In my pursuit of teaching through projects as consistently as possible, I’ve become a bit fixated on the awareness that students are always learning things – different, beyond, other than, in spite of – all that we actually teach. In a classroom that has made the full move to Mastery Based Grading, this becomes a wonderfully complex little situation. Although much of the extra-curricular learning that takes place in a classroom is beyond the realm of the discipline that’s being taught, this is not always the case. There is a lot of math happening in my classroom that is not directly related to the particular learning targets I’m teaching. Further, if I’m not specifically teaching content as a learning target, kids aren’t being assessed on it directly. There is no longer such a thing as an exam in my classes where students are graded by their percentage correct. Instead, exams are broken down by SLTs, and there are what students, peers, parents, and other teachers see on their progress reports. Yet, again, there is plenty that students have to practice and know in order to finish the work that they must do in the classroom.
So far, students have been producing great work and gaining terrific new understandings around these “undercover” learning targets. None have yet pointed out to me any problems with the circumstances I’ve described above. They just ask questions when they need to, and they get better at things. So their progress reports will say one thing, and they’ll walk away with some extra knowledge. Hopefully, the state exams will serve as the catch-all that gives my kids a chance to shine, and to provide evidence that this project-based approach is a good idea.
For now, it’s nice to just let learning happen as necessary.