Choosing the Right Assessment Method for STEAM Projects and Assignments
STEAM schools are inspiring more teachers to use positive grading and a better feedback system, encouraging students to explore, take calculated risks and learn.
One of the great things about STEAM learning is that it is generally hands-on. It’s how many kids learn best. Learning, experiencing, and having a deeper understanding of concepts is the ultimate goal.
However, we need to see those goals being met in a concrete way. That’s where grading and assessing often comes in. With STEAM projects and assignments these set numbers or letters can become a problem. How do you grade a design for a plastic bottle rocket when it ultimately failed? Or creative lines of code when teaching computer coding for kids?
Through careful planning, there can be a positive and effective system in place to reflect to parents and administration the results of student work. Each project and assignment will be different, and therefore the criteria and way of assessment may change. Have a look at the following for general guidelines and tips.
Look at standards and decide learning goals
No matter where you teach, there are expected learning outcomes. In the U.S. these take form of (Common Core) Standards. No matter what system you are working with, the first step is to explore what standards are being met or need to be met, and how the project or assignment does that.
The next step is to break it down even further and create learning goals for students. What should they know by the time they finish? Once you have done these two things, ideally having them in writing to share with your students, you can then move on to thinking about the next step (besides the actual planning) of how you will grade.
Option: Create a rubric
Creating a rubric and sharing it with students makes it clear to both you and them what the expectations are for a top grade. Rubrics are great because they can reflect whatever you deem important. This is useful because many times STEAM projects enable and encourage students to take risks. These risks should be viewed in a positive light, and rubrics allow for this. There are many templates available online or you can make your own from scratch.
Option: Create a test
Tests are a typical way to assess acquired knowledge. That’s often why teachers are quick to write them off, but if done right they can be an effective tool to go along side STEAM assignments. If twisting multiple-choice questions still doesn’t work out, short-answer and open-ended test questions are a good option. Having something more concrete can make it easier to show the student and other parties how things are going, and helps adjust learning objectives and outcomes against the STEAM curriculum.
Option: Checks and minuses
Some teachers have used a check system. They mark any STEAM related work with a check, check plus, or a check minus—80%, 100%, and 70% respectively—and this way no one fails (although of course tweak as/if needed). These are good overall markers and are simply figures to use. They don’t reflect the learning that takes place, but they serve a purpose as a grade.
Option: Have students create a journal
Help students create a STEAM project journal by giving them prompts or an outline of how to set it up. Have them write about the actual process, their thinking and rationale processes, the results, and what was learned. Grade it holistically and subjectively.
These are just a few of the options you can utilize. There are several more, and all are open to adapt to whatever STEAM assignment is assigned. Just remember that when it comes to this type of student work, not everything needs to be graded. Instead, the grade should reflect an overall look at what was completed.
Participating in a STEAM curriculum is tons of fun for all involved, and thinking about how it should be assessed should never be a barrier. The learning that comes from these projects far outweighs the need for an entry in the grade book, but when you do have to have an entry use one of the options above to help.