I have spent some time this week diving back into the Universal Design for Learning Progression Rubric. What sparked this blog post was a conversation I had with a student this week who was showing me the work she had completed for homework the night before a Module Assessment (unit test). She had prepared for her Module Assessment, with her dad, by creating a series of word problems that she had to answer by writing and solving a linear inequality, the major focus of the assessment.
In other, words she completely rocked Guidelines 7.1 and 7.2, “suggest[ing] alternatives” and “design[ing her] own learning experiences.”
This was not the first time a student had done something similar this year. I had another student, also in an Extended (above-grade-level) course, who proposed and designed a scavenger hunt of algebraic expressions that she posted around the room for her peers to solve.
It’s tempting to congratulate myself, to say that I must be doing a great job creating a classroom culture where students feel confident proposing alternative assignments, where they feel that their teacher will support them. However, I can’t think that because I notice that (1) only two of my students, total, have really tried something like this and (2) it’s only happening in my Extended class, not with all of my students.
So, what to do?
My colleague, Irene, and I have talked about wanting to find ways to bring more variety into our assessment practices. We’ve discussed giving students an opportunity to, maybe, choose between different problems on an assessment rather than having to do every one. We’ve also talked about offering projects as options to replace on-demand assessments. But we keep getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty reality of grading on a 100-point scale (rather than standards-based report cards), the question of how to make a project “equal” to a test (equal in what…intensity, content, level?), and the age-old dilemma of how to ensure that a take-home project remains an authentic product created by the student him/herself. It’s not that I think there is no way to answer these questions, just that we haven’t gotten there yet.
I guess I’m saying we aren’t ready to take on major changes in assessment, yet, but thinking about this mini-trend in homework did make me think that I might be able to begin experimenting through our homework documents. With that in mind, I added two options to our “Show Your Understanding” section, as seen in the homework for tomorrow for Standard (reviewing for an upcoming Module Assessment)…
…and Extended (preparing for an upcoming quiz/reviewing foundational concepts for the current Module we are just starting):
What I know from past experience is that Irene and I will often take a leap when we’ve had time to test the waters in some form. Maybe this homework option will be a way to dial down our anxiety enough to take on some different assessment practices in a closer future.
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