The model for this assessment is a core activity of the Stanford d school. My purpose is to assess students' proficiency with engineering design thinking. Because this is a process that produces products, I chose to create this assessment as an actual design challenge. As such, my assessments of students will focus both on artifacts (writing, prototype creation) and behavioral observations.
One move I made in creating this exam was to first survey students about something they would change in school. While there was no clear majority, more students identified the cafeteria/lunch experience more than any other part of the school. I probed students through an Edmodo discussion to understand their needs as best I could. Some student responses are in the attached screenshot. My final decision to focus on a sustainable cafeteria experience was made to bridge the engineering design thinking skills we have developed in this course with the content focus of upcoming units.
This is the first of a two class period final. Students will engage in a real-time engineering design process. The warm-up activity will be for students to draw a sustainable cafeteria. They will use the follow description to aid their effort:
I will display the attached image at the front of the room as a visual reminder for students of the purpose of this opening activity.
I will facilitate a discussion of the opening activity with the class. My goal is to determine our feelings about a sustainable cafeteria experience. I will end with a question: What step of the engineering design process did I just perform?
I will explain that my attempts to empathize are exactly what we will be doing for the next two days. To summarize our course so far, I review with students all that we have learned so far about the stages of the engineering design process. I will then describe the sustainable cafeteria design challenge. How might we create a sustainable cafeteria experience for our design partner? I will assign student pairs in advance, and project pairings. I will use my observations of classroom dynamics and knowledge of classroom relationships to pair students that do not regularly interact, but will have a functional classroom relationship.
This activity will happen over two days. On the first day, I will guide students through the completion of the following tasks:
I will assess students with the attached rubric.
NOTE: The goal of this first day is to identify a prototype solution for a more sustainable cafeteria experience. Some students may choose to focus on a solution that is not easy to develop as a physical prototype. I will end the first day by telling students that they will be building a prototype during day two of the assessment and that they are encouraged to assess their own ideas for how easy they would be to prototype.
Teachers interested in learning how to facilitate this process should explore this video from the Stanford d school that provides directions for a similar process.
NOTE: I do not play music during this process as students will either be distracted or will argue with whatever I choose.
STUDENT WORK PRODUCTS
Empathy interview: A student discuss cafeteria food
Rapid prototypes: Students assess rapid prototype ideas (there is a background hum of focused activity)
Attached are a few of the written artifacts from this final. I want to stress again that these artifacts are one aspect of the assessment process. Observations of student behavior are equally as important. For this reason, I actively circulate and make observational assessments of student proficiency throughout the final.
For this second day, students build prototypes, test prototypes with intended users, iterate, and reflection on the process. Again timing is strict. For supplies, I gave student groups spaghetti, index cards, paper clips, rubber bands, paper bags, string, tape, and scissors.
STUDENTS IN ACTION
Baby shark tank peer review
To close this exam, students answer reflection questions and self-assess.
Attached are some representative samples of reflection questions. These are useful as both assessment data and teacher feedback. For instance, I noticed that many students still do not accurately connect design mindsets to process. This tells me immediately that I need to improve that part of my practice.
Also attached is the rubric that students use to self-assess each part of the exam. I will compare self-assessments with my own assessment to identify areas where there is disagreement. These areas become the focus of my feedback, as differences indicate that a student does not understand their level of proficiency.
The rubrics used for this unit are a work in progress. A promising lead for future iteration comes from the K12 lab. Currently, the engineering design thinking rubrics I use suffer from an abstraction bias. What exactly is, for instance, a "surprising new insight"? How might I better communicate expectations for that sort of description of proficiency within a mastery-based assessment structure?