My current class sizes are in the low 30s, some classes I have done this with in previous years were in the low 40s while others in the 20s. With the right amount of planning, I believe this could be implemented with any class which has a reasonable amount of students. As for prep time, out of 8 courses throughout the entire year I teach 7 classes.
How does it look?
First, if you walked into my classroom you would see some students working in groups, others alone, and others receiving one-on-one assistance from me. Some students would be working on a laptop, some on paper and pen, and others researching on an I-Pad. I encourage students to assist each other, collaborate on problems and research how the math we are using relates to their own life.
I give students the whole “exam” at once and don’t set a deadline, nor do I ask students to work on it alone. The directions are to work on the “exam” during class time, create your own problems and solutions, work on it in any order you would like, and to hand in the parts as you complete them.
Students are then given 1 or 2 classes (depending on the exam) to work on it. As students complete a question, not the entire exam, I can start assessing it. If I am not helping a student I will assess the question with the student explaining their reasoning and solution. This keeps my time spent on assessment low as not all students are handing in the entire exam on the exact same day. This allows me to spend more time critically analyzing each student’s work.
Now here is the key:
I don’t grade it!
I either give them verbal feedback, or if I am assessing it outside of school, I will provide them with written feedback and comments. Students then have the option of correcting their mistakes and re-handing it in. This process continues to either the question is completed at 100% or the student chooses to take the mark I would assign as a regular exam. This is how I have turned my assessments of learning to assessments of, as, and for learning. I also have redefined the idea of 100% in my class.
What if a student does not like the project?
Easy answer, a traditional exam consisting of multiple choice, numerical response and written response is always an option. However, only a rare few of students choose this option. Keep in mind this is not a threat or a way to motivate students to complete the project but just another choice a student has as to how they are assessed.
What if a student does not complete the project in the time set?
I do not give them a zero, give them late marks, or use any kind of grading consequence but require them to start coming in during lunch, or anytime outside of class to complete it. The first meeting starts with a simple question, “Why isn’t it done?”
Some reasons are heavy workloads in other courses or outside school responsibilities and then I give the student as long as it takes to complete the project, with him/her still coming in during lunch.
Another reason I often hear is that they do not understand the material. This solution has me re-teaching the material and still requiring them to complete an assessment on the outcome.
All other reasons are dealt case by case.
I realized, with a traditional test, if students do not understand the material we give them a failing grade and move on. In the past, I have tried to have students complete their mistakes, but once I have shown them their mark all motivation to learn the intended outcome has vanished. This is the reasoning behind the no grade on their product until it is complete.
Students are enjoying this way of assessment as it gives them choice, autonomy in the way they can demonstrate their learning, and allows for authentic learning to occur. If I have not answered a specific question, or you still have concerns, please let me know.