Performance Assessment: More than an Act

What does the term ‘performance assessment’ conjure up for you? Does it summon the time you tried out for the school play? Or your driver’s license road test? How about the score you received for your magnificent demonstration at the 7th grade science fair? Are you sure that your notions of performance assessment and how to use this method of assessment effectively are on target?

The recently released Creating and Using Performance Assessment module is the final of four Mastering the Methods of Assessment Modules offered as part of the Designing Sound Assessment (DSA) series. By taking this module, the what, why and how of using this assessment method will become clear to you.

The module builds on other DSA modules that focus on specific methods of assessment. Below is an illustration depicting how multiple methods of assessment, when combined, become performance tasks.

By participating in this module, you will learn that performance assessment includes two basic components:

The Task: The task (or prompt) is what the student is being asked to do. A strong performance task ensures that students are able to get started, follow through and complete a high-quality performance assessment.

The Rubric or Checklist: The rubric or checklist provides the criteria on which the response will be evaluated. A strong analytic rubric provides rapid, consistent evaluation of responses while offering students opportunities for focused feedback.

Performance assessment tasks can vary by time span. Some tasks can be completed in a matter of minutes. Complex tasks may require an entire class period or even multiple days. Regardless of the task complexity and duration, all performance assessment should produce accurate and useful assessment of student performance by attending to the precision of prompts and rubrics used. Representative task and rubric examples (from content areas and grades) are provided in the module to help you design, critique, and create or refine your own performance assessments.

Mastering any skill or procedure takes time. Just ask a surgeon. The time you take to become masterful at the use of performance assessment is time well-spent. Performance assessment has the benefit of maximizing relevance through real-life, naturalistic or ‘authentic’ tasks.

Other benefits of performance assessment include:

  • Coverage: A performance task can delve into a single learning target or a combination of many different learning targets.
  • Extended Situations: All methods of assessment can be designed to model real-life situations and simulations. A unique benefit of performance assessment is the option of creating tasks that extend over days, weeks or even months.
  • Skill demonstrations: Performance assessment is unique among other forms of constructed response in that it can include student demonstration of a physical skill.

Let’s return to school plays, road tests, and science fairs. Certainly each of these fateful events were assessed using some measure or measures of performance. But were those tasks and expectations clear to you as the learner? Students should always be at the center of our assessment thinking. Performance assessment should be designed with the purpose of advancing student learning. Likewise, this module is sure to advance your learning as well!

Explore the DSA Learning Path! Each module will help you build your performance assessment literacy.

See what is behind the points on the How Students Benefit from Performance Assessment carousel by enrolling in this module.