Alternatives to Report Cards: Exhibitions

As we have been exploring ways to report proficiency based graduation requirements, we have started expanding our thinking about what reporting could actually look like.  When we first started discussing this, we continued to consider a paper reporting method.  When we started getting creative, we realized that reporting could look completely different.  One of those options was exhibitions or presentations of learning.  


Last year, ouexhibitionsr ninth grade students engaged in their first exhibition. Their social studies teacher created a project based learning experience where students worked to answer the driving question,

“ How will you change the world?”.  Students improved specific learning targets related to research, critical thinking and literacy to develop their ideas.  They created final projects ranging from a photo gallery to designing a prototype for a biodegradable six pack holder.  

Student concern and motivation was increased by parental attendance and this definitely added to the level of student involvement.  Knowing that they were not handing in a project to their teacher but were presenting it to their own parents as well as parents that they didn’t know, truly transformed this project.  This year, we invited several community members, including a local state representative who got some good ideas about new hunting legislation.


Overall, kids and parents alike had positive things to say about the exhibition.  Students experienced many frustrations during the project but by exhibition night they had a healthy amount of stress as well as enthusiasm for their topics.  One possible pitfall is that students sometimes have common topics.  If they haven’t gone deep enough in their research, their topics can seem repetitive.  This happened more this year than last year when students were allowed to bring any learning they wanted to share.  Some students brought research projects and writing assignments from less project based learning opportunities that had been more directed by teachers and were somewhat less original overall.  For example, during a unit on space, there were a variety of topics chosen but there were many duplicates; a writing unit that included a poetry assignment in which the teacher provided starters was another example.

Exhibitions are an amazing way for students to be held accountable for their learning but they are also an amazing way to communicate and report learning to parents.  They offer an authentic way for students to share their learning with someone other than the teacher.  The power of students presenting their learning to an authentic audience can be extremely impactful and motivating.

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