by Courtney Belolan
What do all of these student products have in common?
- A children’s book page showing an animal cell, with labels and simple explanations of how the major organelles work.
- A Prezi showing an animal cell. The presentation zooms in on different parts of the cell with a narrator explaining their functions
- A pop song about the animal cell. Each verse focuses on a different organelle.
- A multi-paragraph essay describing the key parts of an animal cell
- A hand-sewn felt animal cell doll with all the major parts labeled and a display box with descriptions each major part.
These example products are all exactly the same, but different. While each product clearly connects to different skills sets, or interests, each addresses the same learning target and level of rigor:
Understands the structures and functions of animal cells
This is the goal of common assessment in a learner-centered proficiency-based system. What is important here is that each student is being held accountable to the same standard, not the same assessment task. Because the level of rigor is defined, not a specific task, students can use their personal interests and strengths to show what they know. Each students is potentially addressing targets in other disciplines as well including art, music, writing, and digital literacy.
Given a scoring scale, any group of science teachers would be able to judge any one of these products and come to consensus on which meet the target and which do not. Likewise, any one science teacher could use the same scoring scale to judge all of these products and determine which students demonstrate proficiency and which do not. The assessments are all reliable and valid because the are being judged using the same criteria.
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