Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Assessing the Wizards

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Assessing the Wizards

Article excerpt


Today it is commonplace for the K-12 curricula to include multimedia projects, which encompass presentation programs, graphic arts, digital photography and web design classes. On the surface teachers applaud these innovations as education for the new millennium but assessment for this new interactive style presents a challenge. A clear and credible rationale for assessment of such classes has not yet been developed. While assessment is the challenge, criteria are the dilemma.


The multimedia curricula teach the use of computers and computer software, digital and video cameras, the web, and telecommunications as tools to be used in the context of a required task. In addition to using web resources in the classroom, students are taught to design and create their own websites. A major concern of educators is the appropriate assessment of student learner outcomes. All students, at all levels of ability, are entitled to have performance based assessment. These are referred to as alternative assessments, because they do not fall under the traditional form of evaluation, which is generally a pen and paper test or exam or a standardized test.

In the last two decades, the educational community has embraced Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences (MI), negating the former concept of intelligence as a single capacity which can be expressed for all individuals in a single manner (Gardner, 1995). Howard Gardner, the acclaimed Harvard cognitive psychologist, emphasizes that the MI theory recognizes the significance of human differences and elevates the dignity and giftedness of every individual (Diaz-Lefebvre, 2004). Thus, alternative assessments based on individual learning styles should be used to ascertain student learning. More recently, federal legislation, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-17, has mandated that all students need to be educated in the least restrictive environment (2003) and, even more recently, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, the revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has mandated accountability for every student's education (2003-2004).

Because of the mandates of IDEA and NCLB, all students must take part in accountability testing, even those with severe cognitive disabilities (SCD). The development of these alternative assessments is both time-consuming and expensive. This creates special challenges for many schools in rural areas, where adequate funding is not available to develop alternative assessments. Performance criteria must reflect mastery of skills. Researchers Hager and Slocum (2005) define mastery as that which gets the job done. The difficulty schools face is designing alternative assessments to promote monitoring of ongoing progress and support effective classroom practices, within the limitations of school budgets and in alignment with state standards. This article is based on a review of the existing literature, in conjunction with and supporting an action research project undertaken by this educator.

Impact of Legislation

The implementation of IDEA and NCLB has impacted each and every classroom in the country. When web-based technology is used in the classroom, skills in manipulating telecommunications and multimedia are taught, to be eventually used in other school subjects and in the outside world (Becker, 1993). However, the actual incorporation of these skills in other school subjects has been spotty at best (Jancich, 2005.) Students are taught these skills in their technology classes, but many teachers of other subjects do not feel qualified to plan lessons requiring the usage of these techniques in their particular classes. Many educators do not feel comfortable using technology themselves, and are reluctant to require it of their students. NCLB Title IID continues to build the pressure since a primary goal is to

   encourage the effective integration of technology resources and
   systems with teacher training and curriculum development to
   establish research based instructional methods that can be widely
   implemented as best practices by state and local educational
   agencies (Jancich, 2005). … 
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