The “Rule of FIVE” is a revision of the Rule of TEN approach to assessment that I originally published on Newlearner.com back in 2008. Essentially, the Rule of TEN was an approach wherein the final mark for a senior school course would be based on exactly ten pieces of assessment. No more… no less. I believed that the Rule of Ten promoted assessment that was Timely, Engaging, and Necessary.
However, given the degree to which many teachers, including myself, are taking personalized learning these days, even ten assessments may become overwhelming for both students and teachers. This is because developing, managing, and assessing a variety of different assessments for each student will invariably take more time than would developing, managing, and assessing the same assessment for all students within a given course. For this reason, I have revised my original number of assessments down to FIVE, thus creating a pedagogy that views the four pillars of assessment as being: Fun, Inspiration, Validity, and Engagement.
A Caveat… Summative vs. Formative
Under the Rule of FIVE, students will invariably complete more than just five assessments over the duration of a course. However, those other assessments will not count towards the student’s final grade. Rather, the other non-rule assessments will be designed to be formative in nature, occurring within a unit of study (or learning module) in order to provide feedback to the student and the teacher about the student’s progress. Only the five official “rule” assessments employed under the Rule of FIVE will be summative in nature and therefore count towards the student’s final grade. As is always the case, formative assessment will provide feedback on how a student is learning, while summative assessment will provide feedback on how a student has learned. (Note: In this regard, formative assessments can include index assessments, which are essentially mastery formative opportunities provided during a unit of study, which then become summative at the conclusion of a unit of study. Thus, students continue to work at these assessments until they achieve the mark they desire, knowing that the highest mark they achieve will become summative at a later point in time.)
While this rule may seem radical to those teachers who have traditionally focused on providing numerous assessments in their courses, other teachers have been employing a similar approach for decades. It goes without saying that teachers new to this approach can certainly expect to experience what might be described as a classroom cultural shift when implementing the Rule of FIVE.
The Rationale… in the form of a mnemonic
Under the Rule of FIVE, the final mark for a senior school course is based on exactly five pieces of assessment, thus encouraging assessment that is:
i) Fun: Where possible, assessment should be designed to be both enjoyable and exciting for the student. Fewer assessments should provide both teachers and students the time required to tailor assessments to individual students in an effort to activate and integrate individual student passions, strengths, and interests.
ii) Inspiring: A general trend seen in education today is assessments that are being designed in an effort to inspire deeper learning as opposed to evaluating what the student has already learned. Invariably, this is a shift away from assessment "of" learning and towards assessment "as" learning. Thus, having fewer overall assessments, each that are designed to be richer, deeper, and more personalized will, hopefully, inspire greater curiosity, passion, and deeper learning in each and every student.
ii) Valid: In general, the term valid describes something that indicates what it is intended to indicate. Applied to assessment, this would mean that the assessment really does assess the knowledge and skills associated with a given unit of study. Obviously, this means that the assessment should assess knowledge and skills associated with specific curriculum content. However, there is an added aspect of validity that is created when we assess students using a smaller number of assessments. This is addressed in the next pillar in the Rule of Five: student engagement.
i) Engaging: A smaller number of assessments should allow the student to provide his full attention and best effort toward each and every assessment. After all, marks are collected and recorded under the assumption that they reflect the student’s best - that is to say, “true” - ability. However, large numbers of lower-value assessments can force students to make economic trade-offs between assessments that receive their full commitment versus assessments that receive less than their best effort. In such cases, it is invariably the lower-value assessments that will tend to receive a compromised effort. Sadly, the aggregate effect of numerous lower-value assessments can nonetheless have an impact on a student’s overall grade, and, in cases where numerous smaller assignments did in fact receive less than the student’s best effort, the final grade in the course may not necessarily reflect the student’s true ability.
ONLY five marks?!
Only five marks for a secondary school course sounds a bit crazy. After all, if only five marks were collected, then each assessment would be worth, on average, 20% of the student's overall grade. In the interest of full transparency, my application of the Rule of FIVE refers to major assignments that have due dates, and thus vie for the student's time and attention outside of class. I collect many other marks in class by way of my Classwork Portfolio and my Mastery Learning Lab. In total, I actually collect 15 marks for each student throughout the year, including five RULE marks, five Mastery Learning Lab marks, and five Classwork Portfolio marks. When those marks are broken down into their KICA categories, I actually end up recording 40 marks for each student. Now that's nothing to sneeze at.
In the final analysis, the Rule of FIVE is intended to address one of the most incontrovertible issues impacting on student assessment: time. FIVE pieces of major assessment will essentially ensure that the effort students direct towards these assessments is more reflective of their true ability and less reflective of the economic choices that students invariably make when confronting an overwhelming number of assessments.
Have you seen this video? You should. It was posted by a man who goes by the handle of Prince Ea. He's pretty talented, I'll give him that. A number of people obviously put a lot of time, thought, effort, and, of course, money into this video. Having said all that, this video drives me nuts. I told the Prince Ea as much in a comment that I left him. Given that very few people will ever read that comment, I decided I would post it again here. (See below.)
My Post to Prince Ea's Video, left on June 2, 2018:
So your evidence is a picture of a classroom from today and a picture of a classroom from 150 years ago? That's it? That's what you've got? I have taught for 27 years, and in that time I have taught law. I can tell you that your evidence lacks relevance. Why don't you compare a hammer from today to a hammer from 150 years ago? Many things don't change, and, in fact, many things get worse over time. Beyond that, why don't you provide an honest picture of a classroom from today? Classrooms are changing. (See mine here: https://twitter.com/ArtLightstone/status/639931512985624576) Teaching approaches are changing, and they've been changing for a long time. (See more about my teaching approaches here: http://www.newlearnerlab.com/)
Forgive me if I might seem sensitive, but this bologna that gets pandered about in the media about how stubborn, lazy, and rigid teachers are drives me crazy. In fact, let me put the question to you: Why do you think teachers are stubborn, rigid, and resistant to change? What's your theory? Do you suppose it's nature or nurture? Do only rigid people get into teaching? Or maybe teaching turns people rigid? Sounds pretty crazy when I put it like that, doesn't it. You know why it sounds crazy? Because it is crazy.
Teachers aren't rigid at all. In fact, surviving in the teaching profession takes more flexibility, innovation, and creativity than anything I can think of. Teachers start to develop a notion of what works in the classroom (and what doesn't work) almost immediately. They don't just change their approaches from year to year, they change them from unit to unit... even from day to day.
All we want to do is prepare students to successfully navigate their way in the world and hopefully make a positive contribution to society. It's hard work... and what's the thanks we get? We get people who, it would appear, like to blame teachers for their own challenges - even their own shortcomings, and we get to constantly hear baseless stereotypes and inflammatory malarkey like this.
Enjoy all your hits on this video. I guess that's how we measure success these days.
Overview of the Escape Room Project:
If you're looking for a fun, challenging, and valid culminating project for virtually any course, then an escape room style experience is a great option to consider.
Such a project would involve designing an escape experience where the various elements within the escape room would require a firm knowledge of the units in a course. For example, in my Grade 12 economics course, I make sure that there is at least five elements made for each escape room: one element for each of our units. I do the exact same thing in Grade 12 Law.
This is a great project for students to either work on by themselves, in partners, or even in small groups. Either way, students are challenged to both design and produce an escape room style experience. Teachers can change the requirements for each student depending on the size of the groups that they'll allow. For example, you could require that each student designs a certain number of elements themselves, and work cooperatively on a another prescribed number of elements. I tend to make my escape room worth 10% of the overall course grade, while also having an exam that is worth 20%. However, teachers could certainly adjust that weighting to suit their course and the size of their escape room project.
Advantages of the Project:
The escape room project has a lot of appealing features, including the fact that:
i) it forces students to dig into material from the course in order to design elements of the escape room. Obviously, this serves as great review.
ii) it requires students to know material from the course in order to design or play the escape room. (It's not one of those culminating projects that anyone could do without actually knowing anything about the course material.)
iii) it activates imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. All highly valued goals in education, today.
You should make it clear to your students that you want to make sure that the elements of an escape room project do involve some creativity. In other words, you don't want to see a bunch of multiple choice quizzes where the correct answers produce the correct combination of a lock.
This project fits very nicely into the streamlined Global Studies Achievement Chart that I've made available in a previous post. However, if you would like to download a PDF rubric specifically developed for this project, you can do so from the link at the bottom of this article.
General Tips and Tricks for Making a Fun Escape Experience!
Here are a few general pieces of advice that I tend to give my students as they embark on this project.
The New Learner Lab
Exploring the ever-changing, often challenging, and always controversial world of teaching.