Every day of my life I am assess on my abilities to perform a task. Whether it is cooking, cleaning, gardening or working a job, I am usually assessed on my ability to do the task. We are given guidelines to follow and we try our best and have the ability to redo the task if it isn’t the best. Life is all about developing our learning through doing task and having the chance to try again until we are satisfied that we know it.
So why is school different? What makes us feel that we should test content knowledge? Why aren’t we testing student’s ability to use the information in the correct manor? Why are our electives performance based? Learning and mastery is happening there, so what makes us so different?
For me I figured out that there shouldn’t be a difference. I should be assessing the learning and not the content. So, over the years I have changed my senior science and math classes. I have dropped tests and exams in favor of performance tasks. Here I am testing knowledge and skills learnt not just content.
For example, a performance task in Pre Calculus 12 requires my students to use Desmos (free online format) to create art with graphing. Students are applying all of their graphing knowledge to create multitudes of equations to create an amazing work of art.
In my Chemistry 11 class we do a performance task at the end of each unit. For example, at the end of our hydrocarbons unit we create, package, advertise and sell bath bombs. The students must create the ester and the bath bomb. They must also to an ingredient list (chemical names and % composition).
So, I am asking, are we not trying to prepare our students for life and their future. So why aren’t we assessing their learning as they will be assessed for the rest of their lives. Think about it.