Embrace performance-based assessments

Have you ever wondered what causes the discrepancy between your student’s exam scores and their practical performance? They understand the one plus one mathematics but will face a real dilemma when presented with the same scenario in context. One of the best ways to assess your student’s learning is through performance-based assessments.

The goal for assessment is to accurately determine whether students have learned the materials or information taught, and reveal whether they have complete mastery of the content with no misunderstandings - which they usually do until you assess them in context and they need to apply the learnt wisdom. Performance-based assessment which measures a students’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit or units of study, will give you a more reliable picture of your learner’s ability. Typically, the tasks in this assessment challenge students to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process

There are many types of performance-based assessments ranging from observation, portfolios, and projects to student logs and journals. Each type of assessment brings with it different strengths and deficiencies relative to credible and dependable information. Because it is virtually impossible for a single assessment tool to adequately assess all aspects of students’ performance, there is usually a challenge in selecting or developing performance-based assessments that complement both each other and more traditional assessments to equitably assess students in human performance - a problem for another day. The principle object of today’s article is to highlight the benefits of integrating performance based assessments in student evaluation.

To begin with, performance-based assessments enable teachers to assess areas of learning that traditional assessments do not address. Let’s face it; many traditional assessments do not directly measure progress towards the teacher’s final learning objectives. For example, at the secondary level, a physical educator’s goal is usually to teach a student how to play a game or do an activity. However, while skill tests may evaluate performance of discrete skills in a fairly closed (invariable) environment, they do not evaluate a student’s ability to use these skills and “put it all together” in a game. Skill tests and written tests give teachers a useful way to sample students’ learning during instruction, but actual assessment of practice in the real world allows teachers to see whether students can combine the pieces into a meaningful entity. Must this wait till the second or third university year when learners are out for practicum?

Because performance-based assessments usually involve real-world tasks that students find relatable, they often feel more engaged and challenged. Rather than studying just enough to get a good grade on a test, students spend many hours engaged in their projects and often explore and use sources beyond the teacher and textbook. In addition, because they have a formative component, performance-based assessments (both self and peer) provide high-quality feedback to students throughout the assessment, as they receive additional feedback. The overall purpose of assessment is to enhance learning through giving feedback to students about their progress and providing information to the teacher that can be used to shape instruction.

What this means is that assessments should be varied enough to measure how well students meet the teacher’s goals or targets for the unit. When a teacher’s goals include proficiency or some type of student performance, then performance-based assessments provide an excellent way to determine whether students have achieved those goals.