Assessment in School

Assessment in most U.S. schools means assignments, exams, grades, percentages, and rankings.   However, some teachers and professors offer the option of pass/fail, the holy grail of grading for many students.   This means that students can progress through the course and complete assignments with less stressing over extrinsic motivation and more focus on intrinsic motivation.

In T-550, the decision of Karen Brennan to run the course as Satisfactory/No Credit (the HGSE version of pass/fail) was a perfect example of “practicing what you preach”.  After all, the student-centered learning of  constructionism aligns quite well with student centered assessment.

However, student assessment is often a tricky business because it forces the student to balance between external and personal qualifications.   The student realizes the inherant biases of self assessment, and must find a way to create an assessment that is both fair for others and for his or her conscience.

When we wrote our ideas for assessment on sticky notes in class, all of my assessmets involved narratives of progress:

  • written reflection letter in the first person
  • diagram of goals and how reached
  • in person reflection with professor on set criteria points
  • slideshow in 3rd person addressing assessment criteria

However, after hearing from other examples, I realized that progress and meeting agreed upon course objectives are two separate catagories.  Thus, although a progress narrative sounds much more interesting, I will focus on the later.

The course objectives must come from the very beginning – imbedded in the syllabus.  Fortunately, as per usual, professor Brennan was crystal clear about the T-550 course objectives:

“There are three specific expectations that I consider especially important:
(1) being there, (2) the 1/N rule, and (3) academic honesty.” (Brennan, 2016 T-550 syllabus, pg. 11)

In addition, the syllabus mentioned five main goals: “Maintining a design journal, Developing a self directed project, reading, making things, preparing for guest speakers”  (Brennan, 2016 T-550 syllabus, p. 16-18)

Under the “Making things”, professor Brennan listed 6 products

“(Sep 7) Create a design journal
(Sep 7) Write a 500-word personal learning statement
(Sep 21) Develop an interactive media project with Scratch
(Oct 12) Create a remix
(Oct 26) Design a critique protocol
(Nov 16) Revisit personal learning statement from first week”

(Brennan, 2016 T-550 syllabus, p. 17)

Based upon these explicit objectives, I decided to produce a check-list as a T-550 assessment:


So, it’s not perfect.  It doesn’t take social-emotional skills into account.  It doesn’t take work effort or attitude into account.  And it’s certainly not very creative. But given the loose boundaries of “assessment”, this is what I consider to be a fair, objective assessment for meeting the tangible goals of T-550.

This is not in any way meant to belittle the enormous growth that I have been blessed with by taking T-550 – both personal and professional.  From exposure to novel ideas for constructivist thinking to chances to creatively explore the field of education and inspiration from professor Brennan, guests, and especially fellow classmates, my progress in this course was momentus.  However, the effort and results are so innately intertwined that rather needing a grade or number, what the student takes away is as good a measure as any as to personal engagement with this course.


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