Graph Interpretation

Through all of the activities an important strength of the networked learning space is that the both the teacher and students can get a snapshot of the emergent reasoning of the class as whole. Building on this strength we have explored emergent assessment activities that are illustrative of the kinds of whole-class assessments that can be supported in the network. One example of this kind of emergent assessment centers on graph interpretation. Students began the activity using a program that allowed them to sketch a graph on the calculator and then have this graph animate the motion of a simulated "creature." After working on various kinds of graph interpretation, the teacher could then assess the whole classes understanding by using the network to pass out the same graph to every student. Using capabilities similar to that used in the function activity, the students might be asked to move their cursor to, "a region of the graph where the "creature" is be slowing down but still moving to the right." After all the students have pressed enter, the network plots all the individual points on projected version of the graph.

Simulated motion on the calculator screen.

An example of an Emergent Assessment result.

Rather than waiting to give a quiz or test to find out how the class is doing, this emergent assessment gives a quick overview of the classes' current state of understanding as part of an ongoing learning activity. Not only do students take great interest in "where they are" relative to other students' position on the graph, but every time this activity has been run a very rich conversation has developed about where the region associated with slowing down actually begins (and ends). Seeing each others' work plotted together provokes a significant conversation about points of inflection that is unlikely to occur with individual points on individual paper and pencil assessments. In this environment (unlike paper and pencil) the teacher can also run the simulated motion as part of whole-class discussion.


Uri Wilensky
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL

Walter M. Stroup
The University of Texas
Austin, Texas