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March 19, 2019

3 Ways to Hack Pear Assessment for Project-Based Learning

Accommodating the budding minds in a classroom and the ways they may learn best is not always an easy task. Teachers juggle incorporating technology, behavioral issues, and pacing among other pressures. When I was a public school science teacher, I was always seeking innovation. I learned project-based learning (PBL) helps conquer these challenges very well. Pear Assessment (formerly Edulastic), a free and easy to use formative assessment tool, can also pair very well with PBL.

PBL pairs well with multiple intelligence styles, and can be as visual or active as a teacher would like. Not to mention, it is a lot more fun and rewarding for the students! They get to take ownership of a specific product, and they get to have some flexibility in their working style while they do it. Some students might prefer to draw, others might like to dance, act out a skit, or others might like to write an essay. The idea is they have choices and flexibility for how they learn best. (For more on learning modalities and intelligence styles, check out this ASCD article here.)

Also, in a PBL model students get to face challenges similar to what they might face in an actual work environment. This thoroughly prepares students for their future. How often have you, as a teacher (or other type of working professional) had to do any of the following?

  • Prioritize
  • Delegate
  • Strategize
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Communicate to team members

These are skills not always ranked in Bloom's Taxonomy but are absolutely important to real-world work. In a PBL model, students benefit because they can practice being self-reflective and working within a team.

Where there is learning there is also assessment, right?

This is where Pear Assessment comes in. Pear Assessment is a teacher-friendly tool for assessment in a classroom. It also lets them collect and track student data with ease. When we look at something like PBL, we want to make sure we have rigorous assessments in place as well. So let's take a look at how we can pair Pear Assessment with PBL to make a winning setup.

3 ways to use Pear Assessment within your project-based curriculum unit

The pacing method

Use Pear Assessment to help convey weekly expectations and track student progress along the way

You can set up Pear Assessment to function as your check-in-tool with students, and Pear Assessment will help you in gathering student data during this process. This can help in estimating student participation grades and preparing reports to supervisors. It can also help with pacing and students staying on task.

When I was a high school science teacher, I would structure “check ins” with my students on written handouts that students had to present to me for my signature (upon meeting and discussing project updates, hearing feedback from me etc.). If I had access to Pear Assessment tools then, I could have instead coordinated these check ins digitally and privately using Pear Assessment. They could check-in on their own time, at home or at school. That makes things a heck of a lot more efficient than having students form a line waiting to talk to me at my desk. You can set this up to occur at the every other day mark, weekly mark, biweekly, or even monthly mark depending upon length and scope of a project in place.  

A screenshot of a student note updating their teacher about the progress they are making on their project

The focus question method

Use specific questions to determine content mastery within the project

During a project-based learning unit, swap out your paper handouts for Pear Assessment when you need to do quizzes or in-unit content checks. You can create some of these check-ins to be analogous to content quizzes. This will help students gauge their success along the way (and of course serve as data for you as teacher). We all need feedback and points in which we pause to assess our knowledge thus far and this could easily be done through Pear Assessment within a PBL unit.

A multiple choice question checking up on student knowledge

The free response method

Set up an open ended question that establishes content mastery and student progress

In this method, you can let students upload samples of work, write, and self-assess themselves. For example, in a marine biology unit about predator-prey interactions, students might upload slide screenshots with examples of predators and their prey. They might answer your prompt via a few paragraph responses, and include a photo of a poster they are creating. Students can really self-assess themselves here if the project has a rubric.

Sometimes students don't get feedback on their work until the very end. In this method, students could actually do a self-assessment before the project end. Receiving constructive feedback they can actually act upon before the end of the project can improve student motivation. Ultimately for teachers, though, this can improve communication of overall project goals before they become deeper hangups.

A question prompt asking for a student to label predators and prey

Grading with Pear Assessment

You will be able to easily review how students are progressing on the assessment dashboard. Check out these samples of what grading looks like in Pear Assessment and how you can look at single student data and full class data on the whole:

A teacher grade on a student update

Overall, you can see how Pear Assessment can blend seamlessly with a curriculum planning method like PBL. Students can be better engaged, teachers can receive student feedback with ease, and this method can be used for not only project pacing, but student check ins for content mastery. It's a clever Pear Assessment hack you will surely enjoy!

Give it a try and tweet us @PearDeckLearning or use #PearAssessment on Instagram or Facebook. We would love to hear from you!

About the author

Julie Ann Howlett is a former science teacher who has taught in public schools in NJ and NC. She is an experienced private tutor and teacher who got bit by the entrepreneuring bug. She established two of her own educational consulting companies and now manages a third entrepreneurial endeavor in an entirely different topic. She loves all things edtech, efficiency, innovative, and quirky in entrepreneurship and digital marketing. You can tweet her @jahlearning or reach out to her via email at jahlearning@gmail.com.


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