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Using formative tools to improve PBL outcomes

By Suzie Boss 6/19/2014 Project-based learning

In a high school art room, I watched a student working at an easel.

When I asked about her progress, she explained that she was attempting to paint sunflowers in the style of Monet, her favorite artist. She told me she liked how the flowers were looking but said the vase was giving her trouble. She planned to keep reworking it, applying layers of acrylic until she got the play of light just the way she wanted. Then she laughed and said, “You should see what’s underneath! I bet there are three or four versions beneath this one.”

Not only was the student producing a lovely painting — which would one day grace her family’s living room — but she was paying close attention to her learning process. At the end of each class, she added a short reflection to her project journal, which she was keeping on a Google Doc shared with her teacher. She noted both frustrations and breakthroughs, documenting what she learned from failures as well as the suggestions and critiques (from her teacher and peers) that helped her make improvements.

At the end of this inquiry project, her finished work and artist’s statement would be publicly exhibited. She would receive a final grade, scored with a rubric to assess both product and process. As I listened to this student describe her learning experience, however, it seemed that the more meaningful assessment was happening long before the project came to a close.

Read the full post on SmartBlogs.

Education writer Suzie Boss is the author of several books about project-based learning, including the ISTE bestseller Reinventing Project-Based Learning. Connect with her on Twitter via @suzieboss.

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