Educators are currently faced with two important questions: How can we prevent students from using AI tools like ChatGPT to cheat on tests and assignments? And how can we engage students in learning when they have access to distracting technology? According to Michael Hernandez, a teacher at Manhattan Beach High School in Los Angeles, the answer lies in moving away from traditional assessments and focusing on critical thinking and purposeful storytelling.
Hernandez believes that if students are going to put effort into their assignments, it should be for something meaningful. Traditional assessments, such as tests and worksheets, often end up in the trash, which sends a message that students’ work doesn’t matter. Hernandez argues that storytelling, in various forms, can be a more effective way to engage students and promote deep and critical thinking across different subjects.
Instead of simply asking students to create documentaries, Hernandez suggests exploring other avenues like digital books, data visualization, infographics, editorial illustrations, podcast production, and interviewing skills. These activities stimulate creativity and allow students to apply their knowledge in practical ways. Hernandez believes that the true test of understanding is the ability to use knowledge in real-life situations.
Hernandez provides examples of how teachers can implement these approaches in the classroom. For instance, a science teacher in Texas had students customize pictures of the insides of bones by adding their own labels. This assignment encouraged students to make personal connections and demonstrate their understanding in unique ways. Another example involves an AP chemistry teacher who has her students create explainer videos for younger students, which helps them engage with the concepts they are learning. Similarly, a science teacher at Hernandez’s school had students create infographics to explain scientific concepts to a nonscientific audience.
When it comes to assessing these projects, Hernandez suggests moving away from traditional letter grades and encouraging peer evaluation and feedback. Students can workshop each other’s work through class discussions or provide feedback individually. The goal is to make learning a collaborative and transparent process where students can learn from one another.
Despite the benefits of these alternative assessments, there are factors that discourage educators from implementing them. These may include concerns about the time required to design and evaluate projects, the lack of standardized grading systems, and resistance from parents or administrators. However, Hernandez believes that the benefits of engaging students in critical thinking and storytelling outweigh these challenges.
In conclusion, educators can address the issues of cheating and student disengagement by embracing alternative assessments that promote critical thinking and purposeful storytelling. By shifting the focus from memorization to practical application, students are more likely to be motivated and actively involved in their learning. Peer evaluation and feedback can further enhance the learning process and foster a collaborative classroom environment. Though there are potential obstacles to overcome, the benefits of these approaches outweigh the challenges, ultimately leading to more meaningful and effective education.
Having a principal who acknowledges and appreciates the significance of your contributions in enriching the children’s lives through creative projects can truly have a transformative impact. As opposed to a leadership approach that solely focuses on meeting educational standards or preparing for tests, this understanding from the principal makes a world of difference. Luis Hernandez expressed the importance of having a supportive principal who recognizes the value you bring to the students through your innovative endeavors.