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Have It Your Way

It's finals time here at Brookfield Central High School.  It is a time for reflection as we give our final assessment for our course. I asked my students to reflect on which type of assessment allows them to best demonstrate their understanding.

When growing up in the 70's and 80's, I remember there was a heated rivalry between McDonald's and Burger King.  Some may remember the argument over flame-broiled vs. fried.  But, I remember the difference between the Whopper and the Big Mac.  One you could have your way.  The other was so regulated, it spawned its own song.

I collected feedback from my students on what helped them learn in my class this term.  The number one piece of positive feedback students provided was the ability to have individualized assessment options.  Below is my final feedback board of the year on "This Helped Me Learn".

The number one piece of positive feedback based on this board is the ability to complete a mastery defense (click the link if you don't know what one is) as a summative assessment.  In addition, 22 other students (out of 80) made some comment regarding the ability to design their own assessment.

 I could go on and on about why you should allow students the option to choose how they will be assessed, but I'll let the students speak for themselves.

This doesn't mean that traditional multiple choice assessments don't have their place.  If a student can use it to demonstrate mastery, give them that option.  The great thing about a traditional multiple choice assessment is that it can be graded quickly and students can get immediate feedback.  It is the primary way I have students track their progress in a unit of instruction.  But, that doesn't mean it is the best way for all students to demonstrate that they have mastered a learning objective.  The more opportunities a teacher gives a student to choose or even design his/her own assessments, the more likely the student will have a better grasp of how he or she learns best.  Finally, rather than creating a classroom of passive students, I feel I have created a group of students who are willing to advocate for themselves.  Sadly, they are afraid to express these feelings of how they learn best outside of my classroom to their other teachers.  Hopefully that will change over time.  But, it's up to teachers to show that they are open to this change. That is the ultimate goal of this post.

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