Figuring out how to effectively assess student-centered learning is crucial to teaching as this research-based approach enters mainstream education.

Implementing student-centered learning is no longer difficult for teachers to justify, as the practice grows more popular. Nowhere has the shift toward its acceptance been more evident than the implementation of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), which provides greater lesson-planning and assessment freedoms to school districts and teachers. Although many teachers understand its benefits, some are hesitant to use it as they are unsure of how to assess student-centered learning. When groups of students are creating different projects, different solutions, and even answering different questions, assessing this type of learning can be difficult–but it doesn’t have to be.

1. Learn the Basics of Assessments

By simply recognizing the methods used to assess student-centered learning as formative or summative, teachers are limiting themselves. Yes, these two methods are crucial to mastery, but there is much more for teachers to examine when determining a student’s competency. In its “Redesigning Systems of Assessments for Student-Centered Learning”, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) outlines five styles of assessment:

  • Adaptive – identifies each student’s level of progress
  • Formative – reveals a student’s mastery
  • Interim – shows student’s growth within a specific time frame
  • Summative – analyzes student’s learning
  • Performance – evaluates how a student has learned

Knowing what you want to measure is key for any assignment, but is especially important for student-centered learning activities. When formulating an activity, spend extra time thinking about how you will know if a student or group was successful and which type of assessment will best measure that indicator.

2. Be Involved in Creating Government Standards

assess student-centered learningWithin ESSA, the federal government is allowing states to follow an Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority pilot program for participating states to develop student-centered approaches to education. Serve as a leader who helps determine new rubrics for local students. As innovators who help craft the new standards that will be used to assess student-centered learning, teachers who are involved are already ahead of the game and more prepared to help their children learn when these rubrics are implemented.

3. Peer Assessment

While students shouldn’t have the final say regarding the grades of their classmates, using peer assessment to monitor progress can be an excellent resource. Allowing students to participate in teaching by guiding peers increases morale, confidence, and could shed light on their own strengths and weaknesses. For teachers, incorporating this method to assess student-centered learning provides a glimpse into how students process information and apply lessons through the eyes of other children. Peer assessment is the perfect opportunity to share student portfolios for examination of student progress. Just be sure to give guidelines about what productive feedback looks and sounds like before the first peer review session.

4. Maintain Control of the Process

assess student-centered learningWhen considering an approach to learning that is student focused, teachers might find the variety of teaching options overwhelming. To avoid early burnout from this method, properly organize station-based learning days. As students engage in projects while at their assigned stations, teachers can move between each group to observe and assess student-centered learning. In this fun, small-group setting, students will be more at ease and the pressure of a more formal assessment will not exist for students or teachers while preparing everyone for larger projects.

5. Trading Classroom Spaces

Switch classes with other teachers who teach the same grade and subject. As an impartial party, each guest teacher will examine how students express knowledge of and apply concepts. When teachers provide feedback to students whom they do not teach regularly, the assessment will be administered with a clean slate. When developing methods to assess student-centered learning, teachers can help each other by providing feedback regarding their own assessment preferences, alternatives to testing, and student proficiency.

Focusing on how children process information allows them to learn along different paths toward the same destination and this is how teachers must approach the methods used to assess student-centered learning. Through observing the methods that students use to reach the same conclusion, teachers will not only be able to grade effectively, they might learn a new method of teaching.

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