Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
All kids are different. We know this. Yet it is still common practice to evaluate all students as if they are the same. Students are assessed based on content - and not necessarily an understanding of the content, but the ability to memorize the content - while growth and competencies are put on the back burner.
It is difficult for exams and quizzes to measure growth, 21st-century proficiencies, and even a deep understanding of the content. The experiential philosophy is rooted in all of those things, so how do you evaluate experiential learning activities?
Head back to blog posts on experiential learning activities for more details on the practice. You can also join my Facebook page, Experiential Learning Community for K12 Educators for an exclusive short video training on experiential learning.
Because experiential learning incorporates student-led learning experiences, I encourage students to also develop and lead their own evaluations and assessments. There are a variety of advantages to student-led assessments. The greatest advantage is the intrinsic motivation to learn.
I use the following assessments strategies with my project-based learners. If it seems like a bit much, try one method at a time or attempt to introduce some of the ideas gradually. At some point in your experiential journey you will be able to implement all of these evaluation pieces together to create one powerful and effective assessment strategy. Good luck!
Experiential Learning Assessment Strategies
1. Personal Learning Plans
At the beginning of a session or any learning experience have students write personal and academic goals. You are setting students up to design their own assessments based on their vision, needs, and learning goals.
Each of my students has a personal learning plan (PLP) that they create with me at the beginning of the school year. This is where they record their strengths, interests, and short and long-term goals. They return to their PLP periodically throughout the course of the year to review their goals and again at the end of the session to record cumulative learning outcomes.
It is difficult to measure experiential learning with an exam because you're evaluating an experience and/or a tangible outcome. So I use rubrics as my go-to assessment strategy for experiential learning activities. Rubrics can be adjusted to include specific criteria including growth and 21st-century skills proficiency.
I often have my students generate their own rubrics that reflect goals, skills, strengths, interests, etc. All of these have been written into their persona learning plans. If one of their goals is to build problem-solving skills, they might include it as an evaluation criteria in their rubric.
Self-generated rubrics are personalized and can be created for almost any experiential learning activity. Check out my experiential learning rubrics here, including a student-generated rubric template with word banks to guide students in rubric creation and a project-based learning rubric.
3. Formative Assessments:
If you're looking for a quick and easy way to gauge if students are understanding the content, have them produce something for you.
You can keep it quick and simple such as asking students to draw a diagram of a process that they've been learning about, such as the energy budget, for example.
I use their first drafts of final products as a formative assessment tool. Let's say one of my students is completing a self-directed project-based learning activity about the history of their hometown architecture, and they've decided to create a model of their hometown to demonstrate learning. Taking a look at progress reveals a lot about their understanding of the topic and where there might be some misconceptions or content gaps.
I also have students answer do learning reflections. They write learning reflection essays or answer reflection questions from a guide that I give them. My students a digital learning reflection template. This is a great tool to evaluate understanding and growth.
4. Assessment Portfolios
This is my favorite part! Because my students learn through experience rather than direct instruction, they end up with tangible outcomes to display. Those outcomes might be photographs of learning experiences, reflections, digital final products, rubrics, and so on.
My students compile all of their experiences into one digital portfolio that reflects learning as a whole rather than discrete units. They can then share their learning portfolios, present them to their class at the end of the year or session, and take it with them when they go.
This is how students show growth, 21st-century skill-development, content knowledge, community engagement, and so much more.
Grab my Google Slides editable learning portfolio for free!
I'm am going to dive into the specifics of this portfolio for next week's blog post. I will go over how I use it, tricks and tips for facilitating and guiding your students in the portfolio-building experience, and more. Don't miss it!
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Did you know there is an experiential learning Facebook group? Check that out - Experiential Learning Community for K12 Teachers - and join in the discussion about experiential learning ideas such as assessments.
Relevant Blog Posts:
Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.