauthentic and authentic assessment practices to assess learning at early and more advanced stages
  • Use multiple assessment types to check if students are progressing towards learning goals
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop practices and routines that engage students in effective self- and peer- assessment
  • Develop systems for gathering and tracking assessment learning data over time