Wednesday / May 29

Sharing the Assessment Load in Virtual Learning

In previous posts I have made a case for why we need PBL now more than ever. And by PBL I don’t mean it in the traditional sense, rather I am referring to a modified version of PBL called PBL-lite, which is more realistic in our current virtual learning contexts.  In order to uphold fidelity to the model of PBL, it is important that we continue to embed best practices of assessment into our teaching and learning. To keep this manageable for teachers we can think about how to share the work load. 

#realtalk: PBL can be overwhelming. Assessment within PBL is often what overwhelms teachers most. 

In my new e-book, What Could Be: A Guide to PBL Ahead, I remind teachers that in virtual learning you don’t have to carry the feedback load alone. We can think about how to share the load with students and experts. In a perfect world, we would be able to sit next to every student and “catch them” before they go too far down the wrong path in their learning. However, most teachers in the current set up aren’t able to do that. So here are a few ways that students can get feedback independent of the teacher:

  • Self checklist-This is a great “safety net” for students to be sure they have what they need in a given assignment. 
  • Peer feedback-Students can use Flipgrid, Google Doc comments, or group break out rooms to do this. Pro tip: Scaffold this process for students the first time they do it- See below for an up-close look at running a project critique in a virtual setting. 
  • Seek out feedback-Require students to request feedback from three individuals (this could be parents, older siblings, family friends, etc.) 
  • Ask an expert– Provide students with an email template to ask an expert for their feedback on their work. 

PBL up close: How to Run a virtual critique 

  1. Establish a virtual classroom climate for critique by co-creating norms for giving and receiving feedback. Post and revisit these norms frequently. 
  2. Show students the value of giving specific feedback by asking them to watch this video as preparation in advance of your virtual class time.  
  3.  Analyze high quality models of final products, with the help of Visible or Artful Thinking Routines.  Students can collectively identify for example “what defines a successful Public Service Announcement?” or “what is an effective marketing campaign?”. Student responses can be captured in a Google Doc, either synchronously or asynchronously. Later in the project process the teacher can ask the class to return to this list created to provide peer feedback or to self reflect. 
  4. Model for students how to give quality feedback. You can pre-record this as a video or you can do this live for students using a “virtual fishbowl” modified protocol
  5. Provide sentence frames for students to reference when they provide feedback. In my On your Feet Guide: “Planning and Assessing PBL” publishing this August, I provide sentence frames for Positive Feedback and Push Feedback-be sure to check it out! Other favorite sentence frames include warm and cool feedback in the form of a t-chart, 2 Wonders and a Wish, and the sandwich feedback explained here
  6. Lean on technology to help collect and document student feedback. Flipgrid, Peardeck and Padlet are great tools for this-along with others listed here.
  7. Be sure to ask students to do something with the feedback they received (ie., revise a draft of their work). This officially closes the feedback loop and helps build student agency! 

If we think about how to best leverage our resources, we can make PBL-lite a much more enjoyable and authentic learning experience. To learn more about assessment in PBL check out any of these resources: 

Written by

As an educator in schools across the country with a “one-of-a-kind” professional DNA, Dr. Jenny Pieratt prides herself on providing practical PBL tips and tools for teachers, along with authentic #realtalk on the subject of project-based learning. To learn more about her work visit and follow her on social media @crafted_jennyp. Be sure to check out her new book from Corwin: Keep it Real with PBL and her “PBL on-demand” e-courses

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