Performance Assessment

What Is Performance Assessment?

February 5, 2019

William Heard Kilpatrick  “The Project Method”

Today, despite major advances in ways to measure learning, we still don’t have common definitions for project-based learning or performance assessment.

In the absence of agreed-upon definitions for this evolving field, Education Week reporters developed a glossary

Proficiency-based or competency-based learning: These terms are interchangeable. They refer to the practice of allowing students to progress in their learning as they master a set of standards or competencies. Students can advance at different rates. Typically, there is an attempt to build students’ ownership and understanding of their learning goals and often a focus on “personalizing” students’ learning based on their needs and interests.

Project-based learning: Students learn through an extended project, which may have a number of checkpoints or assessments along the way. Key features are inquiry, exploration, the extended duration of the project, and iteration (requiring students to revise and reflect, for example). A subset of project-based learning is problem-based learning, which focuses on a specific challenge for which students must find a solution.

Standards-based grading: This refers to the practice of giving students nuanced and detailed descriptions of their performance against specific criteria or standards, not on a bell curve. It can stand alone or exist alongside traditional letter grading.

Performance assessment: This assessment measures how well students apply their knowledge, skills, and abilities to authentic problems. The key feature is that it requires the student to produce something, such as a report, experiment, or performance, which is scored against specific criteria.

Portfolio: This assessment consists of a body of student work collected over an extended period, from a few weeks to a year or more. This work can be produced in response to a test prompt or assignment but is often simply drawn from everyday classroom tasks. Frequently, portfolios also contain an element of student reflection.

Exhibition: A type of performance assessment that requires a public presentation, as in the sciences or performing arts. Other fields can also require an exhibition component. Students might be required, for instance, to justify their position in an oral presentation or debate.

Performance task: A piece of work students are asked to do to show how well they apply their knowledge, skills, or abilities—from writing an essay to diagnosing and fixing a broken circuit. A performance assessment typically consists of several performance tasks. Performance tasks also may be included in traditional multiple-choice tests.


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