All of us who teach know that assessment practices drive learning. The first thing that students do when they are introduced to a syllabus or course outline is look to see how they will be assessed– how they will earn credit or grades in the course. In addition, research tells us that feedback has a powerful influence on learning. As curriculum developers it is important that the assessment processes that we put into place support the learning process.
It is also important that assessment aligns with learning outcomes. In an outcomes-based learning environment the focus is on helping a variety of learners achieve learning outcomes. By definition, learning outcomes are performance-based. Learners must go beyond knowing to being able to show what they know. In short, well planned assessments allow learners to demonstrate that they have achieved the learning outcome(s) or provide feedback that identifies the progress they are making towards their achievement. There may be several ways to assess student learning but they should all be linked directly to the learning outcomes.
Performance Assessment/Authentic Assessment
James Foran et al (1992) in their text Effective Curriculum Planning: Performances, Outcomes and Standards offer guidelines for planning performance assessments. This list is adapted from their work.
* Assessments should align directly with learning outcomes.
* Assessments should require students to use their knowledge base, think critically and solve problems and emphasize knowledge construction, troubleshooting, elaboration and evaluation.
* Assessments should reflect/relate to students’ interests.
* Just as all students learn differently, students may be able to demonstrate their learning differently as well.
* Criteria should be provided for student self-evaluation.
* Performances should be leveled
* During course—applied exercises for monitoring development
* End of unit of learning/course—demonstration of achievement of course learning outcome
* End of program—demonstration of program level learning outcomes
* The student should be allowed sufficient practice for each performance.
* Where possible performances should be linked to “real world” experiences.
* Assessments must allow students to exhibit their abilities.
Here is a checklist that can be used to help develop performance assessments.
A Checklist for Choosing Performance Tasks:
1. Does the task match the expected learning (learning outcome or course learning requirement)?
2. Does the task adequately represent and elicit the content and skills you expect the student to attain?
3. Does the task enable students to demonstrate their capabilities and progress?
4. Does the assessment use “authentic”, real world tasks?
5. Does the task require the learner to integrate their learning?
6. Can the task be structured to provide a measure of several outcomes?
7. Does the task match an important outcome which reflects complex thinking skills?
8. Does the task pose an enduring problem type– the type the learner is likely to encounter in the future?
9. Is the task fair and free of bias?
10. Will the task be seen as meaningful by important stakeholders?
11. Will the task be meaningful and engaging to students so that they will be motivated to show their capabilities?
Assessment Tools and Strategies
The research is clear. Providing students with constructive feedback contributes positively to learning.