In the past few weeks, our lives have been a rollercoaster of life-style adjustments and wanting to fast-forward through this whole ordeal. As I edit articles to go on the web, this certainly isn’t what I expected for my first issues as Editor-in-Chief. Leaving for March break nearly two months ago, the idea that we could all be quarantined for the remainder of the school year was hardly even a passing thought. Now, as we all roll out of bed and onto Zoom calls, not only is the nature of classes changing, but also how we’re being assessed.
Without the normal rigor of a six-hour school day or the added two hours of after school activities, faculty have been exploring alternative ways of assessing. The million-dollar question: “How do we balance the normal intensity of classes with the understanding that these are stressful circumstances?”
The most notable change between classes now and classes before spring break (aside from the obvious online part) is a decrease in the number of tests and quizzes. I find myself shifting from my trusted notecard method and towards my computer for research, writing, and Google Slides purposes. While there are certain subjects where memorization is necessary, such as foreign language vocabulary or basic history knowledge, I think the benefits of projects over traditional testing are often overlooked. As somebody who’s completed multiple Google Slides presentations in the past month, with larger essays and projects to come, I can attest to how projects encourage individual responsibility for learning. Presentations and papers provide the freedom to dive further into topics than ever before; actively seeking information rather than being a passive recipient allows for a deeper connection to the material, no matter how much I appreciate flipping through a stack of index cards.
As we look ahead to school after the coronavirus, I would love to see more project-based assessments in the future. Not only are they sometimes a more effective way of learning, but they also allow for more creativity; students can incorporate their own passions into their education. The satisfaction of closing all your research tabs after a completed project is far more gratifying than the bittersweet relief of handing in a test you’ve stressed about all week. Doing well on a presentation you’ve poured days worth of work into is somehow sweeter than the hours of memorization it takes for the same grade on a quiz.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of projects is that they work for different learning styles: those who prefer visuals can take notes on their research and their peers’ presentations, follow along with slides, or incorporate images and diagrams into their own projects. Others can use practicing their presentations or listening to their classmates speak to cement information.
The possibilities of assessing outside of traditional testing are endless. I believe carrying over online learning’s changes in assessing could be equally beneficial to students when we’re hopefully back on campus in the fall.