Produced with Scholar

Assessment Practice Analysis

Project Overview

Project Description

Analyze an assessment practice. This could be a description of a practice in which you are or have been involved, or plans you have to implement an assessment practice, or a case study of an interesting assessment practice someone else has applied and that you would find beneficial to research and analyze. Use as many of the theory concepts defined by members of the group in their published Work 1 as you can, with references and links to the published works of the other course participants.

Icon for Project Based Learning Assessment

Project Based Learning Assessment

"In K-12 education, project based learning has evolved as a method of instruction that addresses core content through rigorous, relevant, hands-on learning." (Boss, 2014)

Project based learning (PBL) has strong roots that extend all the way back to Aristotle, Socrates, and Confusious in their emphasis on learning by doing, inquiry and critical thinking. Moving forward to the more recent past, John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Jean Piaget were all supporters of the concepts of learning through inquiry and learning through experiences. They endorsed the concepts of learning by experience and learning being motivated by student interest. (Boss, 2014)

"The emergence of project based learning is the result of two important developments over the last 25 years. First there has been a revolution in learning theory. Research in neuroscience and psychology has extended cognative and behavioral models-which support traditional direct instruction-to show that knowledge, thinking, doing, and the contexts for learning are inextricably tied... Second, the world has changed... It is clear that children need both knowledge and skills to succeed." (Introduction To Project Based Learning,

As long as project based learning has been around, assessment of project based learning has also been there with it. More recently in the 21st century, as project based learning has evolved into its present form, the issue of assessing project based learning has become a much more critical issue for teachers and educational institutions.

Project based learning assessment (sometime referred to as authentic assessment, direct assessment, or process oriented performance assessment) is made up of assessing the process of learning as well as the product of learning. (Fales, 2014)

Project based learning and assessment practices and processes are intended to address:

Student engagement: Engagement is effected by student motivation and relevance of the material. "Projects offer students choice and voice, personalizing the learning experience." (Boss, 2014) Additionally, the more relevant the project is to the "real world", the more that students have a reason to dive into that project.

Assessment of higher level thinking and deeper levels of understanding: Higher level thinking is difficult to assess directly. A teacher can assess learning indirectly when assessing via multiple choice or fill in the blank tests. However, these results are only an indirect demonstration of learning. Also, this type of assessment will not assess higher level thinking skills such as critical thinking, inquiry, problem solving, innovation, creativity, or collaboration.

The need to prepare students for the "real world":

"This need is driven, not only by workforce demands for high-performance employees who can plan, collaborate, and communicate, but also by the need to help all young people learn civic responsibility and master their new roles as global citizens... PBL is an attempt to create new instructional practices that reflect the environment in which children now live and learn." (Introduction To Project Based Learning,

Project based learning is designed to engage learners, cultivate higher level thinking skills that go beyond simple knowledge of a topic, and prepare students for the "real world". Assessment of project based learning is no different. The key reason for this is that within the project based learning model, the learning and assessment are one and the same. They are inextricably tied together. Assessment is built into learning and learning is built into assessment. (Fales, 2014) Ideally, embedded methods of assessment such as recursive feedback, peer assessment, and self assessment will manifest themselves within project based learning using tools such as scaffolding and rubrics. There is little, if anything to seperate the learning from the assessment. That being said however, there is also the reality of standardized (item based) testing that educators must address in the current education environment even as they teach according to a project based learning model.

In this work, I will introduce the project based learning "January Term" that is the focus of the school where I work (Lyndon Institute) as we prepare for the launch of the pilot program which will start January, 2015. This work will analyse the practice and assessment of project based learning and explain how this will be implemented at Lyndon Institute as well as discuss the underlying theory of assessing project based learning. I will conclude with my reflections and recommendations regarding this form of assessment.

How Project Based Learning Assessment Works.

During the school year at Lyndon Institute, students complete a daily 8 period schedule that is repeated every day. In the past, we have had two semesters per school year. Class periods are 47 minutes each. This year will bring about a different twist though.

In the three weeks beginning January 5th, 2015, Lyndon Institute will be knee deep in its first ever, fully immersive, all school project based interim winter term. We called it "January Term". The coursework is developed from the interests and passions of students and faculty. For the duration of January Term, the school will switch to a 4 block day with each block being 85 minutes. Teachers will teach 3 blocks during the day. These 3 blocks can be composed of one 3 block course, a 2 block course plus a 1 block course, or three 1 block courses. Students are required to take any combination of four blocks of courswork each day. This might consist of a 3 block and a 1 block course, two 2 block courses, four 1 block courses, or any other variation available to them. The January Term committee, administration, and faculty have spent countless hours preparing for this upcoming event and we continue to do so. One of the things we explored early on was what project based learning is and what it's made up of.

According to Seven Essentials for Project Based Learning, there are seven aspects to project based learning. (Lamar & Mergendoller, 2010). Following a brief discussion on the essentials of project based learning, the remaining focus of this work will be on the assessment of project based learning.

Essential Elements of Project Based Learning

A Need to Know:

The problem: Students find schoolwork meaningless because they don't perceive a need to know.

Teachers can powerfully activate students' need to know content by launching a project with an "entry event" that engages interest and initiates questioning. An entry event can be almost anything: a video, a lively discussion, a guest speaker, a field trip, or a piece of mock correspondence that sets up a scenario. (Lamar & Mergendoller, 2010)

A Driving Question:

A driving question embodies the essense of the purpose of the project. It can be abstract, concrete, or focused on solving a problem. A good driving question is one that challenges students and provides the purpose for the project. (Lamar & Mergendoller, 2010)

Student Voice and Choice:

Essentially, the more student voice and choice, the better chance of student buy in. That said, the degree of student voice and choice is not a hard and fast rule. Teachers can adjust according to their goals for the course and their students.

21st Century Skills:

21st Century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and the use of technology are some of the 21st Century skills that students will use as they work on their project(s). Built into that would be self reflection and peer assessment. Rubrics could also be developed collaboratively. Time for self reflection and informal peer assessment would also strengthen these skills.

Inquiry and Innovation:

In this stage, questions surrounding the project are developed and explored. Students will start with questions they develop and begin their journey to find real answers that will help them acheive the end goal of their project.

Feedback and Revision:

During the feedback and revision phases, students are assessed by peers or groups of peers using rubrics to guide the assessment. Times dedicated to self reflection can also be a powerful tool. By this ongoing process, students learn to revise and rework their original versions. They also learn that revision is a normal part of project development.

A Publicly Presented Product:

Finally, a publicly presented product wraps up the course. Authentic audiences provide purpose and serve to motive and engage students in producing quality work.

Assessing Project Based Learning

Lyndon Institute, in preparing for our upcoming January term, also addressed the issue of assessing project based learning and what that would look like. We identified some key ways of assessing project based learning that apply no matter which project is being explored. The school agreed on the use of the Common Core State Standards as the underlying guidelines for what was to be assessed. We felt that the Common Core Standards gave us a strong basis that echoed the higher level thinking and learning skills that we wanted students to develop including collaboration, presentation, effective use of technology, self advocacy, creativity, and critical thinking. Some of the assessment tools we explored and devoted professional development time to included rubrics, self assessment, peer assessment, process assessment, product assessment, and formative assessment.


According to Malgorzata Crane in her work Rubric-based Assessment, A rubric is an authentic assessment tool that is used to evaluate complex and subjective tasks. She goes on to state:

Rubric-based assessment provides consistent criteria and brings objectivity, clarity and fairness to the evaluation process. Using rubric-based assessment plays an important role during the formative assessment process when improving student performance and modifying classroom instruction are still possible.

It is important for the teacher and the student to have the same understanding of the expected learning outcome and of the same standard for achievement. Using a scoring rubric, also called an assessment rubric, ensures that the expectations are established and clearly stated.

A scoring rubric includes criteria and standards that are connected to learning objectives. It is used to assess a product or performance. Rubrics always describe the top level of achievement for a product or performance and a low level with other levels listed in between. Scoring rubrics are usually presented in a graphic form, such as a grid. The elements of a scoring rubric include:

  • criteria (dimensions, or elements that are important, on which performance or a product is rated),
  • levels (the rating scale, usually from excellent to poor),
  • descriptors (definitions and examples that illustrate the attributes being measured).

(Crane, 2014)

Self Assessment

Self assessment is the act of evaluating one's own work. Rubrics are also critical to self assessment in that they serve to clearly define the expectations of the self assessment.

In the work Self-Assessment: Helping Students Take a Long, Hard Look in the Mirror, Madeline Kiem talks about three phases of self assessment.

  • Setting the Stage (establishing criteria, goals, expectations)
  • Under Construction (methodically critiquing one's own work as it is occuring)
  • Final Fixes (improvement based on conclusions reached in the second phase)

She mentions Google Apps for Education and Scholar as two technology tools that can be used to assist students in the self assessment process. (Kiem, 2014)

Peer Assessment

Lyndon Institute felt early on that peer assessment would play a key role in our upcoming PBL January term. Again, rubrics are a key player in these assessments. Students will be using the rubrics developed by the teacher, the students, or both to assess their peers. This can work on an individual basis where each student can be assessed by their peers or, peer assessment can happen at a group level so that groups are assessing each other's work.

In Lauren Johnson's work Peer Assessment in Collaborative Work Environments, she states this about peer assessment: "Peer Assessment is the practice of engaging students within the evaluative grading process. It is typically used in combination with small team and group work, where there is an inherent challenge of ownership over the final product." (Johnson, 2014)

She continues by saying:

"When using peer assessment, it can be helpful to involve the students in the process of crafting the assessment itself. They can be tasked to devise criteria for what should be on the assessment, and to discuss and create any rubric that is used in assessing. In doing this, students feel a greater sense of ownership over the assessment practice." (Johnson, 2014)

Social Media can be used as a means of peer assessment as well. Google+ comes to mind. In Google+, a "community" becomes a classroom in which, following the normal behavior of social media, students within a particular community can post updates that include documentation of their work. Other students can comment and critique the posts and upload their own updates, links, photos, and videos. Google+ is simply one social media option, Heather Ochman, in her work Social Media in Learning Environments, reviews many other social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. There are many more.

For my upcoming Film production PBL class, I intend to integrate significant amounts of peer assessment and recursive feedback. One area in which I intend to utilize social media in this process is in the use of Essentially, Vimeo, like YouTube, is one of many social video production sites. In the case of Vimeo, students will participate in the published weekend video challenges in which they will compete in real contests with people beyond the boundaries of our particular classroom. In this case they will be assessing their peers but they will also have assessment coming from beyond the class.

Process & Product Assessment

In order to gain an accurate picture of learning, assessing both the process and the product are important for project based learning models. Lyndon Institute has already built this into our January PBL term planning and schedule. Teachers will evaluate the student's process of learning via rubrics, self assessment, peer assessment, electronic porfolios, and traditional portfolios. We will assess the product of student's learning by a final day of exhibition in which all classess will produce a final artifact for exhibition and assessment. This will be open to the entire school during the day and to the public in the evening.

The Underlying Learning Theory

Project based learning assessment is essentially a collection of multiple levels of assessment including self assessment, peer assessment, and assessment of the final product. Done properly, all of these forms of assessment point back to rubrics which echo agreed upon standards. Rubrics, in turn, provide the guides by which the other asssessment forms will base their judgements.

Project based learning and assessment is rooted in Contructivism and Contructionism.

Contructivism Theory (proponents being Piaget, Perkins, and Vgotsky) states:

"Individuals construct knowledge through interactions with their environment, and each individual's knowledge construction is different. So, through conducting investigations, conversations or activities, an individual is learning by constructing new knowledge by building on their current knowledge." (Grant, p. 2)

Contructionism Thoery:

"Constructionism (Harel & Papert, 1991; Kafai & Resnick, 1996) posits that individuals learn best when they are constructing an artifact that can be shared with others and reflected upon, such as plays, poems, pie charts or toothpick bridges.... [artifacts] must also be personally meaningful, where individuals are most likely to become engaged in learning." (Moursund, 1998, p.4). (Grant, p.2)

Taken together, Constructionism Theory and Contructivism Theory provide the underlying theoretical basis for project based learning and assessment.

The Assessment at work

Assessing project based learning can be challenging. Part of that challenge is that skills such as collaboration and problem solving often times need to be taught. These are frequently not enate to the learner. Teaching these skills is as much a part of the learning as successfully completing a quality project is. What follows for the remainder of this section is a number of practical recommendations from High Tech High for assessing a project based learning course. The full document can be found at

  • Reduce the final project grade to 50%. The remaining grade should be based on the assessment of work habits and other similar qualities such as creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking based off of such things as daily journals, observations, peer and self reflection. These observations and reflections might use a rubric as a guide similar to the one below which is a rubric for assessing creativity aligned with the Common Core Standards which I found on the Buck Institute for Education website.

Assessing Work Behaviors:

  • Reflective Thinking. Ask questions that make students think and reflect. Ask questions a few times a week. Have them reflect on the questions using a journaling format either via a traditional journal or a blog. Some suggestions for questions can be found here. ("54 Reflective Questions", High Tech High)
  • Time Management. Students should take 15 minutes or so at the end of each day to reflect on everything they have done for the day and record it in a daily log.
  • Revision. Students learn to self assess and revise work that is below quality. An example of this could include revision of plans they have made. These self assessments and revision plans should also be recorded in student journals as evidence.
  • Communication. Contructive communication can also be assessed. The student's jounal should include evidence of communication such as proposals, memos, and written peer assessment. Ideally, the teacher would see recorded evidence of giving and receiving contructive feedback.
  • Resourcefulness. Evidence of a student's ability to overcome challenges can be seen in the students logs and journals which can then be assessed.

As students write frequent entries in their journals, they can be guided by a set of standards that they will be assessed against. Students could refer to these on a daily basis. One example of this might be the "Work Behaviors Guide". (High Tech High)

Final assessment could be by a rubric such as the following:

Behaviors Rubric, High Tech High

What the course might look like over a nine week period and how to assess it:

Each week would contain each of these elements:

  • Reflective thinking: Using prompts and questions, have students reflect on their work habits and thinking during that day and week. See "54 Reflective Questions" by High Tech High for ideas of reflective questions.
  • Daily Logs: On days dedicated to project work, students would take time to record their work for that day. Fifteen to twenty minutes at the end of the day should be allowed for discussion and journaling.
  • Meeting Deadlines: Large projects should be broken into smaller segments with a series of deadlines. For example, a nine week project would be broken into 9 smaller segments; one segment due a week.

Self assessment of these elements would happen quite naturally using these three elements. Peer assessment could be crafted to the specific needs and timing within the course but the more frequently it can be utilized throughout the course, the better. Often times, peer groups would assess other peer groups and individuals within each group could assess each other.

At the end of the project, the teacher would meet with each group and ask them to assess themselves according to a scoring guide such as the one referenced above and found here. (Assessment, High Tech High). The final project itself would be assessed based on the quality of the work.

Below is a video from Edutopia on project based learning and assessment. The topic of assessment starts at 4:10 into the video.

Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning

5 Keys to Rigorous Project Based Learning,

A follow up video specifically on the assessment process of project based learning can be seen by clicking on the link below.

Key 5: Embedding Assessment Throughout the Project

Key 5: Embedding Assessment Throughout the Project,

Critical Reflection

Venessa Vega, writing for, in the article Project-Based Learning Research Review, states

Studies comparing learning outcomes for students taught via project-based learning versus traditional instruction show that when implemented well, PBL increases long-term retention of content, helps students perform as well as or better than traditional learners in high-stakes tests, improves problem-solving and collaboration skills, and improves students' attitudes towards learning (Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009;Walker & Leary, 2009). PBL can also provide an effective model for whole-school reform (National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform, 2004; Newmann & Wehlage, 1995). (Vega,, 2014)

There are problems with this form of learning and assessment as well:

One difficulty surround the assessment of a project based learning course is the time needed to thoroughly assess each student's work. This is indeed a challenge. The teacher would be wise to bring together self assessment, peer assessment, final artifact assessment, and her own observations to assist with the time required to assess a student accurately.

According to

Another criticism of PBL is that measures that are stated as reasons for its success are not measurable using standard measurement tools, and rely on subjective rubrics for assessing results.

In PBL there is also a certain tendency for the creation of the final product of the project to become the driving force in classroom activities. When this happens, the project can lose its content focus and be ineffective in helping students learn certain concepts and skills. For example, academic projects that culminate in an artistic display or exhibit may place more emphasis on the artistic processes involved in creating the display than on the academic content that the project is meant to help students learn. (Project-based learning,

Conclusion and Recommendations

Assessing project based learning can be challenging and time consuming but has the potential to yield a greater depth of assessment of a student's understanding. Assessment of project based learning is not a seperate occurance existing outside the project's work. It is an ongoing recording and observation by teachers and by students in the context of self assessment, peer assessment, and group assessment while journeying through the process of accomplishing the goal. It it a multi-faceted approach to assessment pulling evidence from the learner's own reflections and that of his or her peers as well as the teacher's own observations and of course, the final product's evaluation.

In this work, the underlying learning theories of Contructionism and Constructivism were discussed as the foundation of project based assessment and learning.

This work also analysed what the essential elements of PBL were and what the assessment of PBL looked like from a practical standpoint concluding with specific examples and recommendations on how one might go about assessing a project based learning class.

In conclusion, I strongly recommend project based learning and its accompanying meathods of assessment. I feel strongly that even though it has its difficulties, the benefits to students of deeper learning, higher level thinking, and greater student engagement speak for themselves in this learning model. Assessment in this context is more relevant to the learning process and can concurrently act as an opportunity for learning to occur. Instead of detracting or distracting from the learning of a particular course, project based learning assessment becomes part of that learning.


Blevins, A. (2014, September 23). Item Based Testing and Item Design.

Boss, S. (2014, April 13). Project-Based Learning: A Short History.

Buck Institute For Education. (2013) Creativity and Innovation Rubric for PBL

Buck Institute for Education. Introduction To Project Based Learning. (n.d.).

Crane, M. (2014, September 23). Rubric-based Assessments. (2014, Septermber 27). 5 Keys to Rigorous Project Based Learning. (2014, July 16). Key 5: Embedding Assessment Throughout the Project

Fales, D. (2014, September 23). Process Oriented Performance and Product Based Assessment.

Grant, M. (2002). GETTING A GRIP ON PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: THEORY, CASES AND RECOMMENDATIONS. Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from

High Tech High. 54 Reflective Questions.

High Tech High. Project Based Learning: Assessment. (n.d.).

High Tech High. Scoring Guide For Behaviors

High Tech High. Work Behaviors Guide.

Johnson, L. (2014, September 23). Peer Assessment in Collaborative Work Environments.

Kiem, M. (2014, September 23). Self-Assessment: Helping Students Take a Long, Hard Look in the Mirror.

Lamar, J., & Mergendoller, J. (2010, September 1). Seven Essentials for Project-Based Learning. Educational Leadership, 34-37.

National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform. (2004).Putting the pieces together: Lessons from comprehensive school reform research (PDF). Washington, DC.

Newmann, F. M., & Wehlage, G. G. (1995). Successful school restructuring: A report to the public and educators.

Ochman, H. (2014, September 23). Social Media In Learning Environments.

Petzen, B. (2014, September 23). Recursive Feedback.

Philipo, R. (2014, September 23). Rubric-based Assessments.

Strobel, J., & van Barneveld, A. (2009). When is PBL more effective? A meta-synthesis of meta-analyses comparing PBL to conventional classrooms (Abstract). The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 3(1).

Vega, V. (2014, April 13). Project-Based Learning Research Review.

Walker, A. & Leary, H. (2009). A problem-based learning meta analysis: Differences across problem types, implementation types, disciplines, and assessment levels (Abstract). Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 3(1): 12-43.

Wikipedia. Project-based Learning