Four Ways to Prepare Students for More Than Standardized Testing – Part 3

April 4, 2016
Jodi Posadas

Jodi Posadas

In week one of this blog series, I challenged us to use formative assessment as a way for students to show us how they have learned something and the depth of that knowledge. We have thought about using Knows and Need to Knows as a pre-assessment tool within your project. We have discussed self-assessment through portfolios and single-point rubrics and now we move on to performance assessments.

Performance assessments are open-ended tasks that ask students to demonstrate authentic learning of skills and content in a deep and meaningful way.  These assessments should feel important to the project work students are tackling and the outcomes lend themselves to help in finalizing the product.  This type of outcome assesses much more of the students’ understanding and transfer than state-mandated multiple choice testing questions.

Most states have released test questions or questions from curriculum that are multiple choice.  Try your hand at turning those examples into performance assessments for your upcoming project. You can then use the student work you receive to gather important data as to where students are in relation to mastery of content. Let’s look at some examples for how to do this.

Compare the questions in the table below. Which could tell you more about what students have learned and where they still struggle? What type of assessment is more highly engaging to students?

The examples above are specific to revamping state test questions in a more authentic way, but performance assessments are much more than that.  Another example of a performance assessment was described to me by a 2nd grade teacher at Crestview School of Inquiry this week. As part of a project about the eroding land on the playground, students built lego structures to help stop water erosion from occurring.  While they constructed walls and towers, she was able to identify which students had learned appropriate methods from their research and, as a bonus, students were engaged and excited about the work they were doing. She could walk away knowing where individual students were in their understanding about erosion and plan for differentiation immediately.

I recently heard Dan Ariely, Psychology and Economics professor at Duke, on TED Radio Hour discussing the ideas that push us to work hard- even when we don’t have to.  He said something related to labor, but in my opinion, it ties directly to the idea of performance assessments- when the work we are doing feels connected, has meaning, allows for creation, challenge, ownership and pride, we are more likely to have happy and productive students (even while they are being assessed). That statement summarizes what students might feel as they interact with the lego performance assessment and the other options noted above. Try your hand at this form of assessment in an upcoming project and see if you’d agree.

Please share your results with me on twitter @jodihawk. I’d love to see how this impacts your classroom!

Jodi Posadas is the Elementary Coach for New Tech Network.

Read parts onetwo, and four of this series.

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