Learning Approach & Authentic Assessment
The following unit is an example of Project-Based Learning. It’s adapted from the final unit of a real college first-year rhetoric and composition class I once taught. I’ve left it as a Word document with a Creative Commons license to make it easy to adapt and use in other classes. Please download it here:
The unit, and the course it’s drawn from, exemplify Project-Based Learning: learning in each course unit is authentically assessed by asking learners to compose in a real-world genre and publish in a public space. Each unit also consists of two “feeders,” smaller low-stakes assignments meant to provide practice and scaffolding for the final project. The project in this unit, a video article, is the culmination of rhetorical and technological skills learners develop over the entire semester. The project is student-centered in that learners are asked to choose any topic they’d like to research at the beginning of the semester. Learners also get the chance to organize and participate in an authentic academic conference (called the PIT, or People, Ideas, and Things, Conference) and submit to an online journal (the PIT Journal) curated by their peers and maintained by their teachers.
This video article unit draws on the theory of andragogy: it treats learners as adults who are intrinsically motivated, most ready to learn when faced with a specific real-world problem, and eager to learn skills that help them fit into their newly blossoming social roles. The unit also evokes constructivism by asking learners across different classes to peer-review each other’s work, generating knowledge through social interaction. Finally, it evokes connectivism by using an online space (the PIT Journal and submission stream) to bring learners together in an active social network. Learners who are farther along the path to mastering a genre can offer scaffolding to their peers, without the instructor’s constant involvement.