Alternative Assessments

Authentic Projects as Alternative Assessments in an Introductory STEM Course

Dr. Catherine Macris, also known as Cam to her students and colleagues, is an assistant professor of earth sciences in the School of Science at IU Indianapolis. As a committed and passionate instructor, she has actively participated in and led various educational development opportunities in and outside IU Indianapolis. Cam's Introduction to Mineralogy in-person course was offered in a hybrid traditional mode in fall 2020. Traditionally, she used two mid-terms and a final exam to assess her students' learning. But given the new teaching format, Cam wanted to maximize student' learning in class using hands-on learning activities rather than proctoring long exams.

Because we know that some people are very talented at taking tests. And others, while thinking very deeply about the material may not be able to translate that in an exam. So I am giving them the freedom to make a lot of choices, to utilize difference sort of delivery methods. And to utilize different kinds of talents that they might have. 

Big Project 1, Team Contract, Self- and Group-Assessment

Cam replaced the traditional exams with three "Big Projects" to accurately and fairly assess her students' learning while creating opportunities for collaborative learning, engaging with the community, applying their learning in authentic ways, and develop oral and written communication skills. The project prompts were developed using the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TiLT) framework, which outlines a clear purpose, set of tasks, and the criteria for student success on the project. The projects were designed to be cumulative with Big Project 3 utilizing products from Big Projects 1 and 2. Project description, team contract template, and self- and group-assessments for Big Project 1 are available for download.