As Virtual Haverford reaches the end of the second semester, the administration decided to make all final assessments projects. The move comes in response to the challenge presented by sit-down finals in the circumstances of remote schooling.
Overall feedback for the change was positive. For students like Fourth Former Samuel Kohl, the shift gives some relief.
“I think it’s going to take a lot of the stress away from students and make the end of the year more about learning instead of studying for finals,” Kohl said.
Others think the decision is more practical given the circumstances.
“I think that it is something necessary,” Fourth Former Elijah Lee said. “Online learning does not lend itself well to the exams we normally have, so the change is a good way to get around that.”
Third Former Matthew Kang also finds projects the more realistic alternative for the conditions presented.
“Since there is an inability to check for academic dishonesty, projects are better able to challenge a student’s knowledge and learning as they require more thinking and more time compared to a normal test,” Kang said.
“Exams are great at being a summative assessment where we can see what [the students] know, but research has shown that project-based activities are a better tool for educators, so it’s been a cool opportunity where we don’t have to focus on the end goal being a written test.”Ms. Brooke Kenna
Teachers found the change to be more practical as well. For those in the faculty who recently assessed their Sixth Form classes, the experience offered evidence for the possibility of using these types of cumulative final assignments for classes to come.
“[The switch] is a great opportunity,” Spanish teacher Ms. Brooke Kenna said. “Exams are great at being a summative assessment where we can see what [the students] know, but research has shown that project-based activities are a better tool for educators, so it’s been a cool opportunity where we don’t have to focus on the end goal being a written test.”
“I think that a project or something where you have to consult multiple resources and commit more time to is a much better indication of what you know from the material and what you’ve taken from it than answering problems.”Mr. Matt Ator
Math teacher Mr. Matt Ator also found this form to be more effective.
“I think that a project or something where you have to consult multiple resources and commit more time to is a much better indication of what you know from the material and what you’ve taken from it than answering problems,” Mr. Ator said. “I definitely think projects will continue to pop up going forward.”
As to what these projects looked like this year, there was no standard for the assessments themselves. For Ms. Kenna’s Spanish V class, the major end-of-year assessment took the form of a Shark Tank competition.
“There’s a lot of creativity in the project. Language is meant to be a little messy, it’s meant to be collaborative,” Ms. Kenna said. “Giving them the chance to use the language authentically is what can make or break the assignment, and hopefully it made it so that they could work together.”
Mr. Ator chose a different path for his Honors Calculus class.
“Instead of me writing an exam and them taking it, [the students] are writing the exam. In order to write a good exam, you need a balance of all the materials, you need to have a wide range of difficulty of problems,” Mr. Ator said. “I’m also having them analyze what they write and look at what was important and what problems were effective at assessing certain skills. It’s them having to really analyze the material in order to build an effective test.”
Despite the general success, teachers still have questions.
“Implementation is really hard,” Mr. Ator said. “It takes time to write a project where you are clear about the steps that need to be taken and creating a rubric for how you’re grading it.”
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