Assessment Strategies

Traditional teaching strategies focus on verbal/linguistic and mathematical/logical intelligences alone. This creates frustration for those individuals who are comfortable with less traditional learning modalities, such as kinesthetic, visual, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, or naturalist. Project based learning lets the teacher incorporate numerous teaching and learning strategies into project based instruction and assessment.

Studies show the value of a multi-phased, multi-tool approach to teaching and assessment. This program is designed to expose teachers to performance based teaching and performance based evaluation methods. Performance-based teaching enables students to use their knowledge and apply skills in realistic situations.

Effective performance based tasks should have the following features:
  • Students should be active participants,
  • Intended outcomes should be clearly identified and should guide the design of a performance task.
  • Students should be expected to demonstrate mastery of those intended outcomes when responding to all facets of the task.
  • Students must demonstrate their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to reality-based situations and scenarios.
  • A clear, logical set of performance-based activities that students are expected to follow should be evident.
  • A clearly presented set of criteria should be available to help judge the degree of proficiency in a student response.
Performance assessment is the direct, systematic observation of an actual pupil performance and rating of that performance according to pre-established criteria. It is monitoring students' progress in relationship to identified learner outcomes. This method requires the students to create answers or products which demonstrate their knowledge or skills. This differs from traditional testing methods which require a student to select a single correct answer or to fill in the blank. The use of multiple teaching and measurement tools permit an exploration of multiple dimensions of particular constructs and, provide a much richer picture of outcomes than any single method or tool would have alone.

Because these techniques are aimed at both individual students, adults and small groups, they can very easily be used without interrupting the flow of the class or workshop. These exercises are particularly useful in providing the instructor with feedback concerning students understanding and retention of material. A few examples are :

Jigsaw Group Projects - In jigsaw projects, each member of a group is asked to complete some discrete part of an assignment; when every member has completed his assigned task, the pieces can be joined together to form a finished project. For example, students divide into groups anywhere from 2 to 6. Each group is given an different article. Each student in the group is given a section to read and become expert on. At a designate time the students are asked to discuss their article and become experts on it. Then each group summarizes and teaches/reports what their article was about.

Panel Discussions - Panel discussions are especially useful when students are asked to give presentations or reports as a way of including the entire group in the presentation. Student groups are assigned a topic to research and asked to prepare presentations (note that this may readily be combined with the jigsaw method outlined above). Each panelist is then expected to make a very short presentation, before the floor is opened to questions from "the audience".

Debates - Actually a variation of the Panel Discussion, formal debates provide an structure for presentations when the subject matter easily divides into opposing views or ‘Pro’/‘Con’. Students are assigned to teams, given a position to defend, and then asked to present arguments in support of their position on the presentation day. The opposing team should be given an opportunity to rebut the argument(s) and, time permitting, the original presenters asked to respond to the rebuttal. This format is particularly useful in developing argumentation skills (in addition to teaching content).

Student Summary of Another Student's Answer - In order to promote active listening, after one student has volunteered an answer to your question, ask another student to summarize the first student's response. Many students hear little of what their classmates have to say, waiting instead for the instructor to either correct or repeat the answer. Having students summarize or repeat each other’s' contributions to the course both fosters active participation by all students and promotes the idea that learning is a shared enterprise. Given the possibility of being asked to repeat a classmates' comments, most students will listen more attentively to each other

Tasks used in performance-based assessment include essays, oral presentations, open-ended problems, hands-on problems, real-world simulations and other authentic tasks. Such tasks are concerned with problem solving and understanding. These tools ensure that assessment is an integral part of the learning-teaching process and that performance is assessed systematically according to planned criteria compatible with the teaching goals and made known to pupils beforehand. In broad terms, there are three types of performance-based assessment: performances, portfolios, and projects.

Rubrics -A rubric is a scoring tool outlining required criteria for a piece of work, or what is important to assess. It also indicates the weighting that has been determined for each criterion, based on its relative importance to the overall task, and describes what the performance would look like at different quality levels. If the pupils receive this before beginning the task, they can more easily internalize the criteria, understand how they will be assessed .
Rubrics can improve and monitor pupils’ performance, by clarifying teacher expectations. They increase validity, reliability and fairness in scoring. And are more objective and consistent Rubrics make teachers and pupils accountable and aware of the learning objectives. They are also easy to understand and use. Lastly they can be referred to in parent-teacher meetings and pupil-teacher conferences where performance is discussed.

A checklist or assessment list is a simpler version of a rubric, specifying the criteria. It only gives the highest level of performance, not all the performance levels.

Portfolios of students work: A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that shows the student's efforts, progress, and achievements. The portfolio should include the following:
  • Student participation in selecting contents.
  • Criteria for selection.
  • Criteria for judging merits.
Portfolios represent a collection of students' best work, student-selected samples of work experiences related to the outcomes being assessed, and documents according growth and development toward mastering identified outcomes (Paulson, F.L. Paulson, P.R. and Meyer, CA. (1991, February). "What Makes a Portfolio a Portfolio?" Educational Leadership, pp. 60-63.)