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Classroom Assessment Techniques
Performance Assessment

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Theory and Research
The acknowledged weaknesses of conventional paper and pencil assessments have led to the recent development of alternative testing strategies. Already validated and used in many K-12 schools, one of the most widely used of these is called PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT. The keystone of performance assessment is the use of a graded, authentic task. An AUTHENTIC task is one in which students are required to address problems grounded in real-life contexts. Such tasks are typically complex, somewhat ill-defined, engaging problems that require students to apply, synthesize, and evaluate various problem solving approaches (Shavelson, Baxter, and Pine, 1991; Wiggins, 1989). For example, a team of students could be assigned the task of conducting a cost/benefit feasibility study for a recycling program at a local business. Such tasks are clearly different in nature, form, and length from multiple-choice questions that can usually be responded to in a matter of seconds.

Performance assessments use grading strategies that are commonly used in the performing arts, fine arts, and Olympic competitions. In the context of the science laboratory, students are graded on the performance of manipulating variables, using scientific apparatus, identifying hypotheses, making measurements and calculations, organizing and managing data, and the communication of results (Slater and Ryan, 1993). Graded laboratory performances go far beyond grading a final field report - this strategy considers the processes that become the laboratory report as well. For example in geology, the manipulation of a Brunton compass to make strike and dip measurements can be a graded task as part of a larger group-mapping project. In the evaluation of a performance task, the process of performing the task is emphasized more than the final product itself.

Studies that have looked closely at performance assessments find that, if the criteria is clear and that examples are available to show levels of competency, performance assessments are highly consistent across different evaluators (Kulm and Malcom, 1991; O'Neil, 1992). Moreover, the clear indication of what is expected of students improves student performance. There are, however, some indications at the K-12 levels that students perform inconsistently from one performance task to the next (Shavelson, Baxter, & Pine, 1991). This suggests that student grades will be most reliably determined from a number of performance assessments in concert with other forms of assessment.


Performance Assessment examples on the Internet (mostly from K-12)
  1. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/
  2. http://www.exemplars.com/preview/
  3. http://www.sltech.com/
  4. http://www-ed.fnal.gov/linc/fall95/
  5. http://www.manhattan.k12.ks.us/dms/index1.html
  6. http://www.classnj.org

Kulm, Gerald & Malcom, Shirley M. (1991) Science Assessment in the Service of Reform. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC.

Shavelson R.J., Baxter, G.P. & Pine J. (1991) Performance assessment in science. Applied Measurement in Education, 4(4): 347.

Slater, T.F. & Ryan, J.M. (1993) Laboratory performance assessment. The Physics Teacher, 31(5): 306-309.

Tobias, S. & Raphael, J. (1995) In-class examinations in college science - new theory, new practice. Journal of College Science Teaching, 24(4): 240-244.

Wiggins, G. (1989) A true test: Toward a more authentic and equitable assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 70(9): 703.

Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative Assessment, Jossey-Bass.

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