I’m Not Trying to Assess You

The semester is starting to wind down which means it’s getting time for my students to think about how they want to present their Explore projects. I have the last day of class set aside for them to do presentations, and doing so has always been considered a part of their final grade. However, the syllabus says that we would determine the parameters for their presentations at some point during the semester.

That point has arrived.

In our most recent class, I presented them with some questions and ideas for how we might conduct the presentations. I did not allow them to make any decisions as I want them to sit on things for a week and think it through a bit. But basically, I asked them the following:

  • Is it important to you to hear from everyone (or would you be ok with doing some sort of round table/poster presentation)?
  • Should everyone be required to provide a handout with information about their projects?
  • What is the most important thing for you as a presenter? As an observer?

We talked about different formats for presenting. For example, yes, you could do a traditional PP talk. But you could also do PechaKucha or write a Buzzfeed article and share it with us. They were also welcome to suggest different presentation formats, but I asked them to run it by me first.

This would be the opposite of what we are aiming for.
This would be the opposite of what we are aiming for.

As we were having this discussion a hand went up. One of my students was confused. As she was trying to figure out the answers to these questions – including how she or anyone might structure their presentations – she realized she did not understand how she was being assessed or what she was being assessed on.

Ok. Fair enough.

I answered, “I’m not trying to assess you. I just want you to share with your classmates what you have learned from the work you have done on your Explore projects over the course of the semester.”

Whoa. Back it up. Not trying to assess anyone?

Yep. That is correct. I am not trying to assess them at all – period. Their projects were meant to be areas that they were interested in better understanding that were relevant to the class. Therefore, whatever they share should have a pretty broad interest across all students in the class. This means that you get out of it what you put into it. This presentation, at its core, isn’t for me. Yes, it will hurt their grade if they don’t do it. I give them credit for doing it. But at it’s core, the presentations are for each other. Recall that I don’t believe I make or break a class single-handedly.

So if you come to the table with a presentation for your peers that is meant to help your peers (and not bent on doing whatever I want for you to get an A), then we should have some interesting presentations. If you blow it off because you know that I am not assessing you, and you are not interested in helping your peers gain new information, then we will have a pretty awful afternoon together,

I set it. I provide the structure. Where they take it is up to them. But it is not about assessment. It is never about assessment. It’s about learning and sharing knowledge in authentic ways.