Lesson 3: Assessing the ISN




If you are going to use Interactive Student Notebooks in your classroom, a means of assessment must be devised to evaluate student learning as well as your own teaching. Assessment may differ across content areas and activities as well as from teacher to teacher. A variety of methods can (and should) be used as a means of assessment. This lesson will provide you with a toolkit for assessing ISNs. And, by showcasing other teachers' methods, it will allow you to think more deeply about the most effective means of evaluation.

Throughout this lesson, it will do you well to recall and reflect upon the following information, as learned in the previous unit/lessons:

  • Characteristics of effective input and output activities
  • The general principle governing ISNs


At the end of this unit, you will be able to:

  • Identify and evaluate the pros and cons associated with different types of ISN assessment
  • Choose the best method of ISN assessment for your classroom


Utilizing the ISN can be seen as an umbrella strategy for teaching with authentic assessment. In reality, ISNs are the ultimate form of authentic assessment, as they ask students to actually apply the information they receive in their classes. However, just as output activities are a lot about students' personal choices, how you will evaluate and assess the activities housed in the ISN is about your personal choice as a teacher. In the end, there is no right or wrong way to evaluate and assess ISNs, though some methods may work better for you than others. Your classroom environment, personality, and goals for your students will all play a role in which methods of assessment you choose. Some general "rules of thumb" or questions to ask yourself as you prepare to assess ISNs include:

  • Consider Formative Assessment. While you might use the notebooks as a form of summative assessment, how will you be sure students are learning what you intend them to learn during your instructional activities?
  • Consider Rubrics. The activities and notebooks you will be assessing are more subjective in nature than a traditional multiple choice or essay test. Read this article detailing rubrics as a tool for assessment: File:Andrade Rubrics.pdf. As you read, reflect on ways rubrics could be used in assessing ISNs. If you have never had experience creating or using rubrics before, now is the time to start.
  • Holistic vs. Component Grading. Before you sit down to grade notebooks, you need to determine the criteria you are grading them against. Will you grade them as a natural "whole" or as different components?
  • Consider Student Assessment Will you engage students in assessing their own notebooks? Read this article about this issue: Student Self Assessment
  • Frequency How often will you grade your students' notebooks?

Below are some examples of assessments teachers use for their students' ISNs. Included with some of these examples are reflections on the usefulness of each assessment strategy. When you finish exploring these resources, discuss the questions below with your classmates on the class discussion board Understanding and Integrating ISNs Discussion Space.

Readings and Resources

  • Holistic Rubric This document provides a good example of a holistic end-of-unit or end-of-week ISN assessment.
  • More Detailed Rubric This document provides a good example of a more detailed, component-based ISN assessment.
  • Mrs. Gannon's Experience with Assessing Read this teacher's blog post to get an idea of the pros and cons of certain methods of assessing ISNs. Her journey through different types of assessment should enlighten you about the complexity of the assessment issue.


Visit Understanding and Integrating ISNs Discussion Space and in a 200-word discussion post, reflect on and answer the following questions. Read each of your classmates' posts and comment on at least two. Continue the discussion until the close of the lesson. Remember the goal of these discussions is to foster deeper understandings and personal meaning with the content. Your active participation is important in order to reach these goals.

1.Pen-explain.jpgExplain. Identify and explain two means of formative and summative assessment of ISNs. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

2Reflecting.jpgReflect. How might your students respond to these different types of assessments?

3.Lightbulb-idea.jpgPredict what problems you might encounter as you begin your assessment of ISNs.


Now that you have investigated methods of assessing ISNs, devise your own philosophy of assessment/evaluation of your students' notebooks. While there is no set page or word limit on this assignment, be sure to comment on how you would address the following:

  • Holistic versus detailed assessment
  • The use of rubrics
  • Student self-evaluation
  • How often to grade
  • Why you chose the method you did

When you have completed this assignment, post it on the discussion board for this lesson. You will all find it beneficial to view and learn from each others' work. Feel free to modify your philosophies at any time, provided you give reason for the modification.


Continue to Unit 3: Why Use Interactive Student Notebooks?

Return to Unit 2, Lesson 2: Creating and Utilizing Input and Output Activities

Return to course homepage Understanding and Integrating Interactive Student Notebooks in the Secondary Classroom

Return to Laura Bartlett's Portfolio