When you are interested in gaining a deeper level of understanding of your students and how well a specific course is being received by them, you may wish to rely on a performance-based assessment. This type of measurement reflects the understanding of the students and can help you to measure the characteristics of the course accurately.

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The key components of this type of assessment are:

Course-oriented; true; maintain an appropriate level of complexity; and used over a defined period of time.

There are many workshops that cover this type of assessment and offer valuable insight into being able to successfully implement them in your classroom. Prior to attending such a workshop or training session, gaining a better understanding of the assessment type can help you obtain a deeper knowledge base of performance-based assessments. Let’s take a look at an assessment module that can help teachers to gain a better understanding of this type of skills measurement.

Performance-based assessments is experiencing a reemergence

When standardized multiple choice exams began to fall out of favor during the 1990s, the attention of many educators shifted to performance-based assessments. After the shift began, the effect was felt in legislative standards as the emphasis at that time had been on multiple-choice testing that was standardized across states.

This shift is thought to be one of the root causes of the “Teach the Test” curriculum shift that occurred. The swing away from non-traditional testing is now returning back to favor in many areas that rely on performance-based assessments.

What is a performance-based assessment?

As with many non-traditional modalities, there is no hard and fast definition for a performance-based assessment. The term can mean many different things depending on your location, subject, and the publications that you read. Generally speaking, the assessments are used to gauge the level at which the students have absorbed the subject matter in a certain unit.

Rather than a multiple choice or standardized test, the assessment operates – and asks the students to perform – at a higher level. Rather than a multiple choice or true or false option, the assessment may rely on short answers or essays. At higher levels, students will be required to create a proposal or presentation similar to what would be required in a professional environment.

Performance-based assessment factors

There are several key components of any well-constructed and effective performance-based assessment.

For example, the assessment must be:
  • Open-ended
  • Time-bound
  • Authentic
  • Process/product-oriented
  • Complex

This type of testing module will use a lot of queries that will likely produce open-ended answers. That fact will make the prospect of a single correct answer quite low. (Chun, 2010; McTighe, 2015).

Performance-based assessments for students

This question is one that precludes some educators from implementing performance-based assessments. The module below will help to inform teachers of ways to use this testing type in a way that accurately measures their students’ overall performance. Assessments that are based on real-world scenarios, such as the example below, are typically the most useful for this type of assessment.

Below is an example of what was created for a probability math unit:

1. Gather or create materials

The goal of the module was the accurate calculation of the probability that the inmate be granted parole. The materials that were distributed to the students included two-way frequency tables, bar graphs, and pie charts, which were all created with statistics and data available from governmental agencies.

2. Develop a learning plan

The assessment would focus on several different components that could be broken down into a lesson plan. The performance-based assessment would have six various factors that would be the crux of the test to see if the students had mastered the concepts in the probability module. This part of the assessment is continuously under revision and has been updated multiple times as more insight is gained from testing.

3. Identify the goals of the performance-based assessment

The purpose of the assessment was to encourage a more free-thinking attitude from the students. This project required critical thinking and strong problem-solving. It was to be completed on an individual basis without much direct guidance from the teacher.

4. Select the appropriate course standards

After the goals are established, the Common Core requirements were set up within the assessment for accurate measurement. The Common Core subjects were the rules of probability and the concepts relating to conditional probability.

5. Design the scenario

Another scenario was introduced into the assessment module and the students would be tasked with the decision of whether or not to allow parole for a prison inmate.

The module focused on five main tenets:
  • Setting
  • Role
  • Audience
  • Time frame
  • Product

6. Review assessments and identify learning gaps

Prior exams that were reviewed showed a lack of real-world application benefit and the concepts remained in the abstract. In order to combat this hurdle, students were required to utilize the analysis of graphs, tables, and charts that related to two-way frequency.

Example: Public Comments Session Scenario

The example centered around Susan, who is a fictional inmate at the Texahoma State Women’s Correctional Institution. She is in the midst of serving a prison term of assault and embezzlement. Now that she has served three years of her sentence, she is eligible for parole. As part of the parole-granting process, the Inmate Review Board offers Public Comment Sessions on a monthly basis.

What is the task?

The students are required to adopt the role of Susan’s parole officer. The parole officer must review the documents listed below prior to the Public Comment Session. Upon review, it is up to you to decide, based on the evidence, if Susan should be granted parole. She still has two more years to serve as part of her full sentence. The P.O. is granted five minutes to share their findings with the Parole Board. They must present statistics and facts to back up their decision and to expand on the probability of the inmate being granted parole.

What documents are needed?

  • Newsletter about incarceration rates in the state
  • Article announcing a new web series on embezzlement
  • Letter to the parole board from the inmate’s mother and son
  • Research brief on the recidivism rate of nonviolent offenders
  • Criminal history report
  • Blog post about prison nurseries
  • Press release about a prison-work program