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Authentic Assessment of STEM Learning

One of the most important advantages of personalized, project-based learning is the opportunity for authentic assessment: meaningful measurement of learning outcomes and learning process.

But what does authentic assessment really look like?

Here’s one example from two students in the STEM program at Rocky Heights Middle School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. We’ve shared their project presentation unedited (the students’ names have been removed in compliance with District privacy policies).

Note first that the students chose a project that was relevant to their personal interests and real-world experience. Note too that they selected a challenge level appropriate to their abilities and knowledge. Personalizing the project in this manner is a critical step towards authentic assessment; learners are engaged and have a personal context with which to describe their learning.

With that foundation, the learners were able to actively journal their learning on a daily basis. Their project presentation describes their collaborative process. It includes challenges they encountered and how they were solved. They discuss time management challenges (including constraints imposed by the school’s standardized testing schedule). They reflect and self-assess using a rubric specifically designed for personalized, project-based work.

Most importantly, they candidly and enthusiastically share their setbacks and celebrate their achievements. This rich documentation of learning outcomes is simply not possible through traditional assessment systems.

Personalized learning and authentic assessment form the very foundation of the SmartLab program. It’s important to note that while this is an excellent example of a project presentation, it is by no means an unusual example. Together with our SmartLab partner schools all across the country, we are providing innovative, meaningful methods for assessing student performance.

You can learn more about authentic assessment in SmartLabs here:

[And a big thanks to Matt and Zack at Rocky Heights for allowing us to share their work!]

Authentic Assessment of STEM Learning

Matt Dickstein

Matthew Dickstein, CEO of Creative Learning Systems, has been a successful entrepreneur in the field of education for over 25 years. Prior to joining CLS in 2004, he played key management roles in building National Technological University, a pioneer in the field of higher education distance learning, and ELS Language Centers, the largest teacher of intensive English language programs in the U.S. Matthew received a B.S. in business from the University of Colorado and holds an M.B.A from Harvard Business School.

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