Reflection on Authentic Assessment

Social Studies Lesson - Texas Regions Assessment by Michelle Kemp, ACE 14

Summary of the Lesson

This lesson came at the end of our Social Studies unit on Texas regions. During the unit, students pretended that they were reporters for TexasTV who were charged with traveling to each of Texas' four regions to gather information about the regions for a news report. Students took notes from interactive powerpoints and the textbook for their initial research, and were required to do their own outside research as well. One piece of this outside research involved writing letters to "travel agents" (the 7th grade Social Studies class, which was also studying Texas regions at the time). In their letters, my "reporters" described the research they had collected so far on the regions and formulated questions to request more specific information about each region. The specific lesson I assessed for this course was the one in which they constructed these letters. The letters they received in return from the "travel agents" were used as supporting evidence for the news reports they wrote and presented as a final performance assessment.

Assessment Used

The students' letters (explaining the research they had done so far and requesting more specific information) were used as the authentic assessment for this lesson. I used a rubric to grade the letters before they were sent to the 7th grade "travel agents." The rubric (which was given to students in advance) focused on evidence in the letters that students shared and understood their prior research on each region's major cities, landmarks, and natural resources. It also ensured that students formulated at least one specific question about each region that solicited more detailed information from the 7th grade students.

Impact on Student Learning

My students very much enjoyed this assessment choice. In fact, they focused more on the fact that the letters could be used as a tool to help them gain more information to propel them toward their ultimate goal, which was writing and presenting the news report. The assessment not only helped students to synthesize the information they had already gathered, but also allowed them to hone their questioning skills in order to get the precise responses they were looking for from the 7th grade "travel agents."

Impact on Own Teaching

What I liked most about this authentic assessment choice was that it not only enabled me to assess students' grasp of Social Studies content, but also their writing and questioning skills. It was easily integrated across curricular objectives, and also advanced students toward their final performance assessment. Overall, this authentic assessment choice was an effective one.