Drama and authentic assessment in a social studies classroom
Morris, R. V. (2001). Drama and authentic assessment in a social studies classroom. Social Studies, 92(1), 41-44.
This article describes a two-year-long case study of a seventh grade ancient world history social studies class in which the teacher used drama, along with other methods, as a central way to teach course content. The teacher then used authentic assessment to assess students’ knowledge, skills and abilities by examining their work products and other evidence produced throughout the course of the class. The use of drama allowed students to learn from and evaluate their own work and the work of their peers through active participation in historical content that they connected to contemporary times. This case study concludes that drama and authentic assessment are a natural combination for teaching and assessment at the middle school level.
Authentic Assessment Authentic assessment, a method of assessment in which students perform or create demonstrations of what has been learned, was supported in this class by clear expectations. Guidelines for assessment were laid out at the beginning of each unit. These objectives ranged from factual recall to evaluative statements which guided what happened in the classroom. Checklists of specific requirements were also given. Once the expectations for a unit were in place, students were encouraged to show understanding in various ways. Means of assessment included skits, graphs, cartoons, and rubrics, all of which were used to gauge understanding and competency.
Salient Comments Students were asked by the teacher to turn their metacognitive comments about a dramatic performance or other part of the unit into a “salient comment” (an utterance that involves evaluation, synthesizing, or analyzing). The class discussed these comments, and many were selected to be displayed in the board. These comments allowed for peer modeling, self assessment, and peer review.
Problem solving Throughout this process, students were charged with the task of identifying and solving problems from history including cultural, gender and underrepresented roles. After the drama activities, reasoning and idea structure were considered.
Overall drama was found to be effective in this social studies classroom that employed authentic assessment. In this context, drama was tailored to meet specific social studies objectives, to encourage active participation, and to bring in peers when they see others’ excitement while authentic assessment became an effective way to measure students’ learning.