18 June 2008

0 A Closer Look at Assessments: Alternative Assessments (Part 2 of 4)

There are three types of commonly used terms for assessments:

  • Alternative
  • Authentic
  • Performance Based

Alternative assessments are assessments which requires the student to produce a cognitive response rather than select from predetermined choices (i.e. multiple choice questions, fill in the blank, true/false, etc). Alternative assessments may range from:

  • Having a student explain the reasoning of a math problem.
  • Concept mapping.
  • Constructing brochures
  • Portfolios
  • Projects
  • Journals
  • Open ended responses
  • Interviews
  • Video/audio tapes
  • Exhibitions
  • Experiments
  • Demonstrations that provide evidence of knowledge and skills.

Authentic assessments focus on the student’s analytical skills and their abilities to demonstrate their knowledge/competency of a skill. It also allows the student to apply these skills in “real-world” contexts. Authentic assessments may range from the student:

  • Participating in a debate.
  • Reading/interpretation of literature.
  • Solving math problems which have real-world applications.

Performance based assessments are “student-centered”, as they require the student to (both) apply and demonstrate their knowledge/skill. Students create products, exhibitions, or performances to demonstrate evidence of their understanding of essential ideas, knowledge, processes, and skills. Specific examples may include:

  • Dramatizing a favorite story
  • Drawing and writing about a story
  • Reading aloud a personally meaningful section of a stor
  • Conducting experiments
  • Writing extended essays
  • Performing mathematical computations
  • WebQuests
  • Debates

Is There a Difference Between the Three?
If authentic assessments are performance assessments using real-world or authentic tasks, is it possible for these terms to be treated synonymously?

In various educational circles, these terms may be treated synonymously, as they assess both the process and end result - often including real-life tasks which promote higher-order thinking skills. They require individuals to apply knowledge and skill in context—not simply completing a task on cue.

Essentially, performance based assessments are authentic in nature, yet they often are an alternative to traditional assessments.

A means to evaluate/ measure both process and product is to utilize a rubric. A rubric measures a stated objective using a range to rate the student’s performance. Characteristics are arranged in levels, indicating the degree to which a standard has been met. Rubrics will be the topic of discussion in next month’s issue.

Stay tuned for part 3 of 4 on Authentic Assessments

02 June 2008

0 Kids in Charge of their Own Learning? Part 1 of 4

Have you ever graded your student’s work only to find the assessment criteria vague and the performance behavior subjective?

Would you be able to justify the grade if you had to defend it? (“Why did I get a B instead of an A?”)

How do you determine if a student’s work meets the standards of exceptional, compared to good?

The above are valid questions…questions which have become an issue, by educational standards, in determining authentic assessments.

Why Authentic Assessment? Authentic assessments presents the student with 'real-world' challenges which requires them to apply their relevant skills and knowledge. Authentic Assessments accomplish the following goals:

  • Requires the student to develop responses rather than make selections from predetermined options.
  • Elicits higher order thinking in addition to basic skills.
  • Allows the student to work on holistic projects which allows them to create a context for their learning, and to see the relationship among different pieces of information. For instance, playing the role of a historical figure requires the student to think about what each fact learned means to the figure.
  • Synthesizes the classroom instruction.
  • Stems from clear criteria made known to the student.
  • Allows for the possibility of multiple judgments.
  • Involved the student in evaluating their own work, which prompts them to think about their learning (metacognition) and develops metacognitive skill strategies.

To summarize….authentic assessments do not encourage neither rote learning nor passive test-taking. Instead it focuses on the student’s:

  • Analytical skills
  • Ability to integrate what they learn
  • Creativity
  • Ability to work collaboratively
It emphasizes the learning aspects much as the finished product.