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Authentic Assessment: New Ways to Measure Student Performance

| Anthony Cody

From an Edutopia reader comes this question: "With so many of today's schools focused on state achievement tests, many teachers are 'teaching to the test.' However, this does not adequately prepare students for life outside of school. Does anyone have any suggestions for the alternate assessment that this article was describing? I am looking for some way to increase student learning while maintaining state standards at the same time."

We can agree on the limitations of standardized tests, but as teachers, we must nonetheless find ways to measure student learning. In place of narrow tests, innovative educators are developing new authentic assessments. Here are some interesting new looks at the subject:

Portfolios

Ted Nellen proposes digital portfolios and shares a suggestion he made recently to Al Gore.

Peer Review

"I suggested as a means of fostering authentic assessment that we have the scholars produce Web pages that are public and can be peer reviewed. The work of the scholars can be digitized and copied to CDs, DVDs, and flash drives. A national clearinghouse could be established for archive purposes. The Web pages can be sent to colleges as part of the entrance application. They can be used when a scholar moves from one town to another, across state lines or within a state. The work of the scholar tells us more than any test score ever will."

Exhibition

Another form of assessment is exhibition. The Coalition of Essential Schools recently held a National Exhibition Month to showcase student work.

"This year's National Exhibition Month was a successful campaign, as throughout the month of May (in some cases in April and June), schools and support organizations across the country made their exhibition work public and advocated for the use of exhibitions in their local contexts.

"Close to a hundred schools and organizations across twenty-five states participated, recognizing and documenting student exhibitions, submitting letters to the editor of local papers, hosting public events to showcase exhibitions, and educating media and local leaders about the benefits of exhibitions."

But Wait -- There's More

For a general overview of what authentic assessment is all about, Jonathan Mueller has put together the Authentic Assessment Toolbox.

Last, the University of Wisconsin at Stout has put together a great set of authentic-assessment resources for teachers.

Do you know of any other resources or have suggestions? Please share your thoughts.

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Comments (8)

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Most other developed nations

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Most other developed nations (and some developing ones) are spending less per student on education than we are and yet are producing students that are better equipped to compete in the 21st century global economy (that means critical thinking skills, focus, math and science, etc). What do they know that we don't? Why do we spend years if not decades and millions of dollars talking about what to do whereas they simply do? The results are there, in black and white. Look at Canada as just one example.

Project Based Learning

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PBL was the foundation of my automotive degree and I soon realized it was the foundation for most of the meaningful and lasting learning I have done since childhood. Once I became an English/Soc. teacher, I instinctively implemented a PBL environment in all my classes and still use this style more than a decade later(now I teach creative tech. classes). Students love the sense of ownership the PBL classroom affords and soon become vested participants in the entire process. They teach other students (formative), they design and create "X" number of projects (formative and summative), they complete demonstrations (summative), they tutor others in preparing for demonstrations....and so forth and so on. It takes a long time to put together an engaging PBL environment, but once in place it basically runs itself because the students are not passive recipients but rather vested and engaged participants.

Feedback : A crucial link to successful assessment

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In my school, Reedley International School, we put high premium on feedback as a crucial part of assessment. It gives the child a clear picture of where he is and what he needs to work on so that he gets to achieve the expected learning outcomes. This way, the kids never get intimidated with assessments. In fact, they themselves would ask for more assessments to improve their performance. Feedback also strengthens classroom partnership between the teacher and student as the child sees the teacher's significant role in getting his target goals at teh end of the term.

I would check out the work of

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I would check out the work of Jim Popham. I developed a model state assessment system for a candidate for WA State Supt. of Public Instruction based on "Building Tests To Support Instruction and Accountability: A Guide for Policymakers". It has some ideas you may find useful., prepared by The Commission on Instructionally Supportive Assessment

Adejuwon Adejumoke (not verified)

students' attitude to learning

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actually, students attitude to learning could affect their learning process. this is because when they are not interested in what is being taught, they might find it difficult to understand what is being taught. however, a teacher can help this student by creating an interest in him/her and serves as a kind of encouragement and in the course of this, a teacher can get the student things that would help like finding a straight-forward approach.

Lingerie (not verified)

You show a child a number

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You show a child a number sequence and ask him/her to identify the pattern, but he/she is unable to do so. To scaffold the question, you can say "In this pattern, a 2 is being added each time. Now, can you tell me what the next number will be?"

This technique can be applied to teaching just about ANYTHING. What's incredibly important here is that a series of targeted hints that respond to specific student misunderstandings can actually provide the student with a learning opportunity WITHIN the assessment.

This is very different from mind-numbingly filling in bubble sheets. It's FORMATIVE assessment, not SUMMATIVE assessment... a valuable tool in the classsroom, but often misunderstood, since assessment is assumed to be paper and pencil, timed and stressful

Michael Kirsch (not verified)

I would like to add the idea

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I would like to add the idea of project assessment. At the alternative high school I work at we are encouraged to be creative and are blessed with more flexibility than many district schools. I like to use the culminating project apporach on occasion.
We do some traditional note taking and book work but, I like to end my unit of study with a hands on project that requires students to apply what they have learned creatively. Here is an eaxmple; we just completed our studies about arthropods and they used the information to depict acurrate models (meeting specific requirements of course) of arthropods using clay, paint, and assorted clay modeling tools. They made displays labeling the various parts then summarized in a brief report the functions and uses of the parts that characterized the phylum arthropoda.
It was a relaxed atmosphere and the students enjoyed being creative and the projects came out very well.

Nikkie (not verified)

Scaffolding and Formative Assessment

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I have another thought to add to this great list.

I'd like to point out the value of SCAFFOLDING. This is a term coined by child psychologist Lev Vygotsky to refer to targeted hinting that can be provided if a student cannot answer a question on his/her own.

Example: You show a child a number sequence and ask him/her to identify the pattern, but he/she is unable to do so. To scaffold the question, you can say "In this pattern, a 2 is being added each time. Now, can you tell me what the next number will be?"

This technique can be applied to teaching just about ANYTHING. What's incredibly important here is that a series of targeted hints that respond to specific student misunderstandings can actually provide the student with a learning opportunity WITHIN the assessment.

This is very different from mind-numbingly filling in bubble sheets. It's FORMATIVE assessment, not SUMMATIVE assessment... a valuable tool in the classsroom, but often misunderstood, since assessment is assumed to be paper and pencil, timed and stressful.

Such a shame that we're over-testing our kids but not assessing them meaningfully.

Thanks for the informative post!

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Anthony Cody Science Coach and mentor, Oakland, California

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