Embedding Assessment Throughout the Project is one of five keys to PBL. It’s a process that happens moment by moment. Students are actively involved as assessment is integrated throughout the project work. Teachers are constantly checking for understanding and students have a voice in determining where they are in relationship to learning targets. Reflection and goal setting is an essential component of PBL. Throughout the project, students should be reflecting on their work and setting goals for further learning. This is a great opportunity for them to set personalized learning goals and for you to target instruction specific to the goals they set. This is where mini-lessons come in handy. If you are looking for resources to support assessment, here’s a handy website with checklists to support PBL work and formative assessment.

How does this look in STEM projects?

Project-based learning prompts teachers and students to shift their understanding of assessment, but a STEM PBL class, in particular, must attend to specific aspects of metacognition, testing, redesigning, analyzing results, and more.

Because STEM PBL students use the engineering design process, cooperative learning, and discipline-specific skills, as well as learn content, these STEM-specific skills, concepts, and knowledge students gain should be assessed formatively and summatively.

1. Assess their understanding of the Engineering Design Process
You’ll have to teach the engineering design process explicitly to students, and you may want to assess their understanding of it before they begin a project. Here’s a rubric for checking their understanding.

2. Assess how students work together
Throughout a STEM PBL class, students will work individually, in pairs, and in teams. Students should get feedback on how well they are working together throughout and after a project. Here’s a tool for assessing teamwork that you may find useful.

3. Check student understanding of the content
Of course, this occurs in non-STEM PBL classes, but this is included as a reminder that there are many ways to check for understanding. In a science course, help students develop an initial model and final model with formative check-ins along the way. In a math course, use a concept checklist like Dan Meyer so students can keep track of their learning over time. Assessments should reflect their current understanding and should be revisited.

4. Assess the Final Product
The final product will demonstrate a combination of the skills, concepts, and knowledge students have gained. Of course, before students submit it to you, they will have self-evaluated and peer-evaluated. Some teachers allow for revision of the final product after the final presentation based on feedback. Just remember—the final product will not contain everything students have learned, so be sure to have another way to assess this.

Once you have assessment systems for each of these components of STEM PBL, they can be integrated seamlessly so that all students receive feedback throughout the project. Read more about STEM PBL assessment here.