By the end of the week, how will students demonstrate their achievement of the learning objectives and their ability to answer the guiding question? How will you evaluate their learning?

At School in the Park, we favor authentic assessments over traditional tests. Authentic assessments evaluate students’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge that they’ve learned throughout the week, whereas tests focus more on memory recall, reading comprehension, and writing skills. That isn’t to say that authentic assessments shouldn’t involve reading and writing; simply that the performance tasks students are being evaluated on reflect the work they’ve been doing all week, in content and in style.

For example, let's revisit the media curriculum sample from the Learning Objectives page:

An authentic assessment of students’ achievement of this objective would be for students to apply the knowledge of photography and advertising techniques that they’ve been learning all week, as well as skills they’ve learned in digital photography and Photoshop, to create their own media piece targeted to a specific audience. To provide a balanced opportunity for all students to demonstrate their understanding no matter their strengths, a helpful component of the assessment would be a written or oral explanation to accompany the art piece. That way, if a student’s understanding is unclear from the media piece alone, the student still has a chance to show what they have learned in a way that is comfortable for them. The museum educator would then evaluate the students’ work against a rubric; more on that below.

Compare the richness and fun of this type of assessment to a standard multiple choice/short answer test!

The authenticity of this assessment could be further enhanced by structuring it to mimic the way that a professional would take on this kind of task. For example, by giving each student an imaginary client who has a specific request, and requiring each student to pitch their final product to the client at the end. Adding these elements makes the process more realistic—and therefore, fun—to the students, while also giving them a window into a type of work they might not otherwise have been aware of.

Here are some more examples of authentic assessments:

Authentic assessments also reinforce the authentic connections that you are threading into your curriculum for the week. They reflect the type of work people in this field do in the real world, and/or produce a final product that lives in the real world (e.g. the nutrition label cheat sheet).

--> Resources on developing assessments can be found in the SITP Resource Library: (Click on “Assessments” in the table of contents on the left).

Whatever assessment you choose, set your students up for success by:

  • Making sure that the students will have all the knowledge and skills they need by the time they are asked to do the assessment (if not, the scope may need to be made smaller)

  • Explaining the assessment to the students at the beginning of the week, so that they know where they are headed

  • Giving them the rubric ahead of time, so that they know what is expected of them and exactly how to get a good grade (this may mean that you create your rubric in kid-friendly language, or a version of your rubric in kid-friendly language)

  • Checking for understanding on the assignment and providing an example of excellence (e.g. if you’re asking the students to make a PSA, show them some examples of PSAs so they understand what they are supposed to do and have an idea of the quality they should aim for)

  • Making sure they have enough time to complete the assignment and to do a great job on it; if doing a great job on the assignment would take more time than you are willing to allot, then, again, the scope may need to be reined in

  • Allowing students to demonstrate learning in more than one way, to account for their different strengths and abilities (e.g. creating artwork + writing or speaking about it)