Assessment for Learning

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Using assessment to change student learning, by Dr Peter Knight.

Assessment for Quality Learning

Alternative, Authentic and Performance Assessments

Alternative assessment is a term applied to a variety of assessment techniques that have been proposed as alternatives to standardized tests. Often called "performance" or "authentic" assessments, their intent is to measure directly a student's ability to perform. Consequently, they are designed to resemble real-life tasks as closely as possible. Many of these alternatives have been developed out of dissatisfaction with the ability of traditional assessments measurement to capture course learning outcomes. Portfolios, presentations, posters, projects, journals and field work/work-based learning are among such alternative approaches.

Authentic assessments are ones that reflect legitimate learning goals and instructional practices. Authentic assessment tasks replicate, as closely as possible, the actual challenges facing peoples in specific situations in the workplace, or in daily living, where learning is contextualized and purposeful. Proponents of authentic assessment criticise traditional standardized tests for relying too heavily on multiple-choice items and isolated skills testing.

Performance-based assessments require the demonstration or exhibition of a concept or skill. Students can demonstrate their abilities and understanding with written work, oral presentations, simulations, posters, products or projects. When students demonstrate a skill or concept, they are rated by an evaluator who uses observation and selected criteria to judge the quality of the performance. The evaluator usually is the teacher; however, well-informed students can also do peer or self-assessment. Obviously all authentic assessments are a performance assessment, but performance assessments such as simulations are not authentic.

For a more detailed description of these terms, see this BluePaper from the Computer-Assisted Assessment website in the UK.