Assessment in an Inquiry-based Environment
Assessment in inquiry-based learning is accomplished in many ways. It is very different from regular classroom assessment that often requires specific recall of facts presented by the teacher or read from an assigned textbook when a unit is near or at completion. Assessment in an inquiry-based project is ongoing. "Inquiry-based learning requires that students demonstrate their understanding through explanation, interpretation and application." (Harada) The student's final presentation makes up part of the assessment but takes equal footing with the process the child has followed. The skills that are assessed in inquiry learning cannot be measured by traditional tests. "Assessment is focused on determining the progress of skills development in addition to content understanding." (2004 Workshop)
Typical types of assessment occur from all people involved in the project. These include teachers, librarians and students. When students start assessing themselves and other students, they begin to develop criteria for their own projects. The types of assessment range from direct observation, checklists, informal checking and conferencing to rubrics that are completed throughout the project. Students looking at their peers' work and making suggestions is common as well as teachers helping students make adjustments in their progress. Assessment is ongoing. Other forms of assessment include portfolios of students' writing, exhibitions and interviews.
There is always a final project that is prepared for an audience that may include the teacher but certainly not exclusively. The audience should consist of people such as parents, peers and others that may be interested in the topic. Students then understand the value of their work. The educator must understand that the student is not looking for one correct answer to a question but rather is taking a journey to find out as much as possible about his topic. He then discusses this journey with his audience at the end of the project. "Successful learning is not defined by what teachers and library media specialists do but rather by what the students are able to do." (Harada)
Assessment must be personal and relate to the students' journey. For each child, different expectations must be set. "Educators in an inquiry classroom should assess based on what curricula students have experienced and take into account students' unequal learning opportunities." (Community Informatics Initiative Faculty and Staff) In this way students move along a continuum that serves each one of them rather than a cookie cutter model often found in a traditional classroom. Children understand when they have grown and made real progress. Assessment should support that understanding.
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Community Informatics Initiative Faculty and Staff. (2007). What is the Inquiry Page Project? Champaign, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. http://www.inquiry.uiuc.edu/us/inquiry_page.php
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