Date of Award


Document Type

Action Research Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education


Education, Montessori

First Advisor

Sandra Andrew


Montessori Elementary Education, Secondary Education


The purpose of this study was to investigate what effect an alternative assessment strategy would have on students’ engagement, motivation, and overall learning in an urban, private Montessori middle school program located in the Midwest. Two teachers and 13 students participated in two phases (one social studies and one science unit) over the course of six weeks. Teacher-assigned grades on class and homework were removed and replaced with student-determined final grades based on self-assessment using collaboratively created rubrics and individual portfolios. Students kept daily learning logs and completed a pre- and post-unit survey designed to measure their level of engagement, motivation, and learning preferences. The researcher kept daily observational notes as well as tallies of behavioral markers for engagement and disengagement. Students were also invited to give open-ended feedback about their experience at the end of the intervention. The results showed that while the alternative assessment model did not have a direct impact on students’ daily engagement or intrinsic motivation, it did increase students’ understanding of how their work correlated to a final grade in the unit, and it created opportunities for students to make connections to their learning and thus more actively plan their future work. Additionally, a direct correlation appeared between the level of student activity and student engagement in classes, indicating the importance of reducing passivity as much as possible in the daily learning process.