Unit synthesis: Am I proficient? (4 of 4)

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Students will be able to: 1) describe the features of a standards-based grading system; 2) develop a rubric for engineering design thinking by observing college level versions of engineering design thinking skills; 3) self-assess engineering design thinking skills; and 4) develop strategic next steps for improving mastery.

Big Idea

Good designers are mindful of process. How might we use examples of high-level engineering design thinking processes to self-assess our own mastery level?

FRAME: Why student-generated rubrics?

The primary activity for this lesson is a student-generated rubric assignment.  This activity both allows students to think deeply about their competency within each skill area of engineering-design thinking and also provides the teacher with a final check for understanding before the unit summative assessment.  How do students conceptualize each aspect of engineering design thinking?  Is a student able to identify specific next steps to be taken to "level up" within a skill category?  Is a student able to accurately rate current proficiency?  What specific interventions might the teacher make to push students' mastery?

Open discussion: How do we know how we are doing in a class?

10 minutes


Students engage in a facilitated conversation to surface the collective understanding of how to assess performance in class.  How do we know how we are doing in our courses?  Students will record response in their STEM journals before sharing.

Teacher move

I will focus my discussion on product versus process.  Which is more important:how you do your work or the work itself?  Are there times when the process is more important than the product?  What, exactly, is the product of engineering design thinking?

Direct Instruction

Following the discussion, I will explicitly teach students the approach used for the entire grade team: standards-based grading.  The skills we have focused on during this introductory unit are the standards.  Students' "grade" in the class is merely how well a student has mastered the standards.  The mastery scale is from 1 to 4.  The numbers mean the following:

1: The student is struggling to meet the standards and requires extensive help from the teacher to master skills.

2: The student is approaching the standard.  The teacher skill must help, but not extensively.

3: The student is at a proficient level of mastery.  The student can independently demonstrate an ability to meet the minimum requirements of the standard.  This level is considered "on grade level."

4: The student has exceeded grade level mastery.  The student can independently exceed the standard without any assistance from the teacher.  This level is considered "college ready."

Engineering design thinking rubric creation

20 minutes


Students will use observations from Extreme by Design to develop a mastery-based rubric for each aspect of the engineering design thinking process.


Students will work in design teams from the previous day and will be encouraged to start with observed Stanford graduate student behaviors as a level "4."  What would the level below that look like?  This is our group goal for this class. The graphic organizer provided to students is attached. Additionally, student will be provided a sample prototype rubric that might be used to assess the engineering design process.  Students are encouraged to use this sample rubric for ideas, but told that this is a sample rubric in development and should not be taken as an authoritative rubric.

To complete the "Rubric Activity," students are encourage to include ideas and examples from all lessons of the current unit.  This move pushes students to make connections between this assignment and previous work.  It also pushes students to identify areas of weakness that they will need to target before the summative assessment.


I am able to conduct formative assessments of students in the class based on their interpretation of level 4 behavior.  Students are able to collaboratively norm understanding of proficient mastery of engineering design thinking.


The "Rubric Activity" and the "Sample Rubric" are distributed together.  Depending on the student population, I will model a single row in an I-WE-YOU structure so that students have a model to use.  I might also provide the rubric without any modeling and cherry pick high-level student responses in real-time and pause the class to share out these examples.

How will I assess student work

The "Sample Rubric" is an in-process rubric that I will use to assess the student work for this activity.  It will also serve as a rubric for the summative assessment.  I am looking for students' ability to accurately describe proficiency within each category. 

Throughout the year I will continue to refine this rubric so that the language is easier for students to understand; I also plan to populate it with examples.

Prototype test

15 minutes


Students will use the rubric they created to assess the baby shark tank portion of Extreme by Design (this is around the 35 minute mark).  This is the point of the film when Stanford design students begin to show dysfunction.  Can students accurately assess designer behavior from the film?


Each student will focus on one assessment category (empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, testing, or iteration) and write a one paragraph summary of their assessment.  How did you rate this behavior?  Why?

Alternative resources

Teachers will have different needs in their classes and their is an Extreme by Design youtube page that has a number of video clips that might be use for more targeted assessment.  Teachers might, for instance have students examine only prototyping.

Am I proficient?

10 minutes


Finally, students will attempt to rate their own proficiency within each category.  How do you rate yourself in each category of the engineering design process?  What is your evidence for this rating?  For each category that you rated less than a 3, describe what you need to do next to get to the next level.

Students will share out next steps at the close of class.

What will the teacher do?

This is my final opportunity to check that students are able to accurately self-assess skills.  I will collect all ratings and email all students with one next step to take before the final exam.  I will give special focus to students that are completely inaccurate in their self-assessments.