Academic journal article Science Scope

Making as a Performance Task

Academic journal article Science Scope

Making as a Performance Task

Article excerpt

A performance task is one that asks students to do or create something that shows evidence of what they have learned. This type of assessment gives students the opportunity to display their understanding outside of the traditional multiple choice test or essay. Rigorous performance tasks are those that call for the application of knowledge and skills, are open-ended, provide authentic contexts, and show evidence of understanding (McTighe 2015).

The tenets underlying an authentic performance task align with those at the foundation of maker-centered learning. Making is a process of building and creating that allows for students to express themselves through the creation of meaningful products that are shared with a larger community (Rodriguez et al. 2018). Both performance tasks and making rest on the notion of students doing and creating as a way to learn, apply, and demonstrate knowledge. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has acknowledged the potential of making to foster innovation, increase student retention, and broaden participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education (NSF 2017). Making helps students develop a "maker mindset" (Martin 2015), which promotes playfulness, resilience, collaboration, and reflection. The process of making also promotes 21st-century skills such as problem-solving, design thinking, and the integration of technology. When used as a performance task, making can help teachers gauge students' understanding of disciplinary core ideas and proficiency with science and engineering process skills.

This article describes how a maker-centered unit project, called Cells and Me, was used as a performance task to gauge student understanding of cell organelles. Instead of enacting our traditional unit on cells, our students spent time researching organelles; making unique, interactive 3-D models; and presenting these models to a group of elementary students. By formulating the unit into an extended maker project, we hoped that students would take ownership of their learning and become experts through the process of creation and presentation. To make the project meaningful and authentic, we decided to have students make an exhibit for younger children and incorporate a technology component. This maker-centered unit project took nine days to complete, the same amount of time given to our customary cell unit.

Engagement: An introduction to tools and materials [55 min.]

For the engagement, we had students experiment with Makey Makey and Scratch as a way to expose them to coding and increase their comfort with trial and error. Makey Makey (see Resources) is a small electronics board that, when connected to a computer, enables users to add hand-made external components in lieu of specific keyboard keys. Scratch (see Resources) is a free, block-based programming enviroment and online site where people can create their own digital stories, programs, or games. When combined, the Makey Makey can be used to trigger events created in the Scratch program. Some examples of these two technologies working together can be found online (see Resources).

To build interest, students were divided into teams of two and presented the challenge of designing a musical instrument using Scratch, four pieces of celery, and a Makey Makey. Students worked together to explore and build their instruments (see Figure 1). This was an open-ended exploration; however, students were given the hint that the Makey Makey connects objects to the computer. Although many of our students had prior experience with Scratch, we provided scaffolding when needed and students used each other as a resource. To help students who were not as acquainted with Scratch, we directed them to the online tutorials found on the Scratch website (see Resources). We also provided one-on-one help to show students the basics of Scratch, how to drag and drop commands, where to find functions, and how to upload graphics or audio files. …

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