I started the semester planning a research project for my Modern Asia class instead of a final exam. That felt progressive to me, and it still does. That was what I had my class do last year, and it went well.
This year, I decided to ask my students what they wanted to learn. I blogged about that already. They gave me many good ideas, but what I realized is that there is enough common interest and desire to continue working together as a class, rather than dividing into projects. This class has a lot of questions and areas they want to learn about. We started down this path with the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia and now will look into post-Vietnam War Vietnam. This type of plan seemed to need a different type of summative assessment.
My idea is the summative portfolio – four pieces with four due dates that can be done in any order. There is a mix of common tasks and individualized work. I am hoping this plan will allow my seniors to keep learning what they want while they reflect on all that we have done. They will be able to synthesize and analyze content while they demonstrate the skills I hope they have acquired. Here is my draft version of the requirements – comments and suggestions welcome. I am already getting some helpful feedback from my librarian.
What is it I want students to know/demonstrate?
1. Ability to dissect and explain current events – either analyze one media source from one day in its entirety or choose an issue and several different news sources
2. Evaluation of book sources – Comparative Book Review (of two books read in course) – What each book contributed to understanding of China and India; strengths and weaknesses of each – show NYRB as example.
3. Knowledge of basic content about post-WWII India and Communist China (Content questions – “exam” from last year) – including comparative questions
4. Ability to do deep focused research to answer specific question
I hope that this allows students to demonstrate their learning in a way that is useful for them.