Content as the Focus
When technology is seen as the tool for instructional delivery, communication, or information seeking, student learning is measured on mastery of content objectives rather than on mastery of technology use itself. Strategies for assessing student learning through technology-assisted processes and technology-produced products should be consistent with strategies used for assessing learning through more tradi- tional means. This is especially true if the existing strategies already address the student-centered, problem-based, interdisciplinary learning that is characteristic of constructivist learning environments. Constructivist learning integrates disciplines, skills, and strategies so that students can develop their own understandings. It challenges teachers to assess student learning in a format that most closely matches how the information was learned, as well as with formative methods that will provide students feedback with which to inform further learning.
Student learning through collaborative team projects, often culminated with products that have been produced using technology tools such as multimedia presentations, cannot adequately be assessed using traditional methods. More appropriate strategies for assessing growth in content knowledge within project- based, integrated learning activities include conferences with students, anecdotal records, and observation (Kumar & Bristor, 1999). Rubrics can strengthen these assessments. Simkins (1999) defines rubrics as “sets of formal guidelines we use to rate examples of student work, usually presented in the form of a matrix with performance levels in the top row and performance dimensions along the left column”.
TABLE 15.1 Assessment Rubric Example
|Content||Information is in a||Information is in a||Information is in||Information is not|
|logical, intuitive||logical sequence;||some logical||in a logical|
|sequence;||information is||sequence; some||sequence and is|
|information is clear,||largely clear,||information is||confusing,|
|appropriate, and||appropriate, and||confusing,||inappropriate, or|
|Written||Maintains clear||Maintains focus and||Attempts to||Frequently loses|
|work||focus and logical||displays||maintain focus and||focus and|
|organization;||organization;||organization, but||organization; ideas|
|establishes a tone||conveys complex||occasionally is not||are not conveyed|
|appropriate to the||ideas with||clear; simple ideas||clearly or|
|intended audience;||supportive details;||are conveyed well,||supported with|
|clearly conveys||has fewer than two||but more complex||details; has|
|complex ideas with||misspellings and/or||notions are not||significant spelling|
|ample supportive||grammatical errors.||developed and||errors and/or|
|details; has no||supported with||grammatical errors.|
|misspellings or||details; has multiple|
|grammatical errors.||misspellings and/or|
Well-constructed rubrics assist teachers in making decisions about student skills, competencies, abilities, and attitudes within complex learning processes and prod- ucts (see Table 15.1). Students can be introduced to rubrics, and even students with learning disabilities can more precisely focus on learning when they know in ad- vance what will be expected of them in an activity (Jackson & Larkin, 2002). Stu- dent teams can broaden their understanding by assessing peer projects according to rubric criteria. Simkins (1999) provides these tips for constructing effective as- sessment rubrics:
- Construct rubrics that are not too task specific—more general rubrics can be used again for other projects.
- Construct rubrics that are not too general, because they will lack the specificity required to make appropriate distinctions.
- Avoid highly detailed criteria that become more of a checklist than a rubric.
- Use a limited number of dimensions, or main areas of focus, in order to decide where to look for the main learning priorities of the project.
- Use key criteria that matter the most about each dimension of the project.
- Use measurable criteria that can be counted or ranked.
- Select descriptors that clearly describe traits that should be present in
- Use four performance levels that make fine enough discrimination, yet are not too divisive.
- Maintain an equal interval distance between levels so that the highest and next highest are an equal distance to the lowest and next lowest.
- Involve students in creating rubrics so they will clearly understand what the expectations are, and “buy in” to using them.
Numerous rubric examples can also be found on the web (e.g., Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators at http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/assess.html). Practical assessment strategies using technology tools are described in the final sec- tion of this chapter.