ERIC Identifier: ED414518
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Hutchinson, Nancy L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
Performance Assessments of Career Development: ERIC Digest.
The emergence of career development programs in Canadian secondary schools
enhances self-awareness and career-awareness, while and preparing youth for
employment (Conger, 1992). Counselors and teachers who conduct these group
interventions often use performance assessments to demonstrate student learning
and to guide program improvement. Performance assessments are evaluations of
"authentic" student work that reflect central processes and performances within
a discipline (Wiggins, 1989). Performance assessments are worthwhile educational
experiences which are based in meaningful tasks--tasks that are complex and
challenging, consistent with goals for learning, closely related to real-world
skills, and allow students to use processes relevant to genuine performance.
They may require flexible time frames, open-ended formats, and collaboration
Norm-referenced appraisals of career development
have come under increasing criticism (Healey, 1990). Performance assessments are
often referred to as alternate assessment approaches. In performance
assessments, the emphasis is on what students can do as well as what students
know. Performance assessments are well matched to the way classroom assessments
frequently inform students, counselors, teachers, and parents what students have
learned, and make day-to-day instructional decisions about the program
There are many ways in which performance assessments can be implemented in
career development programs:
performances can be judged against a set of performance criteria (e.g.,
completion of an employment application form at levels set by competent adults).
performances can be evaluated by individuals other than the students' teachers
(e.g., employment interviews conducted by employers from a chosen field).
of student work can be used to assess depth and breadth of understanding (e.g.,
student solutions to problem scenarios that arise on the job).
A number of published career development programs, like Pathways, have
implemented performance assessments (Hutchinson & Freeman, 1994). Pathways
consists of five instructional modules:
Awareness of self and careers.
Problem solving on the job.
Students work in pairs and small groups. They "think aloud," provide
explanations for their choices, and role-play authentic tasks. For example,
students learn about employers' uses and expectations of application forms by
role-playing as employers who judge completed applications and who make hiring
Each module in Pathways contains performance assessments. The module on
career and self-awareness includes both an assessment measure that provides
descriptions of individuals seeking employment and "want ads" containing
descriptions of jobs. Students judge whether or not applicants are well matched,
on specified criteria, to the advertised positions, and whether they,
themselves, are well matched to the positions. The module on employment writing
contains an application form as an assessment measure, while in the interview
module, one assessment is a simulated employment interview. The module on
solving problems on the job and the module on anger management contain
assessment measures consisting of realistic scenarios for which students
generate a number of solutions and then evaluate those solutions. Scoring
criteria are provided for each performance assessment, so that a reliable
measure of the students' performance can be obtained. Additionally, in the
learning activities within the modules, students generate a portfolio of
performances including self-awareness activities, problem-solving scenarios,
video-taped role playing, resumes, and other simulated tasks.
CRITICISMS OF PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS
"Such simulated tasks
are authentic in that they replicate the challenges and standards of real-world
performances and are representative of the ways in which knowledge and skills
are used in real world contexts, even though they do not simulate all of the
complexity of real-world functioning" (Messick, 1994, p.17). Messick has
criticized performance assessments for their task-specificity, arguing that
educators are less concerned with the particular performance, than in the
knowledge and skill that enable a whole range of performances. There are
questions to be answered about the generalizability of performance assessments
across students and sites, as well as tasks. Messick cautions that performance
measures must also be sensitive enough to detect relevant differences between
performances and changes in performances.
Proponents of performance assessments admit that they emphasize validity over
reliability. As Wiggins asserts, "We must first decide what are the actual
performances that we want students to be good at. We must design those
performances first and worry about a fair and thorough method of grading them
later" (1989, p.705). Data collected in a two-year cohort study (Hutchinson,
Freeman, & Fisher, 1993) demonstrated that the performance measures
developed for Pathways were sensitive enough to show student changes over time
and to distinguish between students who had received intensive instruction and
those who had not. There were also indications of adequate reliability in that
students maintained their performance improvements five months after
intervention in four of the five areas of instruction. Two sets of measures were
used: one immediately following instruction of each module, and one for cohort
comparisons. Similar scores on the two sets provide preliminary evidence of
generalization. The criticisms of performance assessment regarding
representativeness, reliability, and sensitivity represent empirical questions
that can, and already are, being addressed with data that suggest the criticism
may not be solid.
IMPLEMENTATION OF PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS
implementation of performance assessments in career development programs
requires that counselors undertake a number of challenging endeavors. At both
the national and the local levels they must work toward the following goals:
the desired outcomes of career development-defining the domain of content, and
identifying complex "authentic" performances and processes (Wiggins, 1989).
the specific requirements of performances including the knowledge, skills, and
processes that must be exemplified in a performance or collection of
performances (Stiggins, 1988).
tests of performances so central to learning that the test is valued and used to
further--as well as to demonstrate--learning (Taylor, 1994).
counselors, teachers, and students so they can work together and use performance
assessments to assess accurately their own work on a regular basis (Wiggins,
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
As career development becomes a
more integral part of the secondary school program, the pressure increases to
use performance assessments to demonstrate the both effectiveness of programs
and the soundness of instructional decisions. With differentiated portraits of
student performance within career development, it is possible to envision
student assessment as informing, rather than merely measuring, the career
Conger, D. S. (1992). Where to career
development and counseling? Career Development Quarterly, 40, 376-377.
Healey, C. C. (1990). Reforming career appraisals to meet the needs of
clients in the 1990s. The Counseling Psychologist, 18, 214-226.
Hutchinson, N. L., & Freeman, J. G. (1994). Pathways (5 volumes).
Toronto, ON: Nelson Canada.
Hutchinson, N. L., Freeman, J. G., & Fisher, C. (1993). A two-year cohort
study: Career development for youth with learning disabilities. Paper presented
at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta,
Messick, S. (1994). The interplay of evidence and consequences in the
validation of performance assessments. Educational Researcher, 23(2), 13-23.
Stiggins, R. J. (1988). The design and development of performance
assessments. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 6(3), 33-42.
Stiggins, R. J. (1993). Two disciplines of educational assessment.
Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 26, 93-104.
Taylor, C. (1994). Assessment for measurement or standards. American
Educational Research Journal, 31, 231-262.
Wiggins, G. (1989). Teaching to the (authentic) test. Educational Leadership,