I teach in a medium-size upper secondary school in western France. I'm a math teacher but I've also been teaching in European classes for more than ten years now. One specificity of them is the CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) method that focuses on learning by doing especially in project-based learning scenarios.
However and until recently, when it came to present and assess end-of-project groups productions, there were many inconveniences. We used to have up to 15 presentations, one after the other, in front of 50 students! The whole audience would listen carefully the first and the second presentation, but a little noise would start during the third presentation, and you can guess the rest! I had to find a new way the organise the project sharings.
Some issues with "classic" project assessments
• First of all, the old way of assessing groups production was definitely time consuming. Sometimes, it took up to 3-4 hours for all groups to share their projects.
• It was also quite boring in the long run, as I briefly described in the background section.
• But one of the main drawbacks of this one-after-the-other scenario was that it was quite hard to have everyone speak when giving the floor to a group of 3-4 students. Less-confident students would indeed let the more-confident ones speak to the class, leaving two bad options to the teacher: either not assessing their oral skills or giving a bad grade.
• I found at least two reasons for less-confident students mutism:
- They had to speak in front of the whole class which made mistakes more "scary".
- It was a one-time chance to showcase their skills, no chance for failure, no second chance for improvement.
- Moreover, I wasn't satisfied with the summative-only status of this classic project-sharing scenario. Could the students get some feedback in a formative way from the teacher and peers?
• Finally, I was not sure what I was really grading: The projects? My students' skills?
Fair-like assessment: Overview
A Fair in European class "Maths in English", LP2I, 2018
A fair-like assessment scenario is basically a chance for all the groups to present at the same time. The visitors are mainly project members but can also be outsiders. In the first part of the scenario, half of the class build a stand and present their project. The other half are visitors taking part in the assessment (either formative or summative depending on when it happens in the project planning). After half-time students swap roles.
DIY: what is needed?
• A large (open) space. Groups may need to isolate themselves from the other groups, for obvious noise reasons but also because they need to feel like they "own the place" of their stand. If possible, use adjacent rooms, corridors or organise the fair outside! Think about display tools (mobile whiteboards, portable projectors, screens, etc.). Ask the groups to think what they need for their stands to figure out the real needs.
• Shared criteria. One of the main goals of a fair-like assessment is to involve students in the assessment process. They can even take part in the construction of the criteria. Think what criteria should only be used by teachers (subject-based criteria for instance) and what criteria can be used by students (meeting the requirements, interactivity, presentation skills: "Did I understand correctly what my peer said? Did I learn something new?").
• A peer-assessment grid. It can either be on a paper or an online quiz to fill every time a student visits a stand.
• A teacher-assessment grid.
• 60 minutes. That's all it takes for me to assess individually 28 students, sometimes along with my English colleague.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, going digital is necessary, which can even mean creating virtual stands. This can be done in a videoconference tool that allows breakout rooms. Otherwise, you need to create separate videoconference rooms for each group. Visitors can then change "stands" by clicking from a room to another.
Example of a peer-assessment grid - LP2I (FR), 2019
How it works – step by step
Fair-Like assessment scenario steps
Conclusion and why it works
• This method is time-efficient, about twice faster than the old one. We know how long it's going to take and we can save time for project improvements, rehearsals, etc.
• Visitors are free to come and go. As a teacher, we don't need to check the time and blow a whistle for visitors to switch from one stand to another. When properly set, a fair-like assessment lesson runs on its own and frees the teacher to both enjoy his students' work and assess them. This freedom can also be used to identify situations of success around him. This actually changes quite significantly the relation to evaluation as the teacher acknowledges skills in his students' actions instead of testing their ability to overcome a test.
• Everyone speaks several times. Then again, the teacher might as well wait for a less-confident student to speak to 2 or 3 groups of visitors (which is easier than speaking in front of the whole class) before going to him for evaluation. This gives students more chances to improve and showcase skills.
• Thanks to this method, it's possible to decide whether the fair has a formative or a summative purpose and to assess the products through peer-reviews.
• As far as 21st century skills are concerned, fair-like assessment not only evaluates communication skills, but it also develops them along with critical thinking, self-regulation and creativity.
I definitely recommend you give it a try and if you do so, please share your experience here!
Mathematics teacher, LP2I (FR)
NOVIGADO project team
- Active learning scenarios: 04-20-20 webinar (prep doc) & recording
- Fair-like assessment: Teach Meet 03-13-20 (prep doc) & recording
- https://padlet.com/Xavier_Garnier/NFSJ12019VV (in French)