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166. Documentary as Summative Assessment

by Lindsay Lyons
June 4th 2024
In today's solo episode, Lindsay is sharing what it can look like to design a documentary as summative assessment for ... More
Educational justice coach Lindsay Lyons, and here on the time for teacher podcast, we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling, and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings if you're a principal assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nering out about core curriculum of students. I made this show for you. Here we go. Super excited about today's episode that was inspired by a podcast. I was listening to super excited to get into it. So this is about documentary, a summative assessment. We've talked before about podcasts as summative assessment opportunities but wanted to share a little bit about what it could look like to design for your own class or to coach a teacher that you work with to design a documentary as summit of assessment for your class.

Here we go. In this episode, I'm talking through an authentic, what I would call publishing opportunity for student documentaries on sociopolitical issues. I'm gonna break down the steps that my students when I was teaching high school in New York City took in this project. And I'm going to share at the end of the episode, I will talk more about this, but I will share in the blog post to this episode, a Google drive folder of the resources that I actually used with students to teach this unit in my social studies slash literacy class. Now, I want to tell you how I was inspired to create this episode. I listen to the podcast pod. Save the people love it. Highly recommend it. If you don't already listen, I'm sure I've talked about it before on the podcast. So I'm on a run listening to this podcast and I hear the Ray mckesson comment on the state of kind of documentary filmmaking. Currently, he talked a little bit about some new examples and kind of the commercialization of it and critically pointed out a kind of need for two important skills in the documentary filmmaking space.

And he talked about basically how the there's very infrequently documentary filmmakers who have both of these skills, they either have one or the other. And I thought it was fascinating and I thought how cool would this be to think about this in the context of education? So let me tell you the two skills he was talking about the need for filmmakers to be good storytellers. So you need to have the skill of quality storytelling as well as what Goldie Muhammad would call criticality, right? So storytelling and criticality, both super important and he says, you know, we really should ask filmmakers and this is kind of a um quote uh amalgamation of some of his quotes here. Do you have the range to tell the story? And do you have the range to interrogate the story? He says our best storytellers often don't know the content. You know, they know how to craft the story, the critical interpretation of the content. Rarely do they know that super well. And he says we'll have to figure out how to bridge the gap.

I'm gonna link in the blog post for this episode to the podcast that he shares this on. So you can listen to more of a conversation and get situated with that information and those ideas and context. So that's gonna be at Lindsay, Beth lions.com/blog/one 66. I'll link that in there. Now, here's what my brain did when I am thinking about this immediately. I was like, this is fascinating. I am imagining my brain goes to curriculum building a course in which two of the maybe five priority skills that are course long were effective communication under which I think storytelling fits and criticality, right to again use those words of Doctor Golden Star Mohammed. Then I remembered that my students actually had created many documentaries on social and political issues for ac span competition. When I was in the classroom and surely I had resources that I could share with other teachers interested in doing this kind of project in their classes that jumped me into a search for all of these older resources.

And I am excited to say that this podcast is the culminating results before I get into it a little bit more. I do wanna talk about documentaries specifically as a format and why those are good for Summit of Assessment. So two big things come up for me here. One is their multimedia format and a project that it has a multimedia format to it. Unlike maybe a traditional essay really invites students to leverage artistic communication. So things like visual auditory narrative storytelling talents that they have that if you're just doing essays or just doing more traditional assessments, they're gonna stay hidden, they're going to maybe not even recognize that they have these talents. They're certainly not going to make a student feel like this is an important and valuable skill that can help them in an academic space.

So in addition to supporting student sense of academic accomplishment, I really think that this type of project or assignment, it generates a final product that's really useful in the current way we communicate with people, right? Communicating information to the wider wider public and like having an authentic audience, particularly around important social and political issues. We're having students think on and ideate on and believe he harm that has been done in our communities, which is so much of what we're working on, what we talk about a lot on this podcast that's really important that how we get that out into the world, how we publish quote unquote students ideas as they're grappling with this stuff um is accessible to the public, can get into the public eye, but also is accessible to the public. And something, you know, the format is something that people really want to consume. I do think short form videos and this isn't quite short form. I think this project was around five minutes or so video lengthwise, but shorter on the shorter side compared to, you know, a full feature length documentary, shorter video content is really engaging for people, I think in the larger community.

And so it is something that people may actually consume outside of their teachers, their family, people who are invested in the student who created it. But now it can be appreciated and consumed and engaged with just like people who are interested in the topic or interested in the format and the way that it tells a story. So I think that's super exciting. And in this specific example, I'm sharing from my class, there is an authentic audience built in and I'll talk about that actually, as I think an important step, one of this process of planning for a project or what I'll share soon around like actually being a unit around a documentary assessment, finding that authentic audience and kind of publication opportunity is critical. Mine was C span. So there's actually for the winners, a national publication of the student videos. So there's a chance for an authentic audience just within what I could create for students in my own focus of control. But there's also opportunities there for much larger audiences to engage with their content.

So then the other piece of that, in addition to really thinking about the the student experience and and where their work goes is that from a lens of curriculum development and a lens of student centered pedagogy specifically around project based learning. This type of project really is main course learning with the PB L folks refer to as like kind of that main course. So it's project is main course and not project as dessert, which would just be kind of a fluffy project comes at the end, it's not intimately tied to all the things we're learning throughout the entire unit and just becomes something almost separate from all the stuff they've just been working on here. It really has to be the main course. And so I'll describe to you in just a moment, the unit effectively that this project was it was it was a unit, it was a documentary unit and not just a stand alone project. After a bunch of learning, we did several mini units prior just to kind of build up their understanding of what possible issues they could select.

But I saw this itself as a whole unit. So they're always working in this unit on the project. You'll see so much of it is really just projects, time, student, time and then they're learning and practicing specific skills and content as they need it in service of the project. So as they get to a particular stage of the project, OK. Now I need this information, I'm gonna, you know, ask Miss Lindsay or whatever. And so PB L standards, you know, that's, that's gold star for a project to be the main course. Now, let's get to literally, how do I plan this out? How do I support a teacher to plan this out? The first step I think is to find that authentic audience or publishing opportunity. So again, I built this around C Span's annual student C competition. They're still going, I just looked it up, they have their 2024 information up. Now, typically, I think it's due in at the start of the year. So I think this 2024 has, has passed, but 2025 should be coming out soon or soonish probably fall of 2024. Um And then students, you know, they, they had to choose the problem for the one we did in 2017, students had to choose a problem that the new administration coming in should work to solve.

So that was the prompt for that year, there's always some variation but it's around the general same theme like what should government do. And then in addition to that, they had to provide evidence of the issue, use video of politicians discussing the issue and interview experts. So I think another component of this is really that you want to make sure the publishing opportunity, whatever the requirements are of that project, wherever you're submitting it, that should align with your courses or the teacher's course, if you're coaching a teacher with their priority standards or skills. So the C SPAN project really enabled me to assess students research skills, their kind of argumentation or claim evidence, reasoning skills and organization also their technology use. So we were a 1 to 1 ipad school for during this period. So it was really important that that was like a school goal we needed to achieve and also their creativity skills, which was really important for me. So having that kind of creative communication piece, all of these aligned with my course long rubric. So it felt like a nice fit.

You don't want to pick something that's, you know, too far out of the realm of what you're trying to do. OK. Step two. Once we've secured the publishing opportunity and it doesn't have to be something you publish widely. I should say it can be something that you just publish as a local community that's totally fine. You could create that publishing community yourself. It just becomes a little bit easier if you have it easier in some ways than if you have that kind of authentic opportunity where like there was a cash prize for this. So that was another additional incentive. So, ok, after you're done with that, we're gonna start start the unit really kick off by hooking the students in with student examples. So what is possible at the end of this? What can you create, What if students created before you and then rewarded financially and through the publication nationally of their videos, and we really wanna anchor this in students strengths. So really asset based lesson here. So my students ended up watching past videos that won the competition. And so we brainstormed a list of what are the things, what are the qualities or characteristics of a video that could win?

Then next we brainstorm class responses to the question, what skills do you need on your team to win? And then students could come up and write their name next to at least one skill that they have from the list we created. Then students had time in class to interview each other. And so really getting to the heart of like what skills do you bring to the team and then selecting team members? I think we aimed for groups of three here. But I mean, that's gonna vary based on the project based on the ages of students and knowing really the their best bet. To win or to have a great video, it's not all about winning, but to produce quality content is to have a diverse skill set. So you're not gonna just pick your friends. If your friends have the same skills as you, you want people skills that maybe you don't have. That was a really important conversation. Step three is really, let's get some project management in place and get started, which included for me, a checklist, a timeline and a rubric that I shared with them as the guide. They're planning all of those documents by the way, are available in this brief folder of the resources that I'm gonna link to this blog post.

That's gonna be again, Lindsay, Beth lions.com/blog/one 66. If you're listening along, wanna check these out as we go, we also brainstormed a list of urgent issues that could serve as the claim for students video. So really getting them started by like they need a topic that is step one, they cannot go further. Once they formed a team, they can't do anything else until they agree on a topic. So we brainstormed that list. We got people talking. We also like some students couldn't decide. So we needed to support in that way. Um I would use things like fist to five or some other sort of agreement or consensus protocol to help them there. Now, step four, they've got their topic, they're rocking and rolling through the the details of figuring out putting together their video. So there's a ton of student work time here. I think it was about 2 to 3 weeks. And again, because this is the whole unit um offering just in time support. So my quote unquote lessons or mini lessons were really workshops that were sometimes geared to the whole class if that's what everyone needed, but often geared to like one or two groups.

And I would just kind of move around and offer that workshop or invite representatives from the team to the workshop, giving them whatever they need at that time, this is usually skill based content agnostic workshop. So if they're doing different topics, totally, OK, because the skill that they need to work on to create the video and pull all the things together and work as a team is gonna be the same regardless of what content specifically, like what topic they chose. And so I would offer resources, advice, you know, guidance coaching based on what stage of the project they're in and what challenges that came up. So some examples included, you know, characteristics of effective teams research at the time I was doing my dissertation and I was like, this is fascinating and relevant to my students. Let me try to distill this or share pieces of this because I'm seeing this dynamic play out in class. I wanna, you know, share what I'm learning with them. Um a storyboard template so they could actually you know, figure out what they, how they want to pace their documentary.

What sound am I hearing if I'm seeing this visual? And again, this is all this um language and the kind of formatting of documentaries is um I feel like sometimes ablest in nature because we're, we're using visuals and auditory. So I just wanna, I wanna recognize that um thinking about the other pieces of this, you know, the downloading of politicians talking about an issue that was a requirement for C SPAN, there's some tech stuff there that we had to coach on. And so I would have to walk through, students through or help students think through and offer tutorials on how to download videos from the internet. For example, interviewing tips was a big one. If you're gonna go interview, you know, experts, what does that look like? What kinds of questions do we ask? How do we identify the experts with an exercise in criticality itself? Right? Who is expertise? Do we value and do we want to decent some of the traditionally valued expertise in service of some more critical viewpoints and more, you know, close to the pain and close to the problem kind of voices that really know what's going on in, in their lived experience of, of an issue.

Also academic citation support was one I think that was a requirement of the project we were still working on that. And, and that's also was aligned to my rubric and things I wanted to work on for the year. So that was a workshop as well. Ok, once students had completed the project, this is Step five, we kind of had a part one publication like a publishing party almost where we're doing a lot of reflecting and celebrating um self assessment, peer assessment, that kind of thing. So studentss played their videos in class, their peers could submit feedback on the videos through a reflection form that we made in Google forms. So everyone did that for all videos. Each team also completed a self assessment for their group. So they would complete a Google form that asked them about kind of how they work together, what their contributions to the team were and their kind of work habits as well as their team members work habits. And then each student group decided if they wanted to submit their videos to the C scan competition. So I didn't make that a requirement, but it was an option and time was allocated in class for students who wanted to do that.

So I think in closing, just you know, back to Dre's comment that inspired the episode, this project and its prompt, you know, the the format of the documentary, the prompt about asking young people to advise the incoming president of the most pressing issue to solve. I think they inherently by just the structure of the project and prompt, ask students to practice both storytelling and criticality. And I think this, this post in a lot of the uh resources in the folder that I'll share with you are focused on the format, the storytelling element, the format of documentary because it was so unfamiliar to students. But we did a lot of criticality skill building in our workshops in our group conversations as they were developing their videos. So they were more of that just in time support, not necessarily something that was scripted as a whole class lesson, but I think you totally could do that. I'm just sharing my personal experience from this, but I think it shows up in, in the following ways.

Um Just from, again, my experience, I think there are many places to do this, but one is how you select an issue. Do you wanna select an under reported issue? One that you have, you know, lived experience and like content, evidence based um experience with, right? Or, or that you're connected to people who have a lived experience of that. So again, that kind of connects to what I was talking about with interview choices. You have to make choices about whose expertise matters to you. You are the documentary filmmaking team, right? Inviting students to think critically about that? Do they want to push back on, you know, the credentials phd? And then like, yeah, that's a certain type of expertise. But what about this type of expertise that is more lived experience based and, and often excluded from the conversation, right? Um And also, you know, just critiquing and being comfortable and confident in critiquing existing policies, actions and proposals. So you're submitting this or students are submitting this to C SPAN, right? So there's kind of a um policy wonk like a vibe of a of an audience, right?

People who have been working on the policies, the actions proposals that are gonna watch this or at least review this that takes a certain level of confidence uh and kind of speaking truth to power that may require practice or support, especially some of my students who would tell me that their cultural values were to respect, you know, elders or people in authority or that kind of thing. And so um resisting some of those narratives or to critique someone's proposal as not a good idea, um felt kind of like a a big jump that needed some support. So those are some places to consider leveraging and expanding students injurious words, critical interpretation of the content that I think would be awesome. So go forth documentary as summative assessment build those units, help teachers build those units. I'd love to hear how it goes and again to help you plan, I'm gonna share my folder of documentary project resources that I used completely free linked in the show notes, the the blog post, I should say for this episode at Lindy beths.com/blog/one 66.

Until next time, if you like this episode I bet you'll be just as jazz as I am about my coaching program for increasing student led discussions in your school, Shane Sapir and Jamila Dugan. Talk about a pedagogy of student voice in their book street data. They say students should be talking for 75% of class time. Do students in your school talk for 75% of each class period? I would love for you to walk into any classroom in your community and see this in action. If you're smiling to yourself as you listen right now, grab 20 minutes on my calendar. It's a brainstorm how I can help you make this big dream a reality. I'll help you build a comprehensive plan from full day trainings and discussion protocols like circle and Socratic seminar to follow classroom visits where I can plan witness and debrief discussion based lessons with your teachers. Sign up for a nerdy no strings attached to brainstorm. Call at Lindsay, Beth clients.com/contact. Until next time, leaders think big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the Teach better podcast network better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there, explore more podcasts at teach better.com/podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode.

166. Documentary as Summative Assessment
166. Documentary as Summative Assessment
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