21st Century Assessments

As the 2015 -16 school year is ending I look back at how education is evolving. Computers, technology, internet, Smartboards and cell-phones have become essential tools in modern education, however; they are not the only things that modern teachers are evolving with. We now have 21st Century Education with project based, or authentic learning, being used as its key strategies.

Authentic learning is focused on connecting what students are taught in school to real-world issues and problems that can be addressed by the students. Science can relate to the environment around them, math can relate to budgeting and personal space, English to personal experience, and social studies can relate to a student’s place in the world. Learning through experience is a great way for students to internalize, understand and be able to utilize information.

The problem many educators face is that although authentic learning is a great way to teach and learn in a 21st century environment, it is not how students are currently being evaluated.  Common Core and other forms of state testing are set up with multiple choice questions and short answer responses. Current research finds that this is the least effective way to assess what a student has learned or comprehended and yet it is still the standard form of evaluation used in most districts. A project based education focuses on understanding information instead of memorizing facts for a test.

Most adults have forgotten the majority of what they learned in school unless it pertains to their current job or interests. This is because they didn’t internalize the information and truly understand it. When students learn how to understand, synthesize, and utilize information, they have a better chance of retaining the information and understanding how it relates to their lives.

As teaching evolves in the 21st century we need to take a look at the evolution of the evaluation process we use. Students are not being tested on what they know and understand, they are only being tested on what they can identify or figure out based on a specific question. With all this technology and all this research on best teaching practices, we should be able to find a better way to evaluate what and how students are learning.