Student Achievement Opinion

How Performance-Based Assessments Designed by Student Interns Promote Interest-Based Skill Development

By Contributing Blogger — May 22, 2018 6 min read
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By Alec Barron and Carissa Duran

At Del Lago Academy, we believe that learning is not bound by the walls of our school. Rich and transformative learning experiences happen at home, in the community, and in workplaces. Our internship program allows scholars to leave campus and build relationships with mentors that help shape their identity and learn about the work that happens in our region. For six weeks each spring, scholars spend two days per week building skills and knowledge in workplaces, such as laboratories, catering businesses, hospitals, city government. A recent goal with this work has been to promote deeper internship experiences with more intentional skill development.

As part of the Competency X project, we wondered if we could leverage our approach with ePortfolios and digital badges to promote skill development that is more relevant to both the scholar and their work context. We knew that some of our internships were job shadowing experiences with menial tasks. Our idea was that we could have a mentor and scholar co-create a performance-based assessment to capture skill development that was most important in that particular workplace. The hope was that this assessment would shift the goal setting a scholar does with their mentor. The goals would be designed around novel competencies that are needed in specific work context. Scholars would capture authentic evidence and mentor validations of their skill development in a portfolio, and recognize this achievement with a co-created digital badge. The digital badge would be open and accessible for others to earn and can help inform future applicants about the context specific work in an internship.

We piloted this approach in 2017 and launched a second iteration this year that resulted in more authentic, open-ended, and process-oriented assessments and evidence of learning than we captured in the past. The process of co-creating a performance-based assessment began with identifying an area of growth in their internship industry and work towards innovating a solution for that area. To help them identify this growth area, we used a model of reflection, evaluation, and innovation called ‘Roses, Buds, and Thorns,’ which is illustrated in the figure below.

Model of Reflection, Evaluation, and Innovation: Roses, Buds, and Thorns:

We asked scholars in their industry performance assessment to collect evidence and reflections on a ‘Rose,’ a task that needed to be fostered, a ‘Bud’ that needed only some minor adjustments, and a ‘Thorn’ that needed to be rearranged or eliminated. Scholars collected evidence of learning in a portfolio and used it to help identify their own Roses, Buds, and Thorns for skills they needed for success. Scholars then designed an assessment to capture and inform their own growth and recognize it with a digital badge.

Aisha Wallace-Palomares interned at Zero Waste San Diego, an organization dedicated to developing zero-waste initiatives. Aisha, a young woman fully dedicated to social and environmental justice, recognized the organization’s dedication to their mission and capitalized on their commitment by developing a proposal of her own:

As an intern I created a proposal to create a Sustainability Innovation Center at the San Diego Central Library. This would ensure the ability for people across all socioeconomic levels to access resources and information relating to sustainability and environment. There would be a rooftop garden, a composting area, window farming, rain harvesting, and a demonstration area."

Aisha recognized that the commitment and resources of both Zero Waste San Diego and the library were already there to evolve into a true champion for their community. Her proposal combined the resources and commitment of the two organizations to redesign existing space and bring a new resource to the community. Her reflections post-internship demonstrated the development of interest-based skills that really could not be taught from a podium or measured through a traditional assessment. Her proposal demonstrated strong written and verbal communication skills, collaboration, creativity, professionalism, and advocacy.

Next, we gave Aisha and other scholars the opportunity to find their own Roses, Buds, and Thorns with skills they needed to succeed in their internship. Scholars collected evidence of their learning, and then reflected on the extent to which they mastered skills. The evidence was captured in a portfolio and recognized by a digital badge. Below are some examples of these digital badge-based performance assessments.

  • Aisha’s project to develop a rooftop garden and store for the community library was an incredible product in its own right, but in reflecting on her own skills, she identified a skill gap, or thorn, in verifying the accuracy of information. She defined the competencies through a digital badge she titled ‘Accurate Information,’ a set of competencies necessary to market and gain support for her proposal and other projects of Zero Waste San Diego.
  • Kunal Bhakta, scholar-intern at San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, reflected on his Craftsmanship badge, one that ‘demonstrates [his] ability to provide quality work by paying attention to precision to detail.’ He provided media evidence of the fish tank he built, fence he installed, and aquaponics plants he incorporated into this display to prove he had mastered this new skill.
  • Marcella Kuc interned in the Pathology Department of Palomar Health and provided evidence for her Pathology 101 badge. Due to HIPPAA regulations, she was unable to capture first hand images of her work, but the open-ended nature of this performance-based assessment gave her the freedom to draw connections, diagram her work, and use media from the internet coupled with her own reflections and explanations to demonstrate that her work met the expectations of entry level pathology assistants.

We learned a tremendous amount from the badges scholars created with their mentors. These badges will soon be open on our digital badge platform and serve as a recruiting tool for future internship applicants. Teachers, administrators, mentors and internship program organizers will be able to view scholar badge profiles to discover scholars who has the skills and interests that fit the requirements of a particular job/internship role or mentorship program. The scholar co-created badges can currently be found in portfolio entries, such as the following examples:

This work by scholars indicates the power that comes from student participation in the performance assessment design process. Our learning from this work will be continually shared at Competency X. We are continually inspired by the Assessment for Learning movement that aims to help us all broaden the definition of success and create more equitable opportunities for learners to advance with goals they set for college, career, and life.

Open Educational Resources for Co-Created Badges

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