Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chapter 8 – Performance Assessment

Educational Assessment - Review By Brenda Roof
Classroom Assessment – What Teachers Need to Know - W. James Popham

Chapter eight takes a look at performance assessments. Performance assessments try to create real-life situations and apply assessment inferences to the tasks being performed. Appropriate skills tasks are essential for performance assessments to be valid. There are seven evaluative criteria for performance assessment tasks. The skills to be assessed must also be significant. Evaluative criteria are one of the most important components of a rubric used to evaluate responses on performance assessments. Distinctions should be drawn for three rubric types as well as to enhance instruction.
A performance assessment is defined as an approach to measuring a student’s status based on the way the student completes a specified task. There are varied opinions about what a true performance assessment is. Some educators feel that short-answer and essay assessments constitute performance assessments. Other educators feel that there are three criteria that a true performance assessment must possess. The first criterion is multiple evaluative criteria. Performance must be judged using more than one criterion. The second criterion is pre-specified quality standards. This criterion states that each evaluative criterion that is being judged is clearly explained, in advance of any judgment of the quality of performance. The third criterion is judgmental appraisal. Human judgments are used to determine how acceptable a student’s performance is. There are still others who feel performance assessments must be demanding and aligned according to Blooms taxonomies. Regardless of the criteria, performance assessments are very different than selected or constructed response assessments.
Suitable tasks should be identified for performance assessments. Teachers will need to generate their own performance tests tasks or select tasks from other educators. Teachers will also need to make inferences about students and decisions based on those inferences. All of this should be based on the curricular aims established early on. One of the biggest drawbacks of performance assessments is, because students are responding to fewer tasks than typical pencil and paper tests, it is more difficult to generalize accurately about the skills and knowledge gained by a student. There are several evaluative criteria you can consider when evaluating performance-test tasks. The first is generalize-ability. Is there is a high likelihood the students performance on the tasks can be compared to other tasks? The second is authenticity. Is the task true to life as opposed to school only? The third is multiple foci, does the task measure multiple instructional outcomes, not just one? The fourth criterion is teach-ability, is the task one that students can become more proficient in, as a consequence of the teacher’s instructional efforts? The fifth is fairness. Is the task fair to all students? This is also a form of test-bias. The sixth is feasibility. Is the task realistically implementable? The seventh and final criterion is score-ability. Is the task likely to elicit content that can be reliably and accurately evaluated? The best case scenario would be to apply all of these criteria, but as many as possible will work as well. One last important factor to consider about performance assessments is the significance of the skill you’re evaluating. The performance assessment should be used for the most significant skills due to the amount of time in developing and scoring them.
A scoring rubric is typically used to score student responses on performance assessments. There are three important features of a scoring rubric. The first is evaluative criteria. This factor should be used to determine the quality of the response. No more than three or four evaluative criteria should be used. Descriptions of qualitative differences for the evaluative criteria should be included. A description must be supplied so qualitative distinctions in a response can be made using the criterion. Describe in words what a perfect response should be. An indication of whether a holistic or analytic scoring approach is to be used. The rubric must indicate if evaluative criteria are to be applied collectively in the form of holistic scoring or on a criterion-by-criterion basis in the form of analytic scoring. A well planned rubric will benefit instruction greatly.
There are a variety of rubrics seen today. Two types that are described as sorid by the author are task-specific and hyper-general. One that is described as super is a skill-focused rubric. The first sorid rubric is a task-specific rubric. In this rubric evaluative criteria are linked only to a specific task embodied in a specific performance test. This rubric does to provide insight into instruction for teacher. Students should be taught to perform well on a variety of tasks not a single task. The second sorid rubric is described as hyper-general rubric. In this rubric evaluative criteria are seen as general with very lucid terms used. This leads to inadequate essay or organization. These rubrics may as well be scored with letter grades of A through F as they provide no instructional value to student performance. The third rubric described is a rubric of value and one that should be used. This rubric is called a skill-focused rubric. These rubrics are developed around constructed response assessments being measured, as well as, what is being pursued instructionally by the teacher. The key here is to develop the scoring rubric before instructional planning begins. There are two areas of organization that should be appraised in a skill-focused rubric, overall structure and sequence.
There are five rules that should be followed in creating a skill-focused rubric. You will generate this rubric before you plan your instruction. The first rule is making sure the skill to be assessed is significant. Skills that are assessed with a skill-focused rubric should be demanding accomplishments, if they are not other assessment forms are more appropriate to use. Rule number two is to make certain all of the rubric’s evaluative criteria can be addressed instructionally. Scrutinize all evaluative criteria to ensure you can teach students to master all criteria. The third rule is to employ as few evaluative criteria as possible. Always try to focus on three or four evaluative criteria. If there are more criteria you are trying to achieve mastery on, it will be difficult to use performance assessments properly. The fourth rule is to provide a succinct label for each evaluative criterion. Using one word labels allows students to keep focused on what is expected to achieve mastery. The fifth rule is to match the length of the rubric to your own tolerance for detail. If more than one page rubrics seem overwhelming to you than keep them short. Rubrics should be built to match the detail preference of the teacher.
Performance assessments provide an alternative to traditional paper and pencil assessments. They are also sometimes seen as more true to life and what one would be expected to do in the real world. The tasks in performance assessments align closer to high level cognitive skills, allowing more accurate inferences to be derived about students. This allows for more positive influence on instruction. These assessments do however; require much more time and energy from students as well as teachers. The development and scoring must be done correctly in order for the inferences to be valid and effective.

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