Collaboration and Assessment

fair use fairy school A rubric that includes a cartwheel, scented paper, and handout dances? How does that measure learning about hot topic issues in school librarianship?  Why can’t assessment have a sense of fun and play?  See it here!

The end of the semester is a busy time in higher ed, but exams, projects, and reflections in coursework give instructors a chance to assess and celebrate student learning. Best educational practice and strategies for teaching may vary according to the developmental age of the students and by content, but a major goal in any classroom is to engage and excite learners. The question is how do you as an instructor recognize and honor learning?

Assessing student learning has not been a focus for teacher librarians in the past, but when new standards and collaboration enter the picture, TLs have to step up and be part of that process.

Learning about assessment through authentic examples embedded within a graduate course demonstrates possible techniques for creating assessments that inform both students and instructors about knowledge and performance.

Recently, my co-instructor and I here at the University of Vermont met with students face to face for the final class this semester.  The course is offered in a blended format, two face to face classes at the beginning and end of the semester, five videoconferencing sessions at various times, and Blackboard modules that support online communication and work.  The course, Management of School Library Media Centers, is an overview of the various administrative and leadership roles of the teacher librarian in the school environment.  Sounds dry, doesn’t it?  There are many projects and ways that students are assessed and self assess during the course.  Reflection through personal blogs is a major expectation. Written reports, and evidence of leadership and collaboration are also part of assessment. Technology is infused throughout, and students are encouraged to stretch themselves out of their comfort zone. Feedback is ongoing between instructors and students.  It’s a huge amount of work for both!

So, here we are wrapping up our time together by sharing the fruits of a semester long project that requires students to choose a hot topic of interest, find a group of like minded folks, collaborate across time and space to identify resources and talking points for the pros and cons of the issue, and to create a skit that shows evidence of learning to be performed at the final class.  Why not make it fun, and a bit less serious?  One way to do that is to ask the students to collaborate to devise a rubric that gets to the heart of the matter, but also encourages creativity, humor, and playfulness. Setting the expectations for both serious and playful criteria generates groans, but opens lots of possibilities that unleash creative juices.  The results on Saturday delighted us all.

A sampling of skits:

  • Remix/Fair use:  The Fair Use Fairy School-three fairies popped a quiz, “What would you do?”  Winners in the audience got to wear a super star cape and fairy dust.  Serious topic-good examples, and resources provided-and lots of laughs. (Photo above)
  • Graphic novels:  A disgruntled Grandma, happy ELL teacher, and struggling reader who turns a cartwheel at finding engaging literature. All with lavender scented handouts!
  • Banned books: Three points of view-grumpy parent, clueless administrator, and eager students ready to teach friends about censorship. Humor and satire galore revealed serious issues.
  • Grants:  Teacher librarian makes herself indispensable to a principal by leading the way in finding grants.  The principal says, “ We are eliminating your budget. I hope it doesn’t impact you too much!”  Skit included a baby born to one of the students during the course, adding a new criteria to the rubric.
  • Open source platforms: Panel of crazy hat people arguing the pros and cons of open vs. paid Integrated Library systems.  Great handout dance.
  • CIPA:  A manic dialogue between an administrator, a congressman, and the personification of art and porn-filled with clever humor about the purpose and quixotic implementation of  internet safety rules for children.

Who says teacher librarians can’t have fun?

Photo: Judy Kaplan






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