Big Picture Learning views learning as a process of growth and change that is accentuated by the creation of quality products. There are high expectations for each student in a Big Picture Learning school. Assessment criteria is individualized and fit to each student based on the real world standards of the student’s project (as gauged by the student’s mentor). Students in Big Picture schools are not assessed by tests and are not given grades.
Assessments instead include exhibitions (one per quarter or trimester), exhibitions are public presentations by students of their work and learning that occur at the end of each term. Exhibitions are one of the most important school events. This is the time for students to show off their best work and be held accountable to their Learning Plans. Each student presents in front of a panel that includes the advisor, parent/guardian, peers, outside adults and mentor (if possible). The student’s Learning Plan and grade expectations are used as the basis for assessing the work, which tracks student growth and progress, quality of work, and academic depth in the learning goals), weekly check-in meetings with advisors, weekly journals, yearly presentation portfolios, and transcripts (which translate the Big Picture Learning design in a way that colleges can understand). Gateways for student progress are between 10th and 11th grade and at graduation. The Gateways serve as signposts for that students have completed necessary work and have achieved the goals set in their learning plan.
Essential Elements of Authentic Assessment include:
- Narrative assessments (written by students and by advisors)
- Real-world standards for assessment guidelines
- No grades
- Weekly individual check-ins (between advisor and student)
- Reflective Journaling
- Gateway to Senior Institute
- Graduation readiness
- Autobiographies (approximately 75 to 100 pages)
- Depth of work
- Academic transcripts