Last year, after hearing Everett Kline speak on the value of what he called "authentic assessment," I decided to turn some time over to the students during the fourth quarter to allow them to create an independent project which demonstrated quality in thinking and in presentation. The project required the students to confront some very basic design issues: What am I going to do? How am I going to do it? What shape is it going to take? How am I going to present it?
During the third quarter I had asked the students to maintain a commonplace book in which they were expected to make regular entries related to essential questions which they had been asked to identify early in the quarter. They also had been regularly writing cycle papers on topics of their own choice. I suggested to the students that they might choose to base their projects on work they had already doing in the commonplace books or the cycle papers; or, if they chose, they might begin an entirely new project.
Many of the students seemed to be energized by the prospect of doing projects on topics of their own choice, and quite a few did their best work of the year on on these projects. I kept a selection of the projects to share with students this year.
This was the second year I asked students to do independent projects. Knowing that the projects would be coming up during the fourth quarter, I spent some time during the third quarter setting up the projects. For example, we read and discussed together an excerpt from Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which talked about "stuckness" and how getting stuck relates to the whole concept of "quality." We examined works of art and talked about how one goes about arriving at standards of quality. We connected those standards with Richard Paul's "Universal Standards" of quality in thinking which we had been using all year. And, perhaps most importantly, I showed students samples of projects from last year which embodied quality. I think that having concrete examples to show the students gave them a clearer sense of the possibilities, which may be one reason why the student projects this year were so impressive. Below you will find links to five of these projects. Given time do to the work of making the projects internet-ready, I could have shown perhaps twenty projects of similar ambition and quality. The work the students did on these projects has reconfirmed my already strong belief in the importance and value of asking students make connections between what they are studying in school and what is most important and most personal to them.
Francisco L. -- Caritas et Amor -- A Novel
Kelly S. -- The New York Story -- A Crime Novella, with Illustrations
Allison Y -- The Indescribable Relationship -- A Series of Linked Stories
Matt Y -- A Life in My Day -- A Portfolio of Themed Writing Linked to Kanji Characters
Mollie M. - Facets - A Short Story with Poems written by one of the Characters
Taila A. - Walk a Mile in My Shoes
Andrea D. - Photographs and Stories
Chantelle T-- Ayako -- a Novel
Sara S. - Get Inside My Head