Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating today. Even if you don’t observe the holiday, it is nice to have time to slow down and take a break to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit (since we know that being an educator places great demands on all three aspects of your being).

If you’ve been following the blog this week, you know we’ve been posting about performance tasks and their particular suitability for measuring the goals we have for students’ ability to transfer their conceptual understanding to new situations. There is really no other way to prepare students for solving the world’s most complex problems — they need to practice applying their learning to novel issues under all the messy constraints that the real world contains.

We also know that coming up with good performance tasks that measure students’ conceptual understanding is difficult if not nearly impossible. So, take a moment to pat yourself on the back if you’ve attempted to do this so far this school year. Remember that it takes time to perfect a task and spend some time reflecting on the successes you’ve had so far (not just the shortcomings!). Celebrate your progress!

If you have time, continue reflecting using this great resource:

John Mueller’s Authentic Assessment Toolbox

This site has great explanations of authentic assessment options and, more importantly, a range of examples for elementary, middle, high school, and college-level courses. What’s great — at least in my view — is that the examples are not all exemplars. They range in quality and some are arguably more like traditional tests than they are “authentic” or “real world.” I found it extremely useful to reflect on my own practice in the context of these various other tasks. Which of these would I consider true performance tasks? Which help reveal students’ level of conceptual understanding? Which assessments are my own most similar to? What would I do to improve the examples I see here? What lessons can I take away to apply to my own practice?

The holidays provide time to relax and forget about work. They also provide valuable time to clear our minds and reflect on our practice in order to start the new year as better educators. Take some time for both this week! You and the students you work with deserve it!

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