Your blog post on what is not participatory assessment critiqued prevailing assessment and testing practices. So what is participatory assessment?
not every member must contribute, but all must believe they are free to contribute when ready and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued.
To do participatory assessment for activity A, we first define the relevant big ideas (RBIs) of the activity (i.e., X, Y, and perhaps, Z). We then create two simple sets of Discourse Guidelines to ensure that all students enlist (i.e., use) X, Y, and Z in the discourse that defines the enactment of that activity. Event reflections encourage classrooms to reflect on and critique their particular enactment of the activity. These are informal prompts that are seamlessly embedded in the activities. A paper we just wrote for the recent meeting of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction in Amsterdam discussed examples from our implementation of Reading in a Participatory Culture developed by Project New Media Literacies. That activity Remixing and Appropriation used new media contexts to conventional literary notions like genre and allusion. One of the Event Reflection prompts was
How is the way we are doing this activity helping reveal the role of genre in the practice of appropriation?
Given that the students had just begun to see how this notion related to this practice, the students struggled to make sense of such questions. But it set the classroom up to better appreciate how genre was just as crucial to Melville’s appropriation of the Old Testament in Moby-Dick as it was to the music video "Ahab" by nerdcore pioneer MC Lars. The questions are also worded to introduce important nuances that will help foster more sophisticated discourse (such as the subtle distinction between a concept like genre and a practice like appropriation)
Crucially, the event guidelines were aligned to slightly more formal Activity Reflections. These come at the end of the activity, and ask students to reflect on and critique the way the particular activities were designed, in light of the RBIs:
How did the way that the designers at Project New Media Literacies made this activity help reveal the role of genre in the practice of appropriation?
Note that the focus of the reflection and critique has shifted from the highly contextualized enactment of the activity, the more fixed design of the activity. But we are still resisting the quite natural tendency to begin asking ourselves whether each student can articulate the role of genre in appropriation. Rather than ramping up individual accountability, we first ramp up the level of communal discourse by moving from the rather routine conceptual engagement in the question above, and into the more sophisticated consequential and critical engagement. While these are not the exact questions we used, these capture the idea nicely:
Consequential Reflection: How did the decision to focus on both genre and appropriation impact the way this activity was designed?Critical Reflection: Can you think of a different or better activity than Moby-Dick or Ahab to illustrate genre and appropriation?
We are still struggling to clarify the nature of these prompts, but have found a lot of inspiration in the work of our IU Learning Sciences colleagues Melissa Gresalfi and Sasha Barab, who have been writing about consequential engagement relative to educational video games.
The discourse fostered by these reflections should leave even the most ill-prepared (or recalcitrant) participant ready to meaningfully reflect on their own understanding of the RBIs. And yet, we still resist directly interrogating that understanding, in order to continue fostering discourse. Before jumping to assess the individual, we first focus on the artifacts that the individual is producing in the activity. This is done with Reflective Rubrics that ask the students to elaborate on how the artifact they are creating in the activity (or activities) reflects consequential and critical engagement with the RBI. As will be elaborated in a subsequent post, these are aligned to formal Assessment Rubrics of the sort that teachers would use to formally assess and (typically) grade the artifacts.
So the relevant big idea here is that we should first focus away from individual understanding and achievement if we want to confidently attain it with the kinds of participatory collaborative activities that so many of us are busily trying to bring into classrooms.