Here we go again! As I wrote last week, this blog entry will focus on something called ‘Performance based assessments’. I’ll start out by explaining what it is and then add in advantages and disadvantages, this will then be linked back to how using this method of assessment could better our learning and development and help us move away from the stress and anxiety caused by exams.
So performance based assessments represent a set of strategies for the application of knowledge and skills through the performance of tasks that are meaningful and engaging to students. To explain this further, it allowed students to be assessed through a way that is enjoyable to them, through a process they can take pride in and in a way that allows them to apply all that they know to a task, rather than the simple memorisation strategies that most exams employ. Performance based assessments fall into the category of alternative or authentic assessment (Sweet, 1993). It is believed that this method of assessment may be a more valid indicator of students’ knowledge and abilities because they require students to actively demonstrate what they know (Sweet, 1993). Performance based learning achieves balance through extending the traditional instructions given to students. To put it simply… traditional testing answers the question ‘do you know it?’ performance assessment answers the question ‘how well can you use what you know?’
What form can performance based assessments take? Well, they can be speeches, projects, blogs, portfolios and essays (Tung, 2010). One example I found in a book called Teacher’s Guide to Performance-Based Learning and Assessment, which can also be found here: (http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/196021/chapters/What_is_Performance-Based_Learning_and_Assessment,_and_Why_is_it_Important¢.aspx)
Wrote that for primary school children, you could place 10 caterpillars in a box, place a light at one end and darken the other. Ask students ‘Do caterpillars move more towards the light or the dark?’ Get children to draw graphs showing how many caterpillars moved to which end of the box, inform them that their graphs will be displayed at parents evening. This example shows that through the method of performance based assessment, children will be interested in the subject, be able to take pride in their graphs as well as learning through a physical demonstration. They are learning about graphs and science, but are doing so in a way that they will not notice they are being assessed.
So onto the advantages of performance based assessments. Time management, individual responsibility, honesty and persistence levels all increase when students work using performance based assessments. It can also allow for higher-order thinking to develop. Teachers have reported that using this method also improves the quality of the work that students are producing which in turn reduces the amount of time teachers must spend assessing and grading their work. Students also have more than one chance to get it right, this takes away the pressure that exams can create and allows students to take their time without feeling that they are being rushed into an assessment they may not be quite ready for (everybody develops their learning at different rates, this really needs to be taken into consideration more within education). Adamson and Darling Hammond (2010) wrote ‘well-designed performance assessments yield a more complete picture of students’ abilities and weaknesses, it could overcome some of the validity challenges of assessing English language learners and students with disabilities’. This statement sums up for me, why methods such as performance based learning need to be integrated into today’s education, children are all different, we don’t all learn from the same processes and this needs to be taken into consideration. It could also allow those children with less severe intellectual disabilities to be educated within mainstream education.
Right, now onto the disadvantages of performance based learning. Teachers have reported that moving towards performance based assessments can increase the amount of time that it takes to teach a child something and the time it can also take for assignments and projects to be marked. However, they then said that after integrating it with subjects within the national curriculum that time was reduced and that marking did become easier (http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/196021/chapters/What_is_Performance-Based_Learning_and_Assessment,_and_Why_is_it_Important¢.aspx). Moss (1992) stated that ‘it is very difficult for performance based assessments to meet criteria related to validity issues’.
There has also been negative research into the use of portfolios and performance based tests. Portfolios are time consuming to complete and also to plan, the assessment process is also drawn out, meaning that students are often left waiting to find out how they did. Tests using performance based assessments only show how students perform in the classroom and particularly only focus on specific information taught by that teacher, for this reason the results can not be compared or generalised across schools or countries; meaning that school rating systems would no longer be accurate. (http://www.ehow.com/info_8413085_disadvantages-performancebased-assessment.html)
So, those were just a few of the advantages and disadvantages of performance based assessment, research is extensive and if I was to include all that I had done, Jesse would be reading it for weeks. So how can performance based assessments improve the way we learn and develop? I believe that this method can alleviate the stress that is put on us as students (something I feel really strongly towards). It allows students to be assessed in different ways and in ways that they will enjoy and take pride in what they are doing. Yet still allows for marking and grading systems to be given, so that both teacher and student know how well they are progressing. I also believe that it is important that as learners we are assessed using our knowledge, and how we apply what we have learnt to certain areas, rather than by what we can learn in a short space of time and put down on paper in a restricted amount of time. However, I am aware, as with every method of assessment that is brings shortcomings.
Comments as always, appreciated.
Adamson, F. & Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). Beyond Basic Skills: The Role of Performance Assessment in Achieving 21st Century Standards of Learning. Stanford, CA: Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.
Moss, P (1992) Shifting Conceptions of Validity in Educational Measurement: Implications for Performance Assessment in Review of Educational Research, Vol. 62, No. 3. (Autumn, 1992), pp. 229-258.
Sweet, D. (1993). Performance Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED353329&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED353329
Tung, R. (2010). Including Performance Assessments in Accountability Systems. Retrieved from http://www.cce.org/Performance_Assessment_Review_1.10.pdf