Assess Student Learning

What to assess

ELOs promote diverse types of student learning in a variety of possible content areas. Therefore,

Educators need common methods for. . .

. . . uncommon assessment of. . .

. . . uncommon learning.

An ELO is based on unique content area competencies which students explore through the common components of quality ELOs: research, reflection, project, and presentation. Through these common components, students are assessed on the knowledge and skills they demonstrate through their particular ELO.

Recognizing competency: Will we know it when we see it?

The NH Department of Education provides a competency validation rubric that outlines the continuum of strength for course-level competencies. It helps districts determine the relevance, endurance, and cognitive demand of their competencies.

See Technical Advisory #20, High School Course-Level Competencies Validation, 11-30-10,  for more information on the validation rubric.

Additionally, Common Core standards in Math and English provide another level of consistency of criteria for ELOs.

Assessment tips

Classroom Guide: Ten Tips for Assessing Project-based Learning (PDF, 14 pages, 2011) from Edutopia provides tips for designing high-quality, authentic assessments of any learning project. It takes you from planning, through project work, and into the final product, noting how to include quality formative and summative assessment at every stage.

Assessment roles on the ELO team

An ELO is a collaborative process. Key to the success of an ELO is student involvement in all aspects of the experience – including development of an assessment plan. ELO Roles and Responsibilities (PDF) describes the role of various individuals in the ELO assessment process. Summary:

ELO coordinator

  • Clarify the role of each person in the assessment process
  • Provide coaching to individuals involved
  • Ensure appropriate and rigorous assessment rubrics
  • Ensure the student is involved in the development of the assessment process

Teacher or certified school personnel

  • Identify competencies with the student
  • With the student and with input from the community partner, define how and when the student will be assessed on those competencies
  • Assess student’s mastery of pre-determined competencies, including input from community partners and students
  • Oversee the ongoing and final assessment of student progress using appropriate and rigorous performance assessment rubrics, and provide frequent feedback to the student regarding progress

Community partner/mentor  

  • Support and coach students in their ELO experience
  • Provide the learning experiences/environment that allow the student to gain mastery in the pre-determined competencies
  • Provide the student with timely, detailed feedback to develop skills, knowledge, problem-solving ability, creativity


  • Work with ELO coordinator, community partner, and teacher to become familiar with the competencies, the assessment process, and the rubrics
  • Work with teacher to determine assessment of competency mastery
  • Complete regular reflections, assessing progress on ELO, identifying next steps in learning, and periodically discussing reflections with mentor and/or teacher
  • Communicate regularly with the ELO coordinator, community mentor, and teacher
  • Follow through on assignments, self-assessment/reflections, and final assessment of learning


  • Become familiar with the ELO process, including assessment
  • Provide support and coaching to the student throughout the ELO
  • Attend the final presentation of learning

Rubrics for the four learning components

The four components of an ELO have distinct assessment rubrics to guide students, educators, and community partners through the expectations and evaluation of the ELO. The rubrics:

  • support the student’s goal of exploring an essential question and achieving targeted competencies
  • guide the development of these goals and targets
  • act as formative descriptors and benchmarks during the ELO process
  • provide the structure for assessing student success in achieving these goals at the end of the process.

Research Rubric

The ELO is designed around competencies, and students build their base of knowledge through research. The Research Rubric guides:

  • An active search for new information and knowledge which includes a focused idea or essential question
  • An organized set of personal experiences that can expand the student’s initial understanding
  • Analysis, synthesis, and communication of these experiences.

Reflection Rubric 

Reflections provide students the opportunity to think about their experiences. The Reflection Rubric guides :

  • Development and adjustment of short and long term goals
  • Exploration of problems and solutions encountered
  • Connection of experiences to learning goals.

Sharing reflections and corresponding teacher/mentor responses are a critical part of the feedback loop and the formative guidance process.

Product/Project Rubric

Projects are the application of student learning and consist of designing, creating, implementing, and assessing a product. The product will be an original piece of work designed to promote the student’s personal growth and/or benefit a larger community.

The product can be:

  • a physical artifact like an art, technical, or craft piece in any appropriate medium
  • an event like a live or recorded performance or demonstration of skill/competency
  • a process such as developing an original design of a device, procedure, or system.

The product will be an artifact or event used to demonstrate the culmination of learning and/or achievement of competencies related to the ELO.

The Project Rubric guides:

  • Meeting standards of quality work identified as appropriate to the student’s level of experience
  • Sharing the product with an authentic audience within an authentic context
  • Feedback collection by the student.

Presentation Rubric 

The Presentation of Learning is a forum for the student to communicate what was learned during the ELO process to an audience that could include members who are either expert or novice in the disciplines related to the ELO’s goals and/or Essential Question identified in the plan. The Presentation Rubric guides evaluation:

  • Does the student describe the nature of the particular ELO: goals, essential question, and growth in the targeted competencies?
  • Does the student clearly and accurately document the development of this growth?
  • Does the student communicate what was learned through the successes and challenges of the ELO, and how he or she changed as a result?

Rubric templates and examples

Please note these are copyrighted under Creative Commons, so changes are welcome, just keep the attribution.

Examples of school modifications of the rubrics

Use rubrics during ELO design, and formative and summative assessment

Rubrics in the design stage: What’s expected?

Use rubrics to

  • create a plan with the student, ELO coordinator, and certified school personnel, referencing an IEP if applicable
  • identify other subject-specific rubrics that will apply to the competencies targeted in the plan
  • identify which ELO partners will use which rubrics, and when.

Example:  an ELO coordinator, certified school personnel, and student meet to fill in the ELO planning tool. They identify competencies related to the plan and find subject-specific rubrics that will be used to assess their learning. They also look at all four foundational ELO rubrics and talk about how they will guide the student’s progress through the ELO, and how each member of the team will provide feedback.

Rubrics for formative assessment: Where am I?

Use these rubrics regularly to capture snapshots of student achievement and learning and provide feedback to the student. The rubrics are designed to adjust the learning process to meet the planned goals.

Example: an ELO coordinator or certified school personnel, after looking at the student’s submitted reflection and research notes, could set up a weekly verbal check-in with the student, working with the student to record current levels on the applicable rubrics.

Rubrics in the summative stage: Met? Not Yet?

Use these rubrics to assess proficiency in each component of the ELO. At this stage, plans may be made to address missing proficiency traits, referencing school/district policy or IEPs, if applicable.

Example: when the student completes his or her research, the identified assessors will use the research rubric to give a final assessment of the student’s work. If anything is missing or lacking, the student has the opportunity to use that feedback to improve his or her work to complete the plan.