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Topic How to Assess?

6 Projects

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Describe the characteristics of project work;
2. Justify the use of the project as an assessment tool; and
3. Explain the procedure in using the project as an assessment
technique.

INTRODUCTION
Besides objective and essay tests, other methods of assessing students are
used. In this topic, we will focus on two types of such assessment methods;
the project. The project is used in many subject areas that involve hands-on
experience such as the sciences, technical and vocational subjects. For subjects
such as geography, geology and environmental education, the project may
involve fieldwork.

6.1 WHAT IS A PROJECT?


Most of us have done some form of project work in school or university and
know what a project is. However, when asked to define it, one will see varying
interpretations of the project and its purpose. Projects can represent a range of
tasks that can be done at home or in the classroom, by parents or groups of
students, quickly or over time. While project-based learning (PBL) also features
projects, in PBL the focus is more on the process of learning and learner-peer-
content interaction that the end product itself.

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A project is an activity in which time constraints have been largely removed and
it can be undertaken individually or by a group, and usually involves a
significant element of work being done at home or out of school. Project work
has its roots in the constructivist approach which evolved from the work of
psychologists and educators such as Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, Jean Piaget
and John Dewey. Constructivism views learning as the result of mental
construction wherein students learn by constructing new ideas or concepts based
on their current and previous knowledge.

Most projects have certain common defining features (Katz & Chard, 1989).
They can be seen in the following:

Student centred;

A definite beginning, middle and end;

Content is meaningful to students; directly observable in their


environment;

Real-world problems;

First-hand investigation;

Sensitivity to local culture and culturally appropriate;

Specific goals related to curriculum;

A tangible product that can be shared with the intended audience;

Connections among school, life, and work skills;

Opportunity for reflective thinking and student self-assessment; and

Multiple types and authentic assessments (portfolios, journals, rubrics,


etc.).

When working on a project, the whole work process is as important as the final
result or product. Work process refers to students choosing a knowledge area,
delimiting it, formulating a problem or putting forward questions. It also
involves students investigating and describing what is required to solve a given
problem or answer a specific question; through further work, collection of
materials and knowledge. Project work is planned so it can be carried out within
the time available. Preferably, the task should be drawn from knowledge areas in
the current curriculum. Project work is an integrated learning experience that
encourages students to break away from the compartmentalisation of knowledge

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TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS 123

and instead involves drawing upon different aspects of knowledge. For example,
making an object not only requires handicraft skills, but also knowledge of
materials, working methods and uses of the object. Technological supports will
also enhance student learning. Thinking skills are integral to project work.
Similarly, writing the project report requires writing skills learned in the
language classroom and applying it when analysing and drawing conclusions for
a science project. Generally, there are TWO types of projects: research-based and
product-based.

(a) Research-Based Project is more theoretical in nature and may consist of


posing a question, formulating a problem or setting up some hypotheses. In
order to answer the question, solve the problem or confirm the
assumptions, information must be found, evaluated and used. This
information can either be a result of their own investigations, or may be
obtained from public sources without being a pure reproduction. Such
project work is usually presented as a research report.

(b) Product-Based Project would be the production of a concrete object, a


service, a dance performance, a film, an exhibition, a play, a computer
programme and so forth.

Project work provides an opportunity for students to explore different


approaches in solving problems. In project work a teacher follows, discusses and
assesses the work in all its different phases. This teacher is the students
supervisor. If the work takes place in a group, the input of different students
should take place from within their respective programme goals. Most
importantly, students should find projects fun, motivating and challenging
because they play an active role in the entire process. The selection of a project
may be determined by the teacher or the choice may be left to the students,
probably with the approval of the teacher. What is significant is that students
take ownership of their project. In project works, students are actively involving
themselves as problem solver, decision-maker, investigator, documenter and
researcher.

There are many types of effective projects. The following are some ideas for
projects:

(a) Survey of historical buildings in the students community;

(b) Study of the economic activities of people in the local community;

(c) Study of the transportation system in the district;

(d) Recreate an historical event;

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124 TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS

(e) Develop a newsletter or website on a specific issue relevant to the school or


community (school safety, recycling, how businesses can save energy and
reduce waste, etc.);

(f) Compile oral histories of the local area by interviewing community elders;

(g) Produce a website as a virtual tour of the history of the community;

(h) Create a CD of students graduating from primary or secondary school;

(i) Create a wildlife or botanical guide for a local wildlife area;

(j) Create an exhibition on local products, local history and local personalities
using audiotapes, videotapes and photographs; and

(k) Investigate pollution of local rivers, lakes and ponds.

The possibilities for projects are endless. The key ingredient for any project idea
is that it is student-driven, challenging, and meaningful. It is important to realise
that project-based instruction complements the structured curriculum. Project-
based instruction builds on and enhances what students learn through systematic
instruction. Teachers do not let students become the sole decision-makers about
what project to do, nor do teachers sit back and wait for the student to figure out
how to go about the process, which may be very challenging (Bryson, 1994). This
is where the teachers ability to facilitate and act as coach plays an important part
in the success of a project. The teacher will brainstorm ideas with the student to
come up with project possibilities, discuss possibilities and options, help the
student form a guiding question, and be ready to help the student throughout
the implementation process such as setting guidelines, due dates, resource
selection and so forth (Bryson, 1994).

SELF-CHECK 6.1
1. What is a project?

2. State the differences between a research-based project and a


product-based project.

3. Give examples of the two types of projects in your subject area or


any subject area.

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6.2 WHAT IS ASSESSED USING PROJECTS?


Project-oriented work is becoming increasingly common in working life. Project
competence, the ability to work together with others and take personal
initiatives, and entrepreneurship are skills often required by employers. These
competences can be developed during project work which thus prepares pupils
for working life. Project work makes schooling more like the real world. In real
life, we seldom spend several hours listening to authorities who know more than
we do and tell us exactly what to do and how to do things. We ask questions of
the person we are learning from. We try to link what the person is telling us with
what we already know. We bring our experiences and what we already know
that is relevant to the issue or task and say something about it.

You can see this with a class of young learners. When the teacher tells a story,
little kindergarten children raise their hands, eager to share their experiences
with something related to the story. They want to be able to apply their natural
tendencies to the learning process. This is how life is much of the time! By giving
project work, we open up areas in schooling where students can speak about
what they already know.

Project work is a learning experience which enables the development of certain


knowledge, skills and attitudes which prepares students for lifelong learning and
the challenges ahead (see Table 6.1). These objectives may not be achieved by
other instructional strategies. Thus, projects are aimed at:

(a) Developing the skill of planning, structuring and taking responsibility for a
larger piece of work and providing experience of working in project
form;

(b) Deepening knowledge within a subject or between subjects;

(c) Providing students with opportunities to explore the inter-relationships


and inter-connectedness of topics within a subject and between subjects;
and

(d) Encouraging students to synthesise knowledge from various areas of


learning, and critically and creatively applying it to real-life situations.
Hence, it is important that students be assigned to carry out authentic
projects in which students plan, implement and report on projects that have
real-world applications beyond the classroom (Blank and Harwell, 1997).

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Table 6.1: The Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes Achieved with Projects

Domains Learning Outcomes


Knowledge Students will be able to make connections across different areas of
application knowledge. They can generate, develop and evaluate ideas and
(Apply creative information so as to apply these skills to the project task.
and critical Be able to choose a knowledge area and within this delimit a
thinking skills) task or a problem.
Be able to choose relevant materials, methods as well as relevant
tools.
Be held responsible in drawing up a project plan and revising it
when needed.
Communication Students will acquire the skills to communicate effectively, by
(Improve presenting their ideas clearly and coherently to specific audiences,
communication in both the written and oral forms.
skills; both oral Be able to discuss with their supervising teacher how their work
and written) is developing.
Be able to provide a written report of the project describing the
progress of work from initial idea to final product.
Be able to produce a final product which is an independent
solution to the task or problem chosen.
Collaboration Students will acquire collaborative skills through working in a team
(Foster to achieve common goals.
collaborative
learning skills)
Independent Students will be able to learn on their own, reflect on their learning
Learning and take appropriate actions to improve it.
(Develop self- Be able to use a logbook to document the progress of their work,
directed inquiry and regularly report the process.
and life-long
learning skills) Be able to assess either in writing or verbally their work process
and results.

Source: Harwell, S., & Blank, W. (1997). Connecting high school with the real world. ERIC
Document No. ED407586

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SELF-CHECK 6.2

1. What are the knowledge, skills and attitudes evaluated using a


project?

2. To what extent has project work been used as an assessment


strategy in Malaysian schools?

6.3 ASSESSING PROJECT WORK


There are many types of projects and there is no one correct way to design and
implement a project, but there are some questions and things to consider when
designing effective projects. It is very important for everyone involved to be clear
about the goals of the project. You will be surprised that many teachers are not
sure why they use projects to assess their students. The teacher should develop
an outline that explains the projects essential elements and his or her
expectations for each project. Although the outline can take various forms, it
should contain the following elements (Bottoms & Webb, 1998):

(a) Situation or Problem


A sentence or two describing the issue or problem that the project is trying
to address. For example, the pollution levels in rivers, transportation
problems in urban centres, the price of essential items are increasing, crime
rate in squatter areas, youths loitering in shopping complexes, students in
internet cafes during school hours and so forth.

(b) Project Description and Purpose


A concise explanation of the projects ultimate purpose and how it
addresses the situation or problem. For example, students will research,
conduct surveys and make recommendations on how students can help
reduce pollution of rivers. Results will be presented in a newsletter,
information brochure, exhibition or website.

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128 TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS

(c) Performance Specifications


A list of criteria or quality standards the project must meet.

(d) Rules
Guidelines for carrying out the project include timeline and short-term
goals, such as to have interviews and research completed by a certain date.

(e) List of Project Participants with Roles Assigned


Roles of team members and if members of the community are involved,
identify their roles.

(f) Assessment
How the students performance will be evaluated. In project work, the
learning process is being evaluated as well as the final product.

6.3.1 Before Designing the Project


Identify Learning Goals and Objectives. What specific skills or concepts will
students learn? Herman, Aschbacher and Winters (1992) have identified five
questions to consider when determining learning goals:

(a) What important cognitive skills do I want my students to develop? (For


example, to use algebra to solve everyday problems, to write persuasively);

(b) What social and affective skills do I want my students to develop? (For
example, develop teamwork skills);

(c) What metacognitive skills do I want my students to develop? (For example,


reflect on the research process they use, evaluate its effectiveness, and
determine methods of improvement);

(d) What types of problems do I want my students to be able to solve? (For


example, know how to do research, apply the scientific method); and

(e) What concepts and principles do I want my students to be able to apply?


(For example, apply basic principles of biology and geography in their
lives, understand cause-and-effect relationships).

Steinberg (1998) provides a checklist, which is called the Six As Project Checklist,
for the design of effective projects (see Table 6.2). The checklist can be used
throughout the process to help both teacher and student plan and develop a
project, as well as to assess whether the project is successful in meeting
instructional goals.

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Table 6.2: The Six As Project Checklist

Six As Project Questions Checklist


Authenticity Does the project stem from a problem or question that is
meaningful to the student?
Is the project similar to one undertaken by an adult in the
community or workplace?
Does the project give the student the opportunity to produce
something that has value or meaning to the student beyond the
school setting?
Academic Does the project enable the student to acquire and apply
Rigour knowledge central to one or more discipline areas?
Does the project challenge the student to use methods of inquiry
from one or more disciplines (e.g. to think like a scientist)?
Does the student develop higher order thinking skills (e.g.
searching for evidence, using different perspectives)?
Applied Does the student solve a problem that is grounded in real life
Learning and/or work (e.g. design a project, organise an event)?
Does the student need to acquire and use skills expected in high-
performance work environments (e.g. teamwork, problem-solving,
communication, or technology)?
Does the project require the student to develop organisational and
self-management skills?
Active Does the student spend significant amounts of time doing work in
Exploration the field, outside school?
Does the project require the student to engage in real investigative
work, using a variety of methods, media, and sources?
Is the student expected to explain what he/she learned through a
presentation or performance?
Adult Does the student meet and observe adults with relevant experience
Relationships and expertise?
Is the student able to work closely with at least one adult?
Do adults and the student collaborate on the design and
assessment of the project?
Assessment Does the student reflect regularly on his or her learning, using clear
Practices project criteria that he or she has helped to set?
Do adults from outside the community help the student develop a
sense of the real-world standards from this type of work?
Is the students work regularly assessed through a variety of
methods, including portfolios and exhibitions?

Source: Adaptation of A. Steinberg (1998). Real learning, real work: School-to-work as


high school reform. New York, NY: Routledge

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130 TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS

It is also important to ensure that the following questions are addressed:

(a) Do the students have easy access to the resources they need? This is
especially important if a student is using specific technology or subject-
matter expertise from the community;

(b) Do the students know how to use the resources? Students who have
minimal experience with the computer, for example, may need extra
assistance in utilising it;

(c) Do the students have mentors or coaches to support them in their work?
This can be in-school or out-of-school mentors; and

(d) Are students clear on the roles and responsibilities of each person in the
group?

ACTIVITY 6.1

1. What are some of the factors you should consider when designing
project work for students in your subject area?

2. Give examples of projects you have included or can include in the


teaching and evaluation of your subject area.

6.4 POSSIBLE PROBLEMS WITH PROJECT


WORK
Be as specific as possible in determining outcomes so that both the student and
the teacher understand exactly what is to be learned.

Teachers intending to use projects both as an instructional and assessment tool


should be aware of certain problem areas. Be aware of the following problems
when undertaking project-based instruction:

(a) Aligning project goals with curriculum goals can be difficult. To make
matters worse, parents are not always supportive of projects when they
cannot see how it relates to the overall assessment of learning;

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(b) Projects can often take longer than expected and teachers need a lot of time
to prepare good authentic projects;

(c) Students are not clear as to what is required. There is a need for adequate
structure, guidelines and guidance on how to carry out projects;

(d) Intensive staff development is required;

(e) Teachers are not traditionally prepared to integrate content into real-world
activities;

(f) The resources needed for project work may not be readily available and
there might be a lack of administrative support; and

(g) Some teachers may not be familiar with how to assess projects.

6.5 GROUP WORK IN PROJECTS


Working in groups has become an accepted part of learning as a consequence of
widely recognised benefits of collaborative group work for student learning.
When groups work well, students learn more and produce higher quality
learning outcomes. What are some benefits of group work in projects?

(a) Peer Learning can Improve the Overall Quality of Student Learning
Group work enhances student understanding. Students learn from each
other and benefit from activities that require them to articulate and test
their knowledge. Group work provides an opportunity for students to
clarify and refine their understanding of concepts through discussion and
rehearsal with peers. Many, but not all students recognise the value of
group work to their personal development, and of being assessed as a
member of a group. Working with a group and for the benefit of the group
also motivates some students. Group assessment helps some students
develop a sense of responsibility. A student working in a group on a project
may think, I felt that because one is working in a group, it is not possible
to slack off or to put things off. I have to keep working otherwise I would
be letting other people down.

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(b) Group Work can Help Develop Specific Generic Skills Sought by
Employers
As a direct response to the objective of preparing graduates with the
capacity to function successfully as team members in the workplace, there
has been a trend in recent years to incorporate generic skills alongside
traditional subject-specific knowledge in the expected learning outcomes in
higher education. Group work can facilitate the development of skills,
which include:

(i) Teamwork skills (skills in working within team dynamics and


leadership skills);

(ii) Analytical and cognitive skills (analysing task requirements,


questioning, critically interpreting material and evaluating the work
of others);

(iii) Collaborative skills (conflict management and resolution, accepting


intellectual criticism, flexibility and negotiation and compromise); and

(iv) Organisational and time management skills. A student might say,


Having to do group work has changed the way I worked. I could not
do it all the night before. I had to be more organised and efficient.

(c) Group Work May Reduce the Work Load Involved in Assessing, Grading
and Providing Feedback to Students
Group work, and group assessment in particular, is sometimes
implemented in the hope of streamlining assessment and grading tasks. In
simple terms, if students submit group assignments then the number of
pieces of work to be assessed can be vastly reduced. This prospect might be
particularly attractive for staff teaching large classes.

SELF-CHECK 6.3
1. What are some problems in the implementation of project work
and how would you solve them?

2. What are the benefits of group work in projects?

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6.6 ASSESSING PROJECT WORK


Assessing student performance on project work is quite different from an
examination using objective tests and essay questions. It is possible that students
might be working on different projects; some may be working in groups while
others are working alone. This makes the task of assessing student progress even
more complex compared with a paper-and-pencil test where everyone is
evaluated using one marking scheme. Table 6.3 illustrates the general marking
scheme for projects.

Table 6.3: General Marking Scheme for Projects

Marks Criteria
10090% Exceptional and distinguished work of a professional standard.
Outstanding technical and expressive skills.
Work demonstrating exceptional creativity and imagination.
Work displaying great flair and originality.
8980% Excellent and highly developed work of a professional standard.
Extremely good technical and expressive skills.
Work demonstrating a high level of creativity and imagination.
Work displaying flair and originality.
7970% Very good work which approaches professional standard.
Very good technical and expressive skills.
Work demonstrating good creativity and imagination.
Work displaying originality.
6960% A good standard of work.
Good technical and expressive skills.
Work displaying creativity and imagination.
Work displaying some originality.
5950% A reasonable standard of work.
Adequate technical and expressive skills.
Work displaying competence in the criteria assessed, but which may be
lacking some creativity or originality.

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4940% A limited, but adequate standard of work.


Limited technical and expressive skills.
Work displaying some weaknesses in the criteria assessed and lacking
creativity or originality.
3930% Limited work which fails to meet the required standard.
Weak technical and expressive skills.
Work displaying significant weaknesses in the criteria assessed.
2920% Poor work. Unsatisfactory technical or expressive skills.
Work displaying significant or fundamental weaknesses in the criteria
assessed.
1910% Very poor work or work where very little attempt has been made.
A lack of technical or expressive skills.
Work displaying fundamental weaknesses in the criteria assessed.
91% Extremely poor work or work where no serious attempt has been
made.

Source: Chard, S. C. (1992). The project approach: A practical guide for teachers.
Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Printing Services

Product, Process or Both?


According to Bonthron & Gordon (1999), from the onset, you should be clear
about the following:

(a) Whether you are going to assess the product of the group work or both
product and process.

(b) If you intend to assess process, what proportions of the marks are you
going to allocate for process and based on what criteria? And how are you
going to use the criteria to assess process?

(c) What criteria are you planning to use to assess project work and how will
the marks be distributed?

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Some educators believe there is a need to assess the processes within groups
as well as the products or outcomes. What exactly does process mean? Both
teachers and students must be clear what process means. For example, if you
want to assess the level of interaction among students in the group, they
should know what high or low interaction means. Should the teacher be
involved in the working of each group or should it rely on self or peer
assessment? Obviously, being involved in so many groups would be physically
impossible for the teacher. So, how do you measure process? Some educators
may say, I dont care what they do in their groups. All Im interested in is the
final product and how they arrive at their results is their business. However, to
provide a more balanced assessment, there is growing interest in both the process
and product of group work and the issue that arises is, What proportion of
assessment should focus on product and what proportion should focus on
process?

The criteria for the evaluation of group work can be determined by teachers
alone or by both teachers and students through consultation between the two.
Group members can be consulted on what should be assessed in a project
through consultation with the teacher. Obviously, you have to be clear about the
intended learning outcomes of the project in your subject area. It is a useful
starting point for determining criteria for assessment of the project. Once these
broader learning outcomes are understood, you can establish the criteria for
marking the project. Generally, it is easier to establish criteria for measuring the
product of project work and much more difficult to measure the processes
involved in project work. However, it is suggested that evaluation of product
and process be done separately rather than attempting to do both at once.

Who Gets The Marks Individuals or The Group?


Most projects involve more than one student and the benefits of group work
have been discussed earlier. A major problem of evaluating projects involving
group work is how to allocate marks fairly among group members. As exclaimed
by a student, I would like my teacher to tell me what amount of work and effort
will get what mark. Other concerns would be Do all students get the same
mark even though not all students put in the same effort? and Are marks given
for the individual contribution of team members?

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136 TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS

These are questions that bother teachers, especially when it is common to find
freeloaders or sleeping partners in group projects. The following are some
suggestions how group work may be assessed:

(a) Method 1: Shared Group Mark


All group members receive the same mark for the work submitted
regardless of individual contribution. It is a straightforward method that
encourages group work where group members sink or swim together.
However, it may be perceived as unfair by better students who may
complain that they are unfairly disadvantaged by weaker students and the
likelihood of sleeping partners is very high.

(b) Method 2: Share-out Marks


The students in the group decide how the total number of marks should be
shared between them. For example, a score of 40 is given by the teacher for
the project submitted. There are five members in the group and so the total
score possible is 5 40 = 200. The students then share the 200 marks based
on the contribution of each of the five students; which may be 35, 45, 42, 38
and 40. This is an effective method if group members are fair, honest and
do not have ill feelings towards each other. However, there is the likelihood
for the marks to be equally distributed to avoid ill feelings among group
members.

(c) Method 3: Individual Mark


Each student in the group submits an individual report based on the task
allocated or on the whole project.

(i) Allocated Task


From the beginning, the project is divided into different parts or tasks
and each student in the group completes his or her allocated task that
contributes to the final group product and gets the marks for that
task. This method is a relatively objective way of ensuring individual
participation and may motivate students to work hard on their task or
part. The problem is breaking up the project into tasks that are exactly
equal in size or complexity. Also, the method may not encourage
group collaboration and some members may slow down progress.

(ii) Individual Report


Each student writes and submits an individual report based on the
whole project. The method ensures individual effort and may be
perceived as fair by students. However, it is difficult to determine
how the individual reports should differ and students may
unintentionally plagiarise.

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(d) Method 4: Individual Mark (Examination)


Use examination questions that specifically target the group projects, and
can only be answered by students who have been thoroughly involved in
the project. This method may motivate students to learn from the group
project including learning from the other members of the group. However,
it may not be effective because students may be able to answer the
questions by reading the group reports. In the Malaysian context, a national
examination may not be able to include such questions as it involves
hundreds of thousands of students.

(e) Method 5: Combination of Group Average and Individual Marks


The group mark is awarded to each member with a mechanism for
adjusting for individual contributions. This method may be perceived to be
fairer than shared group mark. But, it means additional work for teachers
trying to establish individual contribution.

ACTIVITY 6.2

Which of the five methods of assessing group work would you use in
evaluating project work in your subject area? Give reasons for your
choice.

6.6.1 Evaluating Process in a Project


The assessment of a group product is rarely the only assessment taking place in
group activities. The process of group work is increasingly recognised as an
important element in the assessment of group work. And where group work is
marked solely on the basis of product, and not process, there can be differences
in individual grading that are unfair and unacceptable.

(a) Peer/Self Evaluation of Roles


Students rate themselves as well as other group members on specific
criteria, such as responsibility, contributing ideas, finishing tasks, etc. This
can be done through various grading forms (see Figure 6.1) or having
students write a brief essay on the group members strengths and
weaknesses.

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138 TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS

Figure 6.1: Checklist for evaluating processes involved in project work


Source: Sutherland, M. (2003). Peer evaluation checklist for the Biotechnology Academy
at Andrew P. Hill High School. San Jose, CA: East Side Union High School District.

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(b) Individual Journals


Students keep a journal of events that occur in each group meeting. These
include who attended, what was discussed and plans for future meetings.
These can be collected and periodically read by the instructor, who
comments on progress. The instructor can provide guidance for the group
without directing them.

(c) Minutes of Group Meetings


Similar to journals are minutes for each group meeting, which are periodically
read by the instructor. These include who attended, tasks completed, tasks
planned, and contributors to various tasks. This provides the instructor
with a way of monitoring individual contributions to the group.

(d) Group and Individual Contribution Grades


Instructors can divide the project grade into percentage of individual and
group contribution. This is especially beneficial if peer and self-evaluations
are used.

Logs can potentially provide plenty of information to form the basis of


assessment while keeping minutes helps members to focus on the process
which is a learning experience in itself. These techniques may be perceived
as a fair way to deal with shirkers and outstanding contributions.
However, reviewing logs can be time-consuming for teachers and students
may need a lot of training and experience in keeping records. Also,
emphasis on second-hand evidence may not be reliable.

6.6.2 Self-Assessment in Project Work


Self-assessment is a process by which students learn about themselves; for
example, what they have learned about the project, how they have learned and
how they have reacted in certain situations when carrying out the project.
Involving students in the assessment process is an essential part of balanced
assessment. When students become partners in the learning process, they gain a
better sense of themselves as readers, writers and thinkers. Some teachers may be
uncomfortable with self-assessment because traditionally teachers are
responsible for all forms of assessment in the classroom, and here we are asking
students to assess themselves. Self-assessment can take many forms:
(a) Discussion involving the whole class or small groups;
(b) Reflection logs;
(c) Self-assessment checklist or inventories; and
(d) Teacher-student interviews.
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140 TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS

These types of self-assessment share a common theme; they ask students to


review their work to determine what they have learned and if areas of confusion
still exist. Although each method may differ slightly, they all include enough
time for students to consider thoughtfully and evaluate their own progress.

Because project learning is student-driven, assessment should be student-driven


as well. Students can keep journals and logs to continually assess their progress.
A final reflective essay or log can allow students and teachers to understand
thinking processes, reasoning behind decisions, ability to arrive at conclusions
and communicate what they have learned. According to Edwards (2000), the
following are some questions a student can ask himself or herself while self-
assessing:
(a) What were the projects successes?
(b) What might I do to improve the project?
(c) How well did I meet my learning goals? What was most difficult about
meeting the goals?
(d) What surprised me most about working on the project?
(e) What was my groups best team effort? Worst team effort?
(f) How do I think other people involved with the project felt it went?
(g) What were the skills I used during this project? How can I practise these
skills in the future?

SELF-CHECK 6.4
1. Explain how process can be measured in group project work.
2. List some of the problems with the evaluation of process.
3. Do you think process should be assessed? Explain.

A project is an activity in which time constraints have been largely removed


and can be undertaken individually or by a group, and usually involves a
significant element of work being done at home or out of school.

The Research-Based Project is more theoretical in nature and may consist of


posing a question, formulating a problem or setting up some hypotheses.

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TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS 141

The Product-Based Project would be the production of a concrete object, a


service, a dance performance, a film, an exhibition, a play, a computer
program and so forth.

Project work is a learning experience which enables the development of


certain knowledge, skills and attitudes and prepares students for lifelong
learning and the challenges ahead: knowledge application, collaboration,
communication and independent learning.

An effective project should contain the following elements: situation or


problem, project description and purpose, performance specifications, rules,
roles of member and assessment.

The Six As of a project are academic rigour, applied learning, authenticity,


active exploration, adult relationships and assessment practices.

Working in groups has become an accepted part of learning as a consequence


of widely recognised benefits of collaborative group work for student
learning.

Allocation of marks in a project work: shared group marks, shared-out


marks, individual mark, individual mark (examination) and combination of
group average and individual mark.

Self-assessment is a process by which students learn about themselves; for


example, what they have learned about the project, how they have learned
and how they have reacted in certain situations when carrying out the
project.

Group work evaluation Project idea


Implementation Projects
Marks allocation Research-based project
Planning Shared group marks
Product-based project Six As of a project
Project design

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142 TOPIC 6 HOW TO ASSESS? PROJECTS

Bonthron, S., & Gordon, R. (1999). Service Learning and Assessment: A Field
Guide for Teachers. Evaluation/Reflection. Paper 45. Retrieved from
http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/

Bottoms, G., & Webb, L. D. (1998). Connecting the curriculum to real life.
Breaking ranks: Making it happen [Guide Non-classroom]. Reston, VA:
National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Bryson, E. (1994). Will a project approach to learning provide children


opportunities to do purposeful reading and writing, as well as provide
opportunities for authentic learning in other curriculum areas? Descriptive
report. ERIC Document No. ED392513.

Herman, J. L., Aschbacher, P. R., & Winters, L. (1992). A practical guide to


alternative assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and
Curriculum Development.

Katz, L. G., & Chard, S. C. (1989). Engaging the minds of young children: The
project approach. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Steinberg, A. (1998). Real learning, real work: School-to-work as high school


reform. New York, NY: Routledge.

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