How to Successfully Assess STEAM Projects

How to Successfully Assess STEAM Projects

STEAM projects provide a unique opportunity to evaluate student understanding and hone your teaching practice. Students’ learning and level of engagement can be impacted by assessment strategies you use before, during, and after project construction. Determining what your students learned, how effectively they worked together, and how they are progressing in your STEAM program are essential steps to master.

In this article, we will review the importance of assessment, as well as outline basic STEAM assessment strategies to ensure the best learning outcomes for your students.

The Importance of Assessment in STEAM

The planning phase of a STEAM project can be daunting. Then, as your students complete the project, you may find your focus fixing on maintaining your planned class schedule and timeline. It can certainly be a challenging task to lead an entire class of students through a detailed, multi-step project. Upon completion, you may be tempted to display your students’ work and move on to the next project. In doing this, you will skip the crucial assessment portion of STEAM learning.

In assessing the work of your students, you can record and track their progress in a number of areas. Having a real sense of your students’ skill levels in different areas allows you to adjust your next lessons and projects to reinforce ideas and skills that they have not fully mastered yet. Conversely, you can skim over the concepts of which your students demonstrated a solid understanding. This helps you maximize your class time in order to provide the greatest benefit to students long term.

Assessment is not only helpful to you as a teacher, but it is crucial to the success of your students both in and outside of the classroom. The feedback provided to students following an assessment enables students to learn from mistakes, also known as productive failure.

Productive Failure Classroom Handout

Productive failure is a key skill in STEAM learning, but it additionally benefits students in all areas of their lives. Taking constructive criticism, learning from it, and trying to do better in the future is a life skill that everyone needs. You can help your students develop this skill in your STEAM classroom through assessment.

Types of Assessment

There is more than one way to assess the progress of your students in the STEAM-based classroom. Here are just a few:

  • Formative Assessment:

    This assessment type focuses on providing students with feedback (in real time, if possible) rather than a letter or number grade. The goal is to allow students to learn new ways to approach problem-solving while also showing teachers how they can improve their instruction to better fit the needs of their students.

  • Summative Assessment:

    Unlike the one above, this assessment type involves a specific letter or number score. Summative assessments are typically provided at the end of a lesson, unit, or semester. They encompass the results of all assignments within a certain defined window of time.

  • Performance-based Assessment:

    This type generally focuses on students demonstrating mastery of skills and concepts taught in a lesson or unit. There is a wide variety of ways to implement performance-based assessment. Common ways include short answer responses, a brief presentation, or an experiment. The key is to focus on the process students take to solve the problem rather than just the answer.

Strategies for Effectively Assessing STEM/STEAM Learning

Align with Learning Objectives

The simplest way to set your students up for success in STEAM learning is to clearly outline the objectives of a lesson or a project. Below are some questions to consider when outlining learning objectives for yourself and your students.

  • What new concepts will be introduced?
  • What key STEAM skills will be needed to solve this problem?
  • How long should this project/lesson take to complete?
  • Is there a specific order that should be followed when completing different steps in the project?
  • How can students best demonstrate mastery of these concepts by the end of the project (or, what is the desired outcome)?

Once you know exactly what you want your students to get from the project or lesson, communicate it to them prior to the start. This helps students guide themselves through the project with the learning objectives in mind. Students should be aware of what exactly they will be assessed on so that they can use their own discretion to try to achieve the best outcome.

Use multiple tools/types of assessments

Before you begin, you will need to decide which type of assessment you will use for this project. In making this decision, you will also choose when the assessment takes place. For example, if you choose formative assessment, you will assess and provide feedback throughout the duration of the project. If you choose summative, your assessment and feedback will be provided to students after the project is done. In choosing performance-based assessment, you will commit to assessing and providing feedback during and after the project. Choose what type works best for you and your class’ needs.

To keep the assessment simple, create a list or a template of key factors to focus on as you observe your students. Here are some easy considerations to keep in mind as you create an assessment template for your project.

  • Consider how your students utilized their provided resources to brainstorm, approach, and solve problems.
  • Focus on how students use new vocabulary terms and phrases when thinking and talking through a problem.
  • Observe and consider the way students utilize failure to reassess and reapproach a problem. After making a mistake, how did they reset and proceed?
  • Consider how students work when they are alone versus in groups. In a group setting, do they collaborate well? Read more about how to assess teamwork during STEM and STEAM projects and grab our STEAM Teamwork Rubric. Set expectations for your students before your project even starts!

STEAM Teamwork Assessment Rubric

If you need some help formulating your assessment strategy, consider trying a TinkRworks project! All TinkRworks STEAM projects have built-in assessments to help you monitor your students’ progress. Try an introductory classroom package of our Art Electric project and see for yourself.

In Conclusion

Assessment is a vital component to a high-performing STEM/STEAM classroom. The way in which students use feedback and critiques to learn is essential to their progress, both in your class and in their lives. As an added bonus, assessment helps you as an educator learn more effective ways to teach STEM/STEAM material. In any classroom, the use of proper assessment is a genuine win-win scenario.

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