Blog Six- Performance Based Assessment

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: (,_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 (,_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. (

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

Tung, R. (2010). Including Performance Assessments in Accountability Systems. Retrieved from


8 thoughts on “Blog Six- Performance Based Assessment

  1. One of the good things about this module is that I have learnt lots about education that I had never even thought of before. I know that can be said for most modules, but in this module I like how we can pick out the bits we find interesting and focus on that. Before now I had never really heard of performance-based assessment, and I found it interesting that it is not used more. It is clearly very effective and studies such as Shanteau et al (2002) show that the applications are very broad indeed. Often, it is very hard to identify if someone is an expert in something when there is no ‘gold standard’ available. Basically, there are some things that have set criteria and if someone meets those criteria then they are considered an expert. However there are many instances, particularly in the wide range of school subjects, where there are no set criteria. Performance-based assessment can be used in these areas to help distinguish people with a talent and expertise.
    So if performance-based assessment is useful, why is it not being used more? Firestone et al (1998) suggested that in the US, standardised state-wide testing is often overrated by advocates. So it’s not that it is a more effective way of testing, it’s just that people make it sound more effective. As you mentioned, however, it is very hard to generalise results, suggesting one reason why the big standardised tests are still used. Darling Hammond (2010) highlighted another, rather worrying reason why it may not have been widely implemented yet; distrust of teachers from the top level fails to involve them in exam reform. If teachers aren’t given the support they need, and if schools do not adopt the most appropriate assessment strategies, then there will likely never be successful reform of assessments.

    Shanteau et al (2002)
    Firestone et al (1998)
    Darling Hammond (2010)

  2. After reading your blog, I have come to the conclusion that we all seem so worried about the amount of work the teacher will have to do in regards to marking or preparation, and our best interests seem to deviate away from what seems to be the most important thing- the education of the child. As you’ve said, performance based assessments look t the use of the information they have gained in other formats such as portfolios and blogs, suggesting that what is taught is context-independent, but in opinion it isn’t. I wrote about this in my blog this week, and it has been suggested that there is a mismatch between typical school and “real world” situations, looking at the relationship between what is learnt in the classroom and what is needed outside the classroom (Anderson, Reder, & Simon, 1996). So with the use of these performance based assessments, could the relationship between the content that is taught and how it can be used in other fashions be reduced? Therefore using the knowledge they have gaining in conjunction with the skills required to use the knowledge.

    Anderson, J. R., Reder, L. M., & Simon, H. A. (1996). Situated learning and education. Educational researcher, 25(4), 5-11. Retrieved from

  3. I think it’s such a shame that as a community, even with all our so-called knowledge and expertise, we still have not adapted our education systems to that which suits the pupils. The amount of literature that shows alternative ways of teaching students, and alternate ways that the students themselves learn, and yet we still revert back to the standard classroom/lecture theatre, with the teacher at the front; exams that don’t test understanding, just specific knowledge. Marzano, Pickering and McTighe (1993) maintain that there are five types of thinking that are essential to the learning process: positive attitudes and perceptions about learning; thinking involved in acquiring and integrating new learning; thinking in extending and refining knowledge; using knowledge meaningfully; and using productive habits of mind. Performance tasks build upon earlier content knowledge, progress skills and work habits. Using Siemens’ (2006) Learning Development Cycle, students are able to realise the learning objectives of a course, create learning resources for themselves, use prior knowledge, and form evaluations about their work to aid understanding in performance-based assessments.

  4. In broad I agree with your points, but one thing I find is interesting is how many students who don’t get good grades but see themselves as ‘smarter’ than other students, blame it on the assessment critera just requiring a good memory. I think how hard you work on memorising and understanding the material should have a large impact on your grade, and it will distinguish between the students who are really prepared to push themselves and the slightly lazy ones (kind of like myself!!!). Studies have found evidence that the better you understand something, or the more meaning it has to you – the better your memory will be (Gibbs, 1980). This is why I think a lot of it shouldn’t change as you need to expand your intelligence, though memory and engagement in a subject… and why those students who say stuff like that really annoy me!!!

  5. I used to prefer exams over any other form of assessment in schools mainly because I had a good memory and could retain a lot of the information for my GCSEs. However, since coming to university I have completely switched and do not like exams and prefer other means of assessment such as assignments and blogs. One of the reasons why I think this may be is because of the lectures. In school I could put my hand up when I did not understand whereas in a lecture of over 200 people that is not really an option. Also since going to university we actually do other means of assessment which I realised I did almost no coursework for my GCSEs only exams. Like every means of assessment and ways of learning there are pros and cons to each method. Exams are seen as a formal system but yet seen as not a true way to test knowledge and coursework is suggested for detailed yet longwinded. One solution would be to mix up the way we learn and the way we are tested or provide students with options of exams over coursework.

  6. I’ve loved getting to explore all of the many variations of educational assessment in existence through many people’s blogs these past few weeks. It’s been a really eye opening experience and one that has really made me question the educational standards and measurements in use today. You make a very strong argument for the advantages of the performance based assessments, and if the only genuine disadvantage is that it is time consuming for the teacher and that student waiting time increases for feedback, I think it is truly amazing and a little unnerving that more of these assessment methods have not been implemented yet. According to Lai (2011), this type of assessment is more motivating to students, evaluates the learning process over the learning product, and can measure a student’s level of understanding on a far deeper scale than any other traditional exam method.
    This type of assessment sounds as if it not only evens the playing field for individuals struggling with memory difficulties, high anxiety, or other exam limitations, but also actually measures the function of an education, which I believe (based on the many, many blogs and talks in the past few weeks on the subject) to be the ability to demonstrate and apply knowledge in a useful and effective manner.

  7. In your post you mention about the disadvantages of performance based learning; another disadvantage to some of these assessment methods is the increase in anxiety, especially in terms of a performance based assessment such as a presentation or speech.

    Delivering a speech to a group of fellow students and lecturers is difficult for most students and can unsettle and even frighten some students. It has even been suggested that the fear of delivering a speech or a presentation is the number one fear that most students have (Krannich, 2004). And Young (2008) found that it was not necessarily the content they were delivering during the speech that caused the anxiety, it was just the general speaking in front of the class that caused the most distress to the student. Vitasari et al., (2010) suggests that if a student is experiencing a form of anxiety (including presentation anxiety) then they are not going to perform well.

    Baring this in mind, I thought that although the student could really know and understand the content that they had been taught, this anxiety could have serious impact on the student’s performance (and thus their grade) so maybe it is not the best way to test some students!

    Krannich, C. R. (2004). 101 Secrets of highly effective speakers: controlling fear, commanding attention [Recorded by B. McDonald]. [CD]. New York: Listen & Live Audio, Inc
    Vitasari, P., Wahab, M. N. A., Othman, A., & Awang, M. G. (2010). A research for identifying study anxiety sources among university students. International Education Studies, 3(2), P189.
    Young, D. J. (2008). An investigation of students’ perspectives on anxiety and speaking. Foreign Language Annals, 23(6), 539-553.

  8. Pingback: The Attribution Theory: Week 7 (18/03/13) | beckywebber23

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s