A large portion of the spring semester in my neuroscience class is spent working on the PBAT (Performance Based Assessment Task), which takes the place of the Regents exams at our school. For the science PBAT, students choose an investigative question and design an experiment to collect data on that topic, which is truly authentic to the discipline of science. Students then present their experiment and findings to at least 2 teachers or external evaluators, which gives students the opportunity to present to an audience that is higher on the hierarchy of audience. 

The PBAT project also allows for some student choice as students are allowed to choose the question that they want to design an experiment on. Currently, here is what I do to launch the PBAT project: 

  1. Review what makes a question an experimental question (“How does _____ affect _____?”) and go over IV and DV.
  2. Remind students about the different topics we have covered in the class (memory, cognition, perception, emotions, consciousness). 
  3. Ask students which question they would like to do.

But I still feel that that there is room to grow in terms of personal authenticity – in helping students choose topics that will be meaningful to them instead of just choosing a topic that they feel would be the easiest to test or a topic that they are mildly interested in. So my question is, how might we introduce and frame the science PBAT project in order to increase students’ personal investment in the project?