Growing 21stCentennial Learners: Can rubric and standards-based assessment co-exist with open-ended learning?

I recently had an opportunity to evaluate my belief that compliance-based learning is often perceived as the death of critical thinking skills while evaluating ISTE Standard 4 (Innovative Designer).  I wonder, can the educational standards-based culture support innovative thinking as our students “exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems” (ISTE 4d) in learning environments that are heavily standardized?

Team ISTE stated, “In order to thrive in a more complicated world, students will need to understand how to work collaboratively with collective intelligence. Collaboration necessitates communication. Solutions require tenacity, creativity, and critical thinking. While students need to possess core knowledge and skills, they must be adroit with technology and prepared for the demands of the Innovation Age”. It is impossible to be a gatekeeper of the technology that our students naturally gravitate towards. As members of the Centennials, our scholars continue to evolve and change with every new technological innovation being created by the young, for the young. I believe that we are doing our students a foundational dis-service by requiring learning to live within a set of standards supported by a rigid rubric.

I argue that rubrics should create meaningful learning opportunities by articulating what the intent or a learning goal is. This can be standards-based and should be an opportunity to construct knowledge through the creation of a meaningful product versus a task to complete for a letter grade. The Cult of Pedagogy’s Single Point Rubric has changed the way I think about assessing my students as they progress towards mastery. The single point rubric allows the instructor to break down the feedback in a flexible, learning-centered model.

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Concerns- Areas that Need Work: When a student needs targeted support the ‘needs improvement-Concerns’ column can be utilized for coaching and guided questioning to support the processing and Growth Mindset our students need to be innovative members of their society.

Criteria- Standards for This Performance: Students can organically demonstrate the ‘meeting of the standard’ while creating an authentic opportunity to persevere through open-ended learning.

Advanced- Evidence of Exceeding Standards: Opening the learning product up for unique demonstration, supports the 21st-century learning we value.  Students share their innovative thinking that leads to and supports open-ended problem solving they will encounter outside of the classroom.

Our classrooms can support innovative and creative learning while still meeting the standards we have in place to measure and benchmark the targeted learning needs.

You may find yourself wondering how to build in the 21stcentury skills our students will need to support the innovation we are encouraging within a single point rubric grading system. One of the researched solutions can be found in The National Education Organization ( NEA) The Four C’s. “We interviewed leaders of all kinds to determine which of the 21st-century skills were the most important for K-12 education. There was near unanimity that four specific skills were the most important. They became known as the ‘Four Cs’— critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.”

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If Battelle for Kids- The 4 C’s support the way the students interact with and learn from the material, will the learning products we assess create solutions to authentic, open-ended problems?

With a deeper appreciation for open-ended learning products supported by The Four C’s, I wondered about how I could empower my students to use the educational technology tools they gravitate towards.  The SAMR Model would give the students control over the tools they use to demonstrate the learning.

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My final A-ha moment came with the realization that I can support the students as they select technologies to demonstrate and/or create the learning process and learning product, aligned to the standards criteria. As a 21st century educator, I am not expected to know all the tools that my students could use to demonstrate learning; there is a place in the learning for enhancement and transformation, and I need to give up some of my educator control as the beauty of learning is captivated.  When I step back and learn about the tools with my students, maybe they will be re-writing the exact standards they are mastering, because they were given the freedom to exceed beyond a rigid rubric.



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