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When you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of your students and how well they receive a specific course, you may wish to rely on a performance-based assessment.

This measurement reflects the student’s understanding and can help you accurately measure the course’s characteristics.

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The key components of this type of assessment are:

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

Many workshops cover this type of assessment and offer valuable insight into successfully implementing them in your classroom. Before 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 are 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 standardized multiple-choice testing 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 returning 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 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 precludes some educators from implementing performance-based assessments. The module below will help inform teachers of how to use this testing type to accurately measure their students’ overall performance. Assessments 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 distributed to the students included two-way frequency tables, bar graphs, and pie charts, which were all created with statistics and data from governmental agencies.

2. Develop a learning plan

The assessment would focus on several components that could be broken into a lesson plan. The performance-based assessment would have six 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 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 individually without much direct guidance from the teacher.

4. Select the appropriate course standards

After the goals were 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 deciding whether 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. To combat this hurdle, students were required to analyze graphs, tables, and charts related to two-way frequency.

Example: Public Comments Session Scenario

The example concerns Susan, a fictional inmate at the Texahoma State Women’s Correctional Institution. She is 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 monthly Public Comment Sessions.

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 before the Public Comment Session. Upon review, it is up to you to decide, based on the evidence, if Susan should be granted parole. She 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 support their decision and 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
  • A blog post about prison nurseries
  • Press release about a prison-work program