Renewable Assessments: Like solar power for your classroom

David Wiley; article “Toward Renewable Assessments” was a great read, and spoke many truths that I have thought myself.  The idea of students working on papers (assessments) that they will only toss in the trash or will “bit rot” on an abandoned hard drive makes me cringe.  It makes me cringe, because it’s not just an idea, it sums up most of my Jr High through High School experience and a good amount of my early college experience. Wiley gives this example of a disposable assessment:

  • Faculty member assigns student to write a two page compare and contrast essay
  • Student writes the paper and submits it to faculty
  • Faculty grades the paper and returns it to student
  • Student checks what grade they received, briefly peruses any written comments, and then throws the paper away

I would be surprised if many students even perused the written comments at all before tossing it in the trash!

While I didn’t have the correct language or well thought out construct of renewable assessments, I have attempted to create as many renewable assessments in my courses as possible.  Helping my students, (21st century learners) create something that they or others will use, watch, view, or learn from, drives my students to want to learn more.  In my media production course I have 4 major projects that could be qualified as renewable assessments; a photo montage, an audio story, a short video, and a website.  By the end of the course all of these projects come together as a web portfolio and personal website that they can each use to acquire jobs outside of college.  I also have them submit all their work to the local Community Media Access Collaborative to air on local television, and (if they want) into various competitions.  As Wiley says, “Replacing disposable assessments with renewable assessments goes a long way toward re-humanizing education, giving students a reason to care about and truly invest in their work,” and I could not agree more.  21st century learners have more resources than ever before, and it would be such a shame to continue to continue the path of disposable assessments while students are striving to do more, learn more, and share more than ever before.


As a teacher in the realm of multimedia, it can be easy to assume that technology should be used for all matters.  In my earlier teaching years I would make the mistake of wanting all my students to do storyboarding, shot sheets, camera pick lists etc via some sort of digital medium.  While this was good in theory, students who had never had experience with these ideas before were more comfortable starting with analog methods ie. Pencil and paper.  For me at least, I haven’t struggled with realizing the right time to utilize technology and media, I have struggled with realizing when it’s not the right time.   I tend to use baby steps, first starting analog so my students have a tangible element to the thought process, then bring in technology to show how it makes a process easier.

I understand that rubrics are important for assessment consistency, and as David Wiley stated, they can also help establish a degree of comparability which might persuade others into adopting renewable assessments, yet I am not great at creating rubrics!  Many of the media projects that I assign in my classes are assessed via rubrics and “learning outcomes”.  For instance, for a short video I would want: A clear story (Beginning, middle, end), clear audio, at least 15 shots, at least 6 shot types, and a script turned in.  While many of those are easy to put on a rubric, “a clear story” is hard to grade via a rubric.  Much of that relies on the class presentation and how I and class perceive the story.  If the class and I can easily find the beginning, middle, end, that’s great, and if not, the student is able to present his or her reasoning behind it.  If a compelling argument is made, that is also taken into consideration.

“Toward Renewable Assessments” brought up many good points that I will dwell on for some time to come.

Wiley, D. ( July 7, 2016 ). Toward Renewable Assessments. iterating toward openness. Retrieved from

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