final project: choose your own objectives

This is a continuation of a late spring/early summer reflection that started with mind reading, but then considered that NOT asking students to be mind readers would be like letting them cheat.  

I had a bit of an epic fail in the way of teaching earlier this year, and after spring break I had been re-teaching two chapters and was no where near the unit I'm normally teaching in chemistry by May.  Which left me a little high and dry when it came to my usual end-of-year project.  The students didn't have the background knowledge to jump into the project we'd usually do.
Since I recently had a breakthrough that there is not just One Way to demonstrate knowledge about a topic, I decided to ask the students:  What possible ways can you think of to demonstrate your knowledge of chemistry to me or to another audience?  (I gave poster/powerpoint/write and perform a song as three examples)

I was blown away by all the awesome ideas they came up with!  
Ways to demonstrate what we know about chemistry?
do an experiment
teach someone
make a video
make a powerpoint
real life applications
build a model/make a diagram
make a poster
jigsaw teaching
design an experiment
put on a play/skit
design a test or problem set
give a lecture (with handout)
write a lab report
After making this list, I asked how would you know if you demonstrated your knowledge successfully? The students suggested criteria such as logical conclusions, accurate and clear writing or diagrams, and if the audience could answer questions about the content after viewing or participating in the product.
First they chose their product: One group made a video of their procedure, and a companion piece showing what's going on at the molecular level for each step in the procedure. Another group made a prezi that showed in detail how the steps of the soap making process relate to the units and chapters we've covered in class this year.
Next they made a rubric of the objectives they intended to demonstrate. I directed them to the chapter summaries in their book so they could copy/paste the ones that applied to their product. This made evaluating their projects super easy because I could see whether or not they met the goals they set for themselves. Each objective was graded as not present, present but not completely discussed, and discussed with fluency. (similar to 0, partial, and correct in Marzano's Classroom Assessment and Grading that Work)

Alarm! This isn't like what you wrote about before! Aren't you still asking students to be mind readers, because you really want them to pick 'the right objectives' and demonstrate them in 'the right way'?
Aha! An important question. This is an end of the year project, so this wasn't really an opportunity to try a new way of presenting new content. However, this is different in that students have the opportunity to choose, at the beginning of the project, both What they will do and How they will do it. Each group decided on a slightly different set of objectives and a wildly different way of demonstrating them, and received feedback on whether or not the project would be an appropriate match for their level of learning.
It wasn't perfect, but it was a start toward standards based grading.

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