Colin's Sandbox

Goal Five: Assessment

From the very first course, Technology in Instructional Design
Understanding by Design, we learn that assessment should be at the heart of creating quality instruction. Assessment stems from the need for measuring the depth of a student’s understanding of the essential questions. From the criteria that is laid out from the assessments we develop the main points of our instruction accordingly.  But what should assessment look like, in an era with more project based and open learning?

Authentic Assessment

Grant Wiggins (1990) contrasts “authentic assessment” against what we think of as “traditional” assessment:

… we directly examine student performance on worthy intellectual tasks. Traditional assessment, by contract, relies on indirect or proxy ‘items’–efficient, simplistic substitutes from which we think valid inferences can be made about the student’s performance at those valued challenges.

Wiggins goes on to say in another article (Edutopia, 2014) that the balance of traditional and authentic assessment can be used to “triangulate the information”.  The goal of this strategy is to balance the work of the group with the progress in learning that the individual undergoes and to better understand where a student is and how far they’ve come along.  In this era of accountability the word “assessment” often gets a bad reputation; however true assessment does not equate to “standardized testing”.

Putting the Rubric in its Place

Performing authentic assessment on project-based output means to apply real world descriptions of measurement criteria, and oftentimes this assessment is organized in the form of a rubric.  There are no shortage of these that I have been exposed to and helped to build in this Master’s pursuit.  At times I admit that I have questioned their use.  But like many other things I have come to peace with rubrics, but with some notes on their use.  First, the students should be exposed to some example work for every project, former students’ example work if possible.  Secondly, as part of the brainstorming / planning process, the students themselves should be involved in helping to craft the rubric by which they’ll be evaluated. Lastly, peer review has been helpful for me at times in different courses both as a person receiving the review as well as the one doing the reviewing, and it’s something that can and should be used within the classroom as well to greater or lesser degree.

Assessment in the Era of Open Education

Assessment is made more transparent in the era of open education resources and collaborative classroom mediums such as blog sites, private and public social networking services, etc.  Students can see the examples of work that others are capable of and in turn know that their peers will be able, and indeed expected, to examine each others’ work.

Open education elements usually involve a strong sense of community, what Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown call a “learning collective”.  This mode of course delivery brings together a much larger audience for each submission, providing a potentially deep pool of feedback that otherwise was dominated by the instructor.  This strong program of ongoing formative assessment and quick feedback allows learners to quickly see what others are doing in the class and to adapt their own work to address the [hopefully] constructive criticism of others.  The instructor or facilitator is also present in these conversations, guiding the discussion, listening to concerns, and is provided the ability to tailor course content or delivery according to the level of mastery and learning style of the individuals involved.

In terms of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs, project-based learning collectives build communication and collaboration skills, allows for individual creativity, and exercises critical thinking skills through the development and application of the project assessment piece.


Wiggins, Grant (1990). The case for authentic assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 2(2). Retrieved March 10, 2014 from

Edutopia Staff (2014).  Grant Wiggins: Defining assessment. Retrieved March 10, 2014 from

Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2011). Framework for
21st Century Learning.
Published March, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2014 from

Goals and Standards

University of Alaska Southeast School of Education Standards, Education Technology, Goal 5

a. understand how to plan for instruction that is based on learner needs and curriculum goals. (K)
b. plan, teach, and assess for optimal learning. (S)
c. demonstrate that they value assessment and instruction as integrated processes. (D)

ISTE Standards for Coaches (2011)

2b. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using a variety of research-based, learner-centered assessment tools to address the diverse needs and interests of all students instructional strategies and assessment tools to address the diverse needs and interests of all students.
2g. Coach teacher in and model effective use of technology tools and resources to continuously assess student learning and technology literacy by applying a rich variety of formative and summative assessments aligned with content and student technology standards
2h. Coach teachers in and model effective use of technology tools and resources to systematically collect and analyze student achievement data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning
3f. Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure

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