In October, students in 21st Century Skills completed self-designed projects in the format of group presentations. My goal was to allow students the opportunity to complete something that interested them (doing a presentation was their request) but also to involve them in the process of creating and assessing the project as a way to practice more 21st century skills.
Topics for the presentations ranged from demonstrations of about golf and lacrosse skills to gardening, playing a riff on the guitar and learning about man’s best friend. Students used rubrics that they collaborated on as a class in order to evaluate each other’s presentations, which included a section in which they graded their own and their partners’ efforts.
Because we have just finished a unit about different learning styles and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, students included an element of each of the VARK learning styles (visual, aural, read/write and kinesthetic) in their presentations. For example, as a part of our guitar lesson, we watched/heard a video/audio of the song we were learning in addition to a slide show of written information, we were able to try it on a real guitar as well as a student-created manipulative which helped us practice finger placement on imaginary frets.
This weekend, students were asked to reflect on the process of creating, presenting and assessing these projects. They identified the 21st century skills they used; problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and technology literacy were among those mentioned most. They also provided me with suggestions on what I could do to improve the project for next term (including a time limit in the rubric, streamlining the brainstorming process) and spoke about the challenges they faced as they worked in partners.
I think that next term I will make the task even more challenging by allowing groups to choose topics and then forcing them to trade topics. That way, the “experts” will be grading and those doing the research will have to work to meet the high expectations of their peers. I know this probably won’t be a popular decision but I really feel that it will be a worthwhile challenge!