Over the weekend I tweeted “A great exam makes a teacher proud while a good project makes a student proud” and received some unpleasant responses. Knowing this would take more than 140 characters, I wanted to elaborate on what I meant.
I am not denying that some students are proud when they receive a great mark on an exam, but I believe these students represent the minority of the group. When I look around my classroom, I have posters, Parachutes, Enlargements, graphs, and other math projects which have all been created by students. After looking through mine, and my colleagues’ classrooms, I have yet to find a unit exam posted on the wall.
Remembering back in my own schooling, I recall creating gumball machines, paper mache figures, and even a sundial I gave to my mother for Christmas, but yet I vaguely remember the 90+% mark I received on my math 30 diploma. Going through my scrapbook, I don’t have a single test or quiz among all the projects I kept. Also, for most of these projects I don’t even have a clue as to the mark I received on them.
What does this mean?
I believe that most students are more proud of the product they create than the mark they receive on something the teacher created. Last year, I had students wanting to show their parents their creations BEFORE I had even assessed it! Has a student ever asked to show their parents their exam before you give them their mark?
School should be giving each and every student a chance to feel success and accomplishment. For some, I do believe this can be in the form of an exam, but for most this will require a different form of assessment. Open-ended projects move beyond traditional assessments and, if made properly, require students to communicate their thinking in a deeper manner.
I am not saying that high marks on exams should be discredited, or don’t represent that learning has taken place, but just suggesting that open-ended projects will allow for success for other students in the class. Remember, differentiation should start with instruction but continue onto assessment.