Tests are evil, let them do projects.
That type of rhetoric frequently appears in my Twitter stream. My gut reaction is hell yeah. But some recent quiz results have gotten me thinking ….
Take for example, this learning objective:
The student understands the difference between mass and weight.
Here’s a student project (not mine) which clearly addresses the objective.
Here’s another project (also not mine). This one is very creative and totally adorable.
But those two projects are really just rehashes of the traditional explanation of the difference between mass and weight: “mass is the amount of stuff an object has and doesn’t change, while weight is the gravitational pull on an object and can change depending on location.” I wonder what would happen if those two students encountered quiz questions like the ones below. Would they make the same mistakes as several of my students did? I feel that even though my students can parrot back the difference between mass and weight (like in the above videos), they don’t really understand that difference if they miss these type of quiz questions:
I did find one project where a student (again, not mine) gives a thorough explanation and uses several examples. I predict that this student should be able to answer those quiz questions.
What I’m trying to say is that I feel that teacher-generated questions and experiences (quizzes, labs, whiteboard problems, etc.) are important because they challenge students to think and apply in ways they probably wouldn’t if we just left them to their own devices.
But I also get that projects let students be creative and allow them to demonstrate their understanding in ways that quizzes simply can’t.
Perhaps the answer is just “all things in moderation.” Or perhaps the project parameters need improvement so students aren’t simply reciting Wikipedia definitions from a Powerpoint? Or something else?
What are your thoughts?