ERIC Identifier: ED381985
Publication Date: 1995-06-00
Author: Elliott, Stephen N.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Creating Meaningful Performance Assessments. ERIC Digest E531.
Performance assessment is a viable alternative to norm-referenced tests.
Teachers can use performance assessment to obtain a much richer and more
complete picture of what students know and are able to do.
DEFINING PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT
Defined by the U.S.
Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) (1992), as "testing methods that
require students to create an answer or product that demonstrates their
knowledge and skills," performance assessment can take many forms including:
Performance assessment is best understood as a continuum of assessment
formats ranging from the simplest student-constructed responses to comprehensive
demonstrations or collections of work over time. Whatever format, common
features of performance assessment involve:
Students' construction rather than selection of a response.
Direct observation of student behavior on tasks resembling those commonly
required for functioning in the world outside school.
Illumination of students' learning and thinking processes along with their
answers (OTA, 1992).
Performance assessments measure what is taught in the curriculum. There are
two terms that are core to depicting performance assessment:
Performance: A student's active generation of a response that is observable
either directly or indirectly via a permanent product.
Authentic: The nature of the task and context in which the assessment occurs is
relevant and represents "real world" problems or issues.
HOW DO YOU ADDRESS VALIDITY IN PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS?
validity of an assessment depends on the degree to which the interpretations and
uses of assessment results are supported by empirical evidence and logical
analysis. According to Baker and her associates (1993), there are five internal
characteristics that valid performance assessments should exhibit:
Have meaning for students and teachers and motivate high performance.
Require the demonstration of complex cognition, applicable to important problem
Exemplify current standards of content or subject matter quality.
Minimize the effects of ancillary skills that are irrelevant to the focus of
Possess explicit standards for rating or judgment.
When considering the validity of a performance test, it is important to first
consider how the test or instrument "behaves" given the content covered.
Questions should be asked such as:
does this test relate to other measures of a similar construct?
the measure predict future performances?
the assessment adequately cover the content domain?
It is also important to review the intended effects of using the assessment
instrument. Questions about the use of a test typically focus on the test's
ability to reliably differentiate individuals into groups and guide the methods
teachers use to teach the subject matter covered by the test.
A word of caution: Unintended uses of assessments can have precarious
effects. To prevent the misuse of assessments, the following questions should be
use of the instrument result in discriminatory practices against various groups
it used to evaluate others (e.g., parents or teachers) who are not directly
assessed by the test?
PROVIDING EVIDENCE FOR THE RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY OF PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT
The technical qualities and scoring procedures of
performance assessments must meet high standards for reliability and validity.
To ensure that sufficient evidence exists for a measure, the following four
issues should be addressed:
1. Assessment as a Curriculum Event. Externally mandated assessments that
bear little, if any, resemblance to subject area domain and pedagogy cannot
provide a valid or reliable indication of what a student knows and is able to
do. The assessment should reflect what is taught and how it is taught.
Making an assessment a curriculum event means reconceptualizing it as a
series of theoretically and practically coherent learning activities that are
structured in such a way that they lead to a single predetermined end. When
planning for assessment as a curriculum event, the following factors should be
content of the instrument.
length of activities required to complete the assessment.
type of activities required to complete the assessment.
number of items in the assessment instrument.
2. Task Content Alignment with Curriculum. Content alignment between what is
tested and what is taught is essential. What is taught should be linked to
valued outcomes for students in the district.
3. Scoring and Subsequent Communications with Consumers. In large scale
assessment systems, the scoring and interpretation of performance assessment
instruments is akin to a criterion-referenced approach to testing. A student's
performance is evaluated by a trained rater who compares the student's responses
to multitrait descriptions of performances and then gives the student a single
number corresponding to the description that best characterizes the performance.
Students are compared directly to scoring criteria and only indirectly to each
In the classroom, every student needs feedback when the purpose of
performance assessment is diagnosis and monitoring of student progress. Students
can be shown how to assess their own performances when:
scoring criteria are well articulated.
are comfortable with having students share in their own evaluation process.
4. Linking and Comparing Results Over Time. Linking is a generic term that
includes a variety of approaches to making results of one assessment comparable
to those of another. Two appropriate and manageable approaches to linking in
performance assessment include:
Moderation. This approach is used to compare performances across content areas
for groups of students who have taken a test at the same point in time.
Moderation. This is a judgmental approach that is built on consensus of raters.
The comparability of scores assigned depends substantially on the development of
consensus among professionals.
HOW CAN TEACHERS INFLUENCE STUDENTS'
Performance assessment is a promising method that is
achievable in the classroom. In classrooms, teachers can use data gathered from
performance assessment to guide instruction. Performance assessment should
interact with instruction that precedes and follows an assessment task.
When using performance assessments, students' performances can be positively
Selecting assessment tasks that are clearly aligned or connected to what has
Sharing the scoring criteria for the assessment task with students prior to
working on the task.
Providing students with clear statements of standards and/or several models of
acceptable performances before they attempt a task.
Encouraging students to complete self-assessments of their performances.
Interpreting students' performances by comparing them to standards that are
developmentally appropriate, as well as to other students' performances.
Baker, E. L., O'Neill, H. F., Jr., & Linn,
R. L. (1993). Policy and validity prospects for performance-based assessments.
American Psychologist, 48, 1210-1218.
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. (1992, February). Testing in
American schools: Asking the right questions. (OTA-SET-519). Washington, DC:
U.S. Government Printing Office.
Derived from: Elliot, S. N. (1994). Creating Meaningful Performance
Assessments: Fundamental Concepts. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional
Children. Product #P5059.