Reading & Literacy Opinion

It’s Time to Co-Design Assessments With Students

By Starr Sackstein — February 23, 2016 2 min read
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This year’s group of students is very different from last’s. The class is much larger and the students don’t do well with in-class performances. At least, not the “watching of other groups” part.

The last few experiences, although rich for the performers, not so much for the listeners, often spending time disrupting those who prepared to lead the lesson. Unfortunately, this forced me to reconsider the next unit completely.

So instead of trying to design a new assessment to cover the same standards alone, this year I’m challenging my students to help me come up with something better that will still assess the same content, but will do it in a way that better suits them.

My goal is to stay completely open through this process and allow students to collaborate and pitch news ideas and then as a group, design and develop what we will do for Acts 2 and 3 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

In year’s past, we work through Act 1 together, reading aloud, making sure they understand the premise and language. Then the training wheels come off and they work in small groups to understand and get through Act 2. Act 3 has traditionally been a performance with a larger group, learning the lines and directing the scenes. Acts 4 and 5 (which will likely remain because this group is good with tech) is a screencast of a designed comic of a particular scene.

Reading Shakespeare is a hallmark of AP English and although a staple, doesn’t mean it has be approached the same traditional way every time. Instead, we should take the classics and bring them into the modern age considering our audience and allowing their needs to trump that our teacher comfort.

In class, students worked in small groups, considering the standards and the old assignments. We briefly talked about backward planning and how to know the outcome in order to plan the assessment.

Students diligently reviewed the original assignments and tried to assess what they were looking for and then started brainstorming ideas.

They did a great job.

Check out some of what students had to say during the planning:

So as it turns out, many of them liked my ideas for assessment but had to come up with better ways to engage the audience and hold them accountable for what they take in from their classmates.

Over all, the experience was enlightening. Students seemed to enjoy having a say in what we do next and tomorrow, we will be voting on the best options and that is how we will proceed. Students in the chosen groups will then work with me to design an assignment sheet and they will lead the lessons as the class works to achieve the assessment successfully.

Sometimes taking risks pay off big and this is one of those times. Can’t wait to see what students choose. Stay tuned, I’ll follow up with what happens next soon.

When was the last time you handed over an assessment decision to the students? What’s holding you back?
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