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The Teacher’s Corner: December 

Using Alternate Content and Projects as evidence for Understanding
“If it is skills you are evaluating, give them choice of content. If it is content, give them choice of product”

When I look at a particular unit of instruction, I often break it down into two areas of student understanding; content and skills. Content is simply the subject matter focused on; the facts, ideas, and information. Skills acquisition crosses disciplines and can be used by the student throughout their educational career.

If understanding of content is your main goal, then try to offer a variety of product choices for your students. In this way they can exhibit the common principles and concepts though an interest area of their choosing. Photographs, Essays, Poems, Papers, Artwork, PowerPoint, Brochures, Contests, and many other projects offer ways for students to express their knowledge. As the teacher, you would also need to construct similar rubrics for grading. These would focus on content knowledge and creativity.  Students either possess knowledge on how to create these products or could access one of many “how-to” books which exist.

If skills acquisition is your main goal, then try to offer a wide open selection of content choices for the students to choose from.  In this way they can exhibit skills through an interest area of their choosing. Developing communication skills (oral, written, visual, research, and creativity) can be exhibited using any content area, and appropriate assessment can soon follow.

Whatever your focus, choice in product or content for the student lends itself to a vested interest and commitment.

Below are a few resources for you to explore.

Alternative Assessments for Identifying Gifted and Talented Students 

Deborah E. Burns’ Taxonomy of Type II Process Skills  

Connecting Performance Assessment to Instruction: A Comparison of Behavioral Assessment, Mastery Learning, Curriculum-Based Measurement, and Performance Assessment     

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