Designing Effective Projects : Planning Projects
Assessment in Projects
Assessment Scenarios Then and Now
Twenty years ago, a typical classroom may have encompassed one of three assessment scenarios: learners taking a written exam, learners making oral presentations, or the teacher administering a quiz with oral questions, while learners responded on paper. The teacher would teach the content, assess the learners using one of these strategies, record the marks, and move on to the next unit of learning.

Today’s classroom reflects a very different assessment scenario. Tests and quizzes are still present but are not the sole method of assessing learner learning. Instead, a variety of assessment strategies take place at multiple points in a unit of learning, including:
  • Teachers and learners give and receive feedback in the form of peer and teacher discussions.
  • Checklists and rubrics help learners understand expectations and manage learning progress.
  • Self-assessments support metacognition and reflections on learning.
  • Rubrics define quality for products and performances that are assessed by peers and the teacher.
Purpose of Assessment
The primary purpose of classroom assessment today is to improve learning and refine teaching and learning. Assessment is not a solitary event but rather a continual process throughout a project. Embedded and ongoing assessment is at the heart of project-based learning and provides a means for learners to show what they know in many ways. Assessment becomes a tool for improvement rather than a test of intelligence or accumulation of facts. With assessment embedded throughout a unit of learning, teachers learn more about their learners’ needs and can adjust teaching to improve learner achievement.

To fully take advantage of the benefits of these strategies, assessments should target specific informational goals, such as:
  • how learners are progressing toward learning goals 
  • which thinking skills learners use
  • whether learners are improving in self-management and using reflection to improve their learning
  • how well learners are integrating and applying new information 
  • what motivates learners 
  • the effectiveness of special interventions 
  • whether teaching strategies need modification

With learner-centered assessment, learners have more involvement in all assessment processes and need opportunities to learn and practice:

  • Creating project plans, checklists, and rubrics
  • Using reflection prompts to help them think about and self-assess their own learning
  • Setting goals, defining tasks, predicting what will be learned
  • Identifying difficulties they have in learning and considering strategies they can use to improve
  • Giving and receiving feedback from their peers.
Being engaged in assessment at this level fosters feelings of control over learning and learners come to see themselves as successful, capable learners.

To help learners succeed, provide learners with:
  • Clear criteria up front
  • Opportunities to monitor their own progress
  • Methods for giving constructive feedback to peers and incorporating feedback from peers to improve work 
  • Time to reflect and improve on their processes and products
  • Support in setting new goals for future learning 


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