One of the things that I am often asked is how I assess MakerEd work from students. The traditional education system is still grade focused. Students are taught from a very young age to chase the grade because that is what matters in the end.
Getting students to understand that there is more to school than grades requires serious retraining on the teacher's part. It is not impossible, but it is not easy. One of the ways I have helped my students explore learning and MakerEd in my Mechanical Engineering class is the emphasis we place on reflection.
Each unit is a challenge that students need to complete. They can design their own solutions based on their research and there are goals they are trying to reach, but they are not assessed, or graded, on if they reach those goals. Their assessment is how they reflect on their work in the challenge. Here is one example,
Students are tasked with building a bride using glue and no more than 200 craft sticks. Their bridge needs to be able to support at least 100 pounds. They will do the research and design a bridge they think will best accomplish this goal. When the bridges are done, we take the total sticks used and subtract that number from the total weight it held. The group with the highest number at the end won the challenge.
When they have completed the testing and reviewed all of their work and the work of other groups, they are given a reflection sheet. The reflection asks students to explore why they were or were not successful. Their ability to be critical of the work, or lack there of, they put in is important. The first reflections are often the toughest for students because they are hesitant to be critical of their own work thinking it will lead to bad grades. In reality, the students that dive deeper and are critical of their decisions get the most out of class.
My job during the project time is to be engaged with the students, advise them on their choices as they work, provide feedback on their process, and support their overall needs while working. After the reflection is submitted, my job is to provide my thoughts on their thoughts. It starts a conversation about their learning process. As we move through the semester, I have found that some students are too hard on themselves and sometimes do not recognize the successes they had in the project. Students are still very new to the reflection process so I need to support them as they learn to highlight the wins and understand the loses.
At the end of the day, I have to place a grade in the grade book. The students earn their grade through reflection and dialogue. These reflections are saved and explored at the end of the semester where they are asked to show the growth points in the class. If we truly want growth for our students, you can't have it without reflection. It is a shame that reflections tends to be the first things skipped when we run out time.
How do you use reflection in your classes?