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!]

China Educator Delegation Visits SmartLabs

We were honored last week to host a delegation of educators from Guangzhou City, China. This delegation of teachers, principals and superintendents, affiliated with Beijing Normal University, visited Colorado SmartLabs to learn about innovative approaches to STEM education in the U.S.

The China delegation visited Rocky Heights and Cresthill middle schools (Douglas County School District), The Englewood middle and high school campus (Englewood Schools), Wilder Elementary (Littleton Public Schools) and Merrill Middle School (Denver Public Schools). 

Highlights of the tours were meetings with the superintendents of Littleton and Denver school systems and Richard Crandall, Colorado Commissioner of Education. The delegation also enjoyed a Q&A session with STEM students at Cresthill Middle School where both students and delegates had the opportunity to compare and contrast educational systems in the U.S. and China.

Members of the delegation frequently remarked on the level of engagement of students in the SmartLab STEM programs. They were impressed by the use of applied technology for project work, the degree of choice and personalization of learning, and authentic assessment through eportfolios. Common observations were that, though there is no equivalent program in China, Chinese students would benefit greatly from similar opportunities.

Rocky Heights Middle School's John Veit Administrator of the Year

Congratulations to John Veit, Assistant Principal at Rocky Heights Middle School in Highlands Ranch Colorado. John was recently named Administrator of the Year by the Colorado High School Press Association. Rocky Heights has been a valued partner for many years and deserves all the high recognition its staff and students regularly receive.

And where else whould John receive his award but in the Media Arts SmartLab!

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