High quality student projects can be valuable in the learning process; however, using them as an assessment tool runs the risk of distorting what a student knows and is able to do.

Quality projects involve significant student choice, are highly rigorous, are aligned to standards/learning targets, involve collaboration,and hit on various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Great projects provide an outlet for students to apply the content of a course and create something new.  Collaboration, discussion, research, and cross-curricular connections are additional benefits of using projects to aid in the learning process.  There is definitely a value to incorporating them into your lesson planning.

Poor projects don’t respect the realities of student time/ access to resources, are teacher chosen modalities that inhibit student creativity, and have requirements that are not aligned to standards.  These projects get perceived by most students as the burdens of our system.  They are worse than busy-work, they are over-work.

If the project is so valuable to the learning process, time should be set aside during class time to be able to complete the project.  If a project can’t meet the high standard of being worth class time, it certainly won’t meet the higher standard of being worth family time.

Unless the project was entirely done during class time, it is difficult to determine the amount of support each student received during the creation of the product.  Parental involvement, uneven effort from group members, and access to resources are just some of the ways achievement can be misrepresented.

Even the best student projects don’t reliably demonstrate what a student truly knows or is able to do after the product was created –  grading the product itself does not provide any evidence that the knowledge and skills required were retained.

The role of projects is to facilitate the learning process.  They are formative in nature and provide multiple opportunities for on-going feedback.  After the project event, a formal summative assessment can be used to reliably and validly measure the amount of knowledge and extent of skills each student has.

Will students do the work if they aren’t getting a grade for it?  Yes, if they see the value in the process.  Here are 15 strategies for motivating students without bribing them with a grade.


2 thoughts on “Rethinking the Role of Projects

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