It's too easy to point out Confucius' saying that ends with "I do and I understand". But it's also true! Learners must be highly involved in experiential teaching strategies to be successful 21st century citizens.

On the one hand it is troublesome to me that this question needs to be answered. But on another I understand the need. We can rail against the tide about this age of accountability all we want but isn’t it the truth that the good teacher can always gauge how or to what extent their teaching, whatever strategies they use, work on  two levels; i.e. on the whole class and on the individual?

And on that same one hand again, assessing the effectiveness of experiential strategies, of simulation and role play activities, etc., can be troublesome to a teacher or to school leaders if their paradigm of measurement is superficial and / or quick fix.

And on that other same hand it falls to curriculum and lesson designers to align the goals of such strategies to blunt the naysayers’ criticisms by schooling THEM on how to assess experiential teaching for their true worth.

Use the Common Core Standards as your baseline for analysis. Perhaps the most noteworthy positive of adopting these is that the expectation on teachers and by extension, on students, is that the focus of “coverage” shifts from wide and shallow to more narrow and a lot deeper. By that I mean, teachers, lesson and unit designers, activities and strategies developers, will not be or should not be anyway, centered on  a sprint to the finish tape in a headlong rush to cover material for the sake of covering material.

Rather, there will be more opportunities for teachers to get deeper into the process skills, aka Thinking Skills, necessary to truly equip each child with the twenty first century skills to be thinkers, decision makers, creators, that this new century will demand.

And so when you use a simulation for example you have guidelines that will enable you to effectively meet the Common Core.

I do think it’s fair to say that the experiential does not lend itself easily to multiple choice, true or false, short answer assessment strategies. If the simulation for example is dropping students in the Great Depression, its dynamics are designed to have participants “solve” or “prevent” another one. For sure students can create the kinds of agencies that the “initials” as in CCC and WPA and TVA represent but such an activity probably fares poorly when compared against the read-the-text-and answer the questions on the handout approach.

However if and when the yardstick changes then these strategies gain super powers! Ask students to cite AND to explain the causes of the Great Depression! Ask the students to identify strategies that would alleviate the effects of a Great Depression. Money back guarantee that students will succeed very successfully on that kind of deeper, more thoughtful assessment expectation.

If instructional – doubt still clouds your educator’s mind I will offer you a win-win.

Still working with a simulation of the Great Depression as an archetype, you can use this in two ways. You can use it as a follow up to a text book -traditional approach to teaching about it. Doing so, students will hopefully reflect what they have learned from this approach to guide their dynamics and decision making in the activity.

The other, and more effective approach, would be to use it BEFORE the traditional approach. Let the students engage the model and the actions and move through the sequences so that they DISCOVER likely solutions or unlikely ones. THEN refer to the text and other resources to plug up content holes. Doing so will allow you to refer to the simulation for examples of their thinking to show how their decisions aligned or did not align with what “really happened.”

And how to evaluate? Start with essay questions if you must but also be brave enough to offer up other possible strategies related to the experiential strategy like debates, case study analysis and the liken.


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