How Do You Assess the Big Picture?

Daniel (@MathyMcMatherso) is continuing the process of breaking down his assessment structure this week by describing what he calls Synthesis Skills.  His concern about Standards Based Grading the way many approach it (skill based assessments) is that it doesn’t include any of the multi-topic, synthesis problems: “if I ignore problems like this, students begin to see mathematics as isolated chunks of knowledge and skills that aren’t necessarily inter-related.”

In my classroom I’ve taken these problems out of tests and quizzes and given them their own category called Investigations.  Students complete the problems without a time limit, they are encouraged to collaborate and have opportunities to get feedback and resubmit.  By the end of this process, I’m never sure exactly how much of the work is that individual student’s.  Some days that’s fine: when research mathematicians solve problems they don’t do so in isolation.  Other days I worry that few students are really getting everything they could be from the investigation, while I am dragging the others through the process: asking them questions rather than encouraging them to come up with their own questions and methods.

Where do multi-faceted, open ended problems appear in your classroom?  How do they factor into a student’s grade?


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One thought on “How Do You Assess the Big Picture?

  1. mslcbillings says:

    Our school (9-12) requires every course to have students complete some type of assignment (usually project based) to demonstrate their communication skills and their problem solving skills. They are scored on two school-wide common assessment rubrics, one for each type of skills. Often the assignments are begun as a group project, but finished as an individual project. So although students collaborate, every student has to reflect individually on the assignment and its impact on their learning. It’s hard to write a passing reflection if you haven’t done some work on the assignment!

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