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Guide to Contextual Learning Projects

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Discussion: Assessment and Evaluation Tools

Selection of assessment tools for evaluating student learning and evaluating program success may depend on the context of the project. Some specific student and program assessment tools include:

Assessing Student Learning:

CVTE Competency Tracking. For Career/Vocational Technical Education (CVTE) programs, student assessment may be managed through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s CVTE Competency Tracking System. Read more about this at

Work-Based Learning. For workplace experience programs and many service learning programs, the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan (WBLP) may be used to assess student learning and skill gain. Read more about this assessment tool at and

Evaluating Programs:

Community Service Learning Projects. Service Learning Projects may be assessed through the “Assessing Your Service Learning Project” checklist, which is available on the Contextual Learning Portal and on the ESE website. The checklist focuses on meaningful service, youth voice, links to curriculum, reflection, partnerships, diversity, progress monitoring and duration and intensity of projects.

21st Century Community Learning Centers. For 21st Century Community Learning Centers, program assessment is implemented using the Survey of After- School Youth Outcomes (SAYO) system created in collaboration with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST). The Survey of After-School Youth Outcomes (SAYO) is a research based evaluation system that uses brief pre- and post-participation surveys to collect data from school-day teachers, 21st CCLC program staff and youth participants. The SAYO enables the 21st CCLC programs to capture information reflecting changes that are (a) associated with participation in high quality out-of-school time programs and (b) likely to occur over a one-year period. Read more at The SAYO system includes the Assessment of After- School Program Practices (APT) tool, an observational instrument used to assess the extent to which 21st CCLC programs are implementing practices congruent with their desired SAYO outcomes. Read more at

Discussion: Assessment and Senior Capstone Projects

At Harwich High School, students complete Senior Capstone Projects, selecting projects focused on an area of interest. The Herring River salt marsh restoration project was one of the senior capstone projects.

Assessment includes observation of student work and final presentations. Participants are observed interacting with other researchers, testing equipment and with study sites.

Research activities and findings are presented to the public after the completion of the project. Students may to make public presentations, poster presentations or web-based presentation to share findings. Final presentations include research data sets, photographic data and graphic data.

Senior Capstone Projects. Many schools are implementing contextual learning projects as “senior capstone projects” – allowing seniors to select and implement a service learning project, career exploration, arts project or other project as part of their work toward graduation. For these projects, assessment strategies will include a written report, a visual or oral presentation, a project journal or portfolio, and other products.