At NovoEd, we not only pride ourselves on a social and collaborative learning environment, but on a proven pedagogical model – project-based learning. Research shows that we learn best by doing and that learning is most engaging when it’s experiential, especially when that experience is relevant to our lives. (Read more about active and experiential learning here.)

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Stanford’s Center for Assessment and Learning (SCALE), recently launched a course for educators to learn to develop projects for their students aimed at meeting and measuring Common Core learning targets. In the process, “Designing for Deeper Learning” is pushing educators/learners (and our team!) to get meta about project based learning. In the course, educators are learning to build projects, more specifically “performance assessments,” to gauge learning outcomes for their students by actually building a performance assessment to be implemented in their classrooms.

The overall framework of the course is for educators to create different components of their performance assessment week by week, as they learn about those different components through lectures. Throughout the course they build up to a draft performance assessment which then undergoes peer evaluations by other educators, allowing for personalized feedback in a course with thousands of classmates.

Educators also have the opportunity to form teams and collaborate with educators of similar interest from all over the world. Through discussing the lectures and their own practices on the team workspace and interacting with their mentors, these teams have the opportunity to deepen their understandings of key ideas towards developing and piloting performance assessments.

In the team Pythagoras’ team, math teachers for grades 6-8 from the US, Australia, and Greece are developing a unit of work relating to year 8 Area and Surface area. In the team 21st Century ESOL teachers, educators who teach K-12 ELD/ESOL/ESL in language centers and universities are encouraged to join from all over the world. Together, they are collaboratively not only for the course assignments, but also to advance their own work as ESL/ELD teachers.

The learning does not end there. The course builds – in a period for educators to then implement that performance assessment in their classrooms and reflect on the experience it created for students, before submitting their final draft. Indeed, another section of the course includes lectures on grading performance assessments, which is complemented with an assignment to grade and analyze data for student submissions coming from that implementation period.

In the past, professional development courses faced similar flaws as  K-12 education, with a focus on rote memorization and curriculum which seemed tangential to those it was targeted towards. NovoEd is proud to be tackling that paradigm head on and excited to be working with teachers to help them directly create better learning experiences for their students.

This post was written by Brendan Appold, a member of the Instructional Programs team at NovoEd.