Through Project-Based Learning Instruction
The method we use to assess students at our center is evolving - that's a good sign. Currently we use a portfolio system which incorporates both traditional and alternative methods of student assessment. This process is anything but stagnant and we continuously revise and improve our approach to assessing the adults which come to our center.
The purpose of our portfolios is to provide a dual approach to assessment, an approach which combines standardized methods of student evaluation and placement with alternative methods of assessment as defined by each student. Standardized tests serve two main objectives, providing quantitative results to funders as well as providing progress reports to students and instructors using a consistent tool with corresponding results.
Students are responsible for the "student-generated" section of their portfolio and choose the work they wish to include. A student's experience and skills are valued as we build a collection of their work and goals. Student-generated assessment materials round off the incomplete picture built by standardized tests by offering work which is meaningful to students.
Project-based instruction provides a significant contribution to our students' portfolios. Student-generated class projects are a powerful technique for facilitating adult learning. They are a group learning experience that occurs as a classroom of learners engage in a collective learning project that they initiate and shape. Past and current projects at the Kyle Family Learning & Career Center include family photo albums, valentine cards for sale, skits, publications of student writings, a micro-enterprise initiative, a stay-in-school community awareness project, and the creation of a student-generated web page (in progress).
Project-based instruction facilitates the process of assessment by creating a time in which students are engaged in meaningful and self-directed learning experiences. Assessment of students through project-based learning activities covers a large range of learning experiences including a student's ability to:
- build consensus and work in a group;
- share their life experiences with others;
- utilize language and literacy skills to communicate with others;
- develop their skills in the area of technology;
- recognize and develop their own creativity;
- value personal strengths and individualism;
- take ownership of their work;
- experience completion; and visualize and actualize an end product.
Recently we conducted a computer class for nine parents and twelve of their school age children ages 8 to 12 years old. We spent three days together in which we learned a basic word processing program, a publishing program, and how to surf the Internet. Parents and their children worked together on quick computer projects such as writing a computer generated essay on their favorite time together as a family, making a sign for their children's room or locker, and completing a scavenger hunt using the Internet.
While we experienced an enjoyable time working on fun activities with adults and their children, we were able to assess important aspects of our students' lives and literacy skills. Valuable insights we gained about KFLCC adult learners as a result of this class follow. Adults have a greater desire and need to learn computer skills if they are to assist their children to be successful in school and life. Children are a lot more relaxed around computers than their parents. Thus, we need to help our adult students feel comfortable with the computer. Parents and their children make good teams as long as you provide for the involvement of adults at all levels (ask them to manipulate the computer). Both adults and children show a sense of pride when they print out work they created together. Some families prefer to write in Spanish, while others take the risk to write in English. Everyone was able and willing to complete their tasks no matter how difficult it was for them.
The work that adults completed with their children during this class will most likely make it into their portfolio. It will remind us of the success students had when working on the computer and the pride they felt when they created a positive symbol of their families worth. Not only did we have a great time those three days, but we also put into print a reminder of what our students can achieve.
About the Author
Audrey Abed works at the Kyle Family Learning and Career Center as the Adult Education Coordinator and is a trainer for the ESOL Project at Texas A&M Kingsville. She has her Masters in Education with an emphasis in Adult Education from San Francisco State University. Audrey has worked with adults in the fields of adult education and family literacy since 1990. Her 6 month old son, Gibreel, brings her joy and laughter. E-mail Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org