CS Principles: Portfolios

July 30, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A big part of my responsibilities as a CS Principles pilot last year was to pilot three portfolios, aka performance based assessments in my classroom. As Owen Astrachan put it in our meeting, making the portfolios work was where the rubber met the road. We needed to see what worked and what did not. Can we actually give students a set of specifications / requirements and have them turn in projects – programs, research papers, visualizations, etc. – that we can then use to assess their understanding of the material.

Let me start with examining the presumably easiest of all three tasks,  programming.  This PBT does not specify which programming tool should be used. A set of general specifications are provided, detailing what programming components a project should have.  Students are expected to work collaboratively and independently. They can develop a program or a collection of programs using any programming tool of their choice. They have to collaboratively come up with a topic of interest and build their programs on that topic – a lot of fun!!!  The only problem I found last year was that students wanted to design only games; I met with a lot of resistance when I tried to steer them toward other projects.  Regardless, it was very popular with all kinds of male students of various backgrounds. The other points open for discussion are the key components every program or set of programs should have.

For girls, the PBT is certainly successful.  Girls like the project based learning. I find consistently that girls seem to approach a problem differently from boys. For example, given the same tool (eg Scratch) and the same backdrop, a boy and a girl would tend to make the characters behave differently! Game design does not seem to appeal to girls as much

The PBT: Programming work started with me assigning students in groups of  two. I talked to individual students and tried to match up their interests. It worked quite nicely. In a couple of cases, an unexpected benefit was that the younger / less experienced students learned a lot from their partners. It was not unusual to see a student and ask his / her partner for advice on the individual portion of the PBT. At no point were there feelings of isolation or frustration in the classroom

A final deliverable was a reflection component. Students were required to write about their experience creating the program and their experiences while working on the project both individually and collaboratively.

I am interested in seeing how the pilot progresses this year.  It should be a good exercise comparing my experience last year to this year’s.

Keep an eye out for the next PBT analysis a few days from now.


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