Assessing Student Achievement
Grading Group Assignments
Students and teachers both know that group grades can be motivating for students, while at the same time they can create controversy. Telling students in advance that the group will receive one grade often motivates group members to hold each other accountable. This can foster group cohesion and lead to better group results. It can also be constructive to give individual grades for group-work assignments in order to recognize an individual’s contribution to the group.
Having students complete self-evaluations is an effective way to encourage them to think about their own learning. Self-evaluations can take many forms and are useful in a variety of circumstances. They are particularly helpful in getting students to think constructively about group collaboration. In developing a self-evaluation tool for students, teachers need to pose clear and direct questions to students. Two key benefits of student self-evaluation are that it involves students in the assessment process and that it provides teachers with valuable insights into the contributions of individual students and the dynamics of different groups. These insights can help teachers organize groups for future cooperative assignments.
Evaluating Students’ Personal Options
The original options developed and articulated by each student after the role play are an important outcome of a Choices unit. These will differ significantly from one another, as students identify different values and priorities that shape their viewpoints.
The students’ options should be evaluated on clarity of expression, logic, and thoroughness. Did students provide reasons for their recommendations along with supporting evidence? Were the values clear and consistent throughout the option? Did the students identify the risks involved? Did the students present their options in a convincing manner?
Research shows that students using the Choices approach learn the factual information presented as well as or better than from lecture-discussion format. Students using Choices curricula demonstrate a greater ability to think critically, analyze multiple perspectives, and articulate original views. Teachers should hold students accountable for learning historical information, concepts, and current events presented in Choices units. A variety of types of testing questions and assessments can help students to demonstrate critical thinking and historical understanding.
Adjusting for Students of Differing Abilities
Teachers of students at all levels—from middle school to introductory college—have used Choices materials successfully. Many teachers make adjustments to the materials for their students. The suggestions below are drawn from the experiences of teachers who have used Choices successfully in their classrooms and from educational research on student-centered instruction.
- Do only some lessons and readings rather than all of them.
- Shorten reading assignments; cut and paste sections.
- Use the questions in the text to introduce students to the topic. Ask them to scan the reading for major headings, images, and questions so they can gain familiarity with the structure and organization of the text.
- Read some sections of the readings out loud.
- Preview the key terms list with students. Establish a system to help students find definitions for these key terms and others they do not know.
- Go over vocabulary and concepts with visual tools such as concept maps.
- Be sure that students understand the purpose of reading the text. For example, if they are going to do a role play, explain that the readings will help them to gather the information needed to formulate arguments.
- Create a Know/Want to Know/Learned (K-W-L) worksheet for students to record what they already know about the subject and what they want to know. As they read they can fill out the “learned” section of the worksheet.
- Brainstorm current knowledge and then create web diagrams in which students link the ideas they have about the topic.
- Ask students to create their own graphic organizers for sections of the reading or fill in ones you have partially completed.
- Supplement with different types of readings, such as literature, newspaper articles, or textbooks.
- Use Choices’ videos or other visual introductions to orient your students.
- Combine reading with political cartoon analysis, map analysis, or movie-watching.
Choices videos are designed to complement Choices curricula. Each curriculum unit has a playlist that aligns with the parts of the student readings and accompanying lessons.