Evaluating student progress in an activities-based leadership course where not all students are doing the same work presents challenges for leadership class teachers. Deciding how learning will be assessed and grades will be assigned is a difficult task, and is one that leadership teachers continue to struggle with until they develop a system that works for them.
Although some parts of a leadership class can be standardized—keeping a notebook of class materials, weekly evaluation sheets, quarterly reports, tests, and so forth—one element that must be included is an individualized approach that includes assignments that ask students to draw on and demonstrate what they are learning. It is important to describe clearly how the leadership experience will be measured and what will be measured. A variety of methods and tools may be used to evaluate leadership, including:
Observation—A teacher’s observation of skills learned during projects could be noted in a rubric or a checklist.
Logs/Journals—Students complete a set of informal, sequenced writing assignments about their leadership experiences. These could be evaluated on the quality of writing, length of entries, and/or content in relation to course material.
Progress ratings—Students are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 on their progress on a variety of skills and attitudes specific to their project or subject. Items could include such things as “Student has learned to work cooperatively with others,” “Student has learned to use time effectively,” “Student communicates effectively,” “Student has gained confidence in his/her ability.”
Completion of required elements—Grades could be assigned on a pass/fail basis according to completion of a predetermined list of elements such as attendance at events, keeping a log of service, completing a journal, giving a presentation on what they learned, etc.
Portfolio—Students complete a portfolio of their experience, detailing what they learned and how they developed as a result of their experience.
Guided self evaluation—Students respond in writing or orally to questions such as “What do you know about leadership now that you did not know before your work in this class?” or “What do you know now about yourself, your abilities, your community, and your future as a result of this class?”
Developing a rubric for individual assessment is one way to link outcomes to objectives. A rubric is a set of criteria specifying the characteristics, knowledge, and/or competencies that indicate a student’s particular level of achievement. Generally rubrics specify the level of performance expected for several levels of quality. These levels of quality may be written as different ratings (e.g., Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement) or as numerical scores (e.g., 4, 3, 2, 1) which are then added up to form a total score that then is associated with a grade (e.g., A, B, C, etc).
Rubrics should include:
Dimensions of key behaviors
Examples of the behaviors
Scales (i.e., checklists, numerical, or qualitative)
Standards of excellence for specified performance levels.
For example, if one of your objectives is for students to interact with community partners, your rubric would define various levels of achievement of this objective. The levels could include “Exemplary,” “Strong,” “Emerging,” and “Struggling,” with corresponding definitions such as:
Exemplary: Student has become a key player in helping his or her partner organization advance its mission.
Strong: Student offers opinions to community resource people and shares his or her talents to help solve problems at the partner organization.
Emerging: Student converses with community resource people when performing service and occasionally offers opinions.
Struggling: Student does not interact with community partners.Most students’ achievement will be a combination of struggling, emerging, strong, and exemplary. The rubric helps both educators and students define the measures of a successful service-learning experience and what each student should strive for.
Check this section for various samples of what leadership teachers use to figure grades in their classes. Leadership Logistics invites visitors to this site to share samples of forms and rubrics they use in their leadership class, as well as descriptions of how they calculate grades. See the footer below for contact information to share your sample.