How do our assessments, rubrics, and project requirements influence student behavior and creativity? How are we keeping score?
These questions presented themselves during a recent class where I was observing the students working on their American Revolution project. First, a little background on the project and its requirements.
The students have been studying about the American Revolution for about 3 weeks. Classes have been a combination of teacher led discussions, student led discussions, and a couple of written assignments. I also gave them the classic review sheet followed by multiple choice and essay test. (Yuk.) After that, I announced the project. The only requirements for the project were research, a written proposal, and scripts if relevant to the project. The project options were suggested by the students, with some help from me. After they selected their option, they wrote a proposal for their project which included a full narrative description of the historical event or person they wanted to depict, why they thought it was important, and a list of people and materials they would need. I told the students that I would give them limited time during class to work on the project and that all resources would need to be coordinated on their own. This included getting costumes, reserving green screen time, reserving camera time, and borrowing actors from other projects. When asked how I was going to grade them, I simply said that it should be good enough so an adult would pay $2 to go see it. And it would not be good enough if the only place you could find the project is stuck on the refrigerator by your mother. With this, the proposals started arriving: scrapbooks, comic books, children’s books, soldier recruitment posters, a movie trailer about the American Revolution, an iMovie production on one or more events in the American Revolution, a skit, a puppet skit, and more. Surprisingly, no proposals for a research paper. Ha! With that they got started, and here is when I made my observation.
There were two boys that started filming their project. They did not have costumes, but they had clever and detailed scripts. Another boy, working on his own project, then offered them the use of his costumes that he brought from home. They gladly accepted. Then I found that the assisting student was now being used as an actor in their movie. Within the next 30 minutes, 10 of the 16 students were involved in the two students’ project. They were all being directed perfectly; they were having fun and getting the movie made. Perhaps most important, they all experienced the magic of collaboration and assisting. So, as I watched in amazement, I said to myself, “This is really cool.” Later that day I realized what I witnessed: this is the way the world really works. The collaborators and people who help other people in their organization are rewarded. Why is it that I don’t keep score and assess collaboration and assistance?
The next day I found the student who first helped the two boys. I told him I that I thought what he did was really neat, and that I was going to give him extra points on his project for helping the other students with theirs. In basketball, soccer, and many other team sports we value assists as much as goals. In business, we value collaboration and assistance by rewarding those employees. As I thought about how I am going to grade this project, I decided that I would give a large amount of credit to students who were not part of the project, but assisted with the project. Will this lead to more learning, better projects, and a better community? I think so.