Sunday, April 7, 2013

Anatomy of an Exhibition

Brown Podl, J. (1992). Anatomy of an exhibition. Retrieved from

This article is about Margaret Metzger, a high school English teacher in Massachusetts. She had traditionally taught her seniors Dante's Inferno. Although students were often able to pass the tests, she found that they did not have a true understanding of the book. She wanted a different form of assessment that would require her students to have an in depth understanding of the material. She decided to try an exhibition with her students as a means to better assess her students.

The article asserts that there are three main purposes to an exhibition: making schools accountable to the community, generating information about how and what students are learning, and encouraging students to gain a deeper understanding of material.

In preparation for the exhibition, Metzger gave the students three assignments. They were each assigned a different Canto from the book. They had to prepare a presentation of the Canto to three outside judges: a student outside of the class, an adult from the school and an adult from the community. The second assignment was to write a paper about their Canto and include that in their presentation. Finally, students were asked to prepare a lesson to teach the class about their Canto.

Once the assignment was presented to the students, Metzger became a coach and facilitator in the classroom. She checked in with students throughout the process to make sure they were on track with their assignments and that they had a good understanding of the material. 

Metzger ran into a few dilemmas during the process. First, since most students had been taught in a very traditional manner, they did not have experience with innovative lessons. It was difficult for students to come up with engaging lessons because they hadn't been exposed to many in their careers. Metzger reflected that, in the future, lessons in teaching pedagogy would have to be embedded into the preparation time. Another dilemma was trying to find faculty members that were available to serve as judges. Finally, Metzger found that the criteria sheet she had prepared to evaluate the students was insufficient. It focused primarily on the preparedness of the students instead of asking the judges to reflect on student's demonstration of content knowledge. Metzger reflected that she would modify the sheets in the future.

After the exhibitions, Metzger and her students reflected on the experience. All of the reflections showed that students had a much better understanding of their Cantos and that understanding transferred while reading the rest of the book. Students also appreciated that the exhibition allowed them to refine their work until they got it right because of the way the assignment was laid out. In a traditional test, it's more of an all or nothing experience.

The end of the article outlined main keys for a successful exhibition: students must buy into it, students must take accountability for their own learning, students must share the workload, the teacher must prepare the students properly, the teacher must make sure that the steps are clear, the teacher must assume the role of a coach and exhibitions must be rigorous.



"In other words," Margaret realized, "my job is to set up situations so that they work hard. I do not want students to admire how smart I am; I want students to know how smart they are."

In their discussions, the students took charge, asserted themselves, and made substantive, original comments. Although the leaders were invested in a particular interpretation of the text, they valued what their peers contributed. The students created, expected, and enforced standards of intellectual rigor."

"During the exhibition," David recalled, "there was nothing to hide behind. When you write a paper or take a test, you disappear. In front of the class, you had to be responsible for what you said."


Although I found it a bit difficult to picture exactly what the students were presenting, I appreciated a lot of the points that this article brought to light. I have never thought of exhibition as an assessment, but I think it is worth exploring. One of my biggest issues with exhibitions as they currently are is that students are primarily regurgitating information over and over as parents circulate to their tables. I like the idea of using exhibition as a way to apply what they've learned in class to a new situation rather than simply a report of what they've already learned. In my class, I need to reflect on how to do this in an effective manner and what steps are necessary to truly prepare students in the days leading up to an exhibition.



Stacey said...

I like this idea too!:

"I like the idea of using exhibition as a way to apply what they've learned in class to a new situation rather than simply a report of what they've already learned."

I wonder what an exhibition would look like where students and participants are applying/creating something new together?

essay said...

I like the concept of using display as a way to implement what they've discovered in college to a new scenario rather than merely a review of what they've already learned events as they currently are is that learners are mainly regurgitating details over and over as mother and father flow to their platforms.

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