Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment: Implications for

Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment
Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment:
Implications for Teacher Educators
CarieLyn Palmer and Kelly Crain
ACE-DHH Conference
Best Practices in Deaf Education
San Diego, CA
February 22nd-February 25th, 2001
Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment
Assessment courses in teacher-education programs have traditionally focused on
the psychometric aspects of testing: examining issues of reliability and validity of indirect
or standardized tests. Education majors and pre-service teachers have been taught the
history of psycho-educational assessment, testing protocols, and interpretations of test
A review of the recent literature related to educational assessment shows a shift of
attention from traditional tests to more direct, classroom-based assessments for the
purpose of improving teaching and student learning (Messick, 1995). More attention is
being paid to the consequences of the assessments and the appropriate interpretation and
specific uses of assessment results. Professionals in the field of teacher preparation have
the opportunity to incorporate these latest discussions into their courses at the college
In the remainder of this paper, we will highlight and summarize recent
discussions of performance assessment by professionals in the areas of: program
development; educational measurement and evaluation; and psychometrics. Following
each topic of discussion, we will suggest implications for those who work to prepare
future teachers for careers in education.
What is assessment and what is a test?
Assessment is one of those ubiquitous educational terms. Presumably, everyone
is familiar with the word, and can quickly conjure notions of what an assessment looks
like. For years, we (as a society) have so closely married ‘assessment’ to ‘test’ that the
two have become synonymous.
Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment
For the purpose of our discussion, we view assessment as an educational
construct. It is the process that a teacher goes through to judge what a student has
learned or can do. In observing the student during such an assessment, the teacher can
see how a student performs, gaining insight into how the student best learns. The result
of that assessment guides the teacher to ever-more effective and useful teaching practices.
The goal of those improved teaching strategies, the true goal of assessment, is a more
competent and capable student.
Traditionally, assessment has taken the form of summative tests. The term
‘summative’ refers to the type of test used to evaluate a student’s learning at the end of a
unit, when the teaching of that information has ceased. For the purpose of our discussion,
the word test will be used to refer to a paper document upon which a student must
indicate answers to printed questions. Those questions are commonly presented in
multiple choice or short answer formats, but other forms exist. Common tests include
end-of-chapter textbook reviews, teacher-made unit reviews, the Stanford Achievement
Test-9, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE),
and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).
Implication: Assessment courses in teacher preparation programs can and should
include discussions of the nature and purpose of assessment and the use of alternative
assessments, not to the exclusion of the more traditional topics of psychometrics and
What is the nature of assessment?
In recent years, we have seen a paradigm shift in the role of assessment in the
classroom. Rather than viewing assessment as the end of instruction and learning,
Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment
professionals in education are now viewing assessment as an integral part of the process
of student learning and teacher instruction. The nature of assessment is to create a
relationship between the students’ learning and the teachers’ instruction (Tierney,
Readence, & Dishner, 1995).
Students’ learning can be viewed as a non-linear process, which requires the
reorganizing and restructuring of information to capture the changing salience of
concepts over time (Shepard, 1991). Therefore, if the nature of assessment is to inform
teachers of this dynamic process, the assessment must also be dynamic and ongoing.
Implication: Future teachers who can conceptualize assessment as an integral
component of the learning process will be more capable of on-going assessment, more
confident in educational decision-making and therefore more effective teachers.
What is nature of performance assessment?
The nature of performance assessment is not solely to communicate what the
student has learned, but also how the student is able to explain, demonstrate, model,
apply and/or reflect upon what she has learned. Rather than a “snapshot” of student
learning, a performance assessment serves as a “scrapbook” illustrating the direction and
steps a student has taken in her learning (Afflerbach, 2000).
Inherent in performance assessment is the ability to establish specific criteria and
track the progress toward those criteria. Performance assessment becomes a
communication tool between teacher and student, as well as a self-monitoring tool for the
student (McTighe, 1997). This communication process provides a context to help
students become familiar with the culture of assessment and learning (Afflerbach, 2000).
Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment
Implication: If future teachers see their role in assessment as that of an advisor and
mentor as opposed to the unquestionable authority and giver of grades, students will still
be learning after the “teaching” has ended and “testing” has begun.
How are performance assessments used?
Performance assessments are comprised of three basic components: the
performance, the established criteria, and the observers’ judgments and feedback to be
communicated. The power of performance assessment as a learning tool lies in its ability
to incorporate these three components into a dynamic learning and teaching process.
The performance may take the form of a presentation, an art project, a student
interview, or any situation in which the student has an opportunity to demonstrate her
understanding of the concept in question. Student performances are not limited to artistic
creations or dramatic presentations. The assessment of written works, such as reports,
essays or letters can be used throughout the writing process.
Standard criteria for what is acceptable are agreed upon by all participants and are
clearly communicated prior to the performance. A rubric is a common tool used in
performance assessment to communicate gradations of quality in a given performance.
Each participant (the student herself, other students, the teacher…) has an
opportunity to judge the performance against the criteria, and to communicate that
judgment. This process benefits all participants, whether they are providing feedback,
receiving feedback, or learning from the comments of others.
Implication: Future teachers must be aware of the relationship between performance
assessment as an educational construct and common performance assessment tools.
Teachers who are familiar with this relationship will understand the difference between
Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment
the assessment tool and its role in the assessment process, and thus be able to use those
assessment tools more effectively.
The field of educational assessment has seen a recent shift from discussions of
traditional approaches in the measurement of student learning to discussions of
alternative assessment methods. Such methods are viewed as a means to provide more
immediate and formative feedback for the purpose improving instruction and enhancing
student learning. Teacher educators are now in a position to incorporate these recent
dialogues into their course content.
We have identified four major topics of discussion related to performance
assessment and suggested their direct implications for professionals in the field of teacher
preparation. We discussed the difference between the construct of assessment and the
forms it has traditionally taken: paper-and-pencil tests. We then identified the nature of
assessment as a relationship between students’ learning and teachers’ instruction. Next,
we focused on the nature and purpose of performance assessment. Finally, we described
the three major components of a performance assessment.
We have purposefully avoided mentioning any given group of students in our
discussion of assessment. Although we are educators of Deaf and hard of hearing
students specifically, we believe that the current discussions of the relationship between
assessment and learning are applicable to the education of all learners. The view of
assessment and it’s relationship to learning holds true regardless of whether a student is
Deaf or hearing, child or adult.
Emerging Trends in Performance Assessment
Afflerbach, P. (personal communication, November 14, 2000).
Afflerbach, P. (in press). Teaching reading self-assessment strategies. In C. Block & M.
Pressley (Eds.), Reading comprehension strategies for successful readers.
Messick, S. (1995). Standards of validity and the validity of standards in performance
assessment. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 14, (4), 5-8.
McTighe, J. (1997). What happens between assessments? Educational Leadership, 54, 612.
Shepard, L. (1991). Psychometricians’ beliefs about learning. Educational Researcher,
20, 2-16.
Tierney, R.J., Readence, J., & Dishner, E. (1995). Reading strategies and practices.
Needham, Heights. MA: Allyn & Bacon.