It may seem counterintuitive, but the most scaled-up evidence of constructivist, projected-based teaching and learning I have observed was supported by standardized performance task assessments and scores. It happened with the MD School Performance Program.
- First, a state vision of rigorous problem solving for all students was developed and adopted as the driving force for statewide school reform.
- This led to the development of high-level state learning standards in reading, language usage, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies for all students.
- Next, state standardized and authentic performance task assessments -- in which students had to produce, construct, or perform something expected in the standards -- were developed to reflect the vision and standards.
- Then, local districts developed performance instruction tasks that were aligned with the vision and standards and included formative assessments similar to the state assessments.
This approach meant teachers taught to a vision of student learning and standards in a constructivist context -- not to a test. Moreover, writing was integrated into each performance task to bolster critical thinking, analysis, and reflection. Many of the state assessment performance tasks were multi-content so more than one subject was assessed and scored in one performance task.
These factors really made local instruction engaging and worthwhile for all students -- in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the state. Recently, I adapted one of the performance instruction tasks for use in a Twitter timeline as an exploratory project. You can check it out at this link under “Learning with Social Media.”
Charge on with authentic constructivist learning, assessment, and improvement -- they work for all students.