Overview of Alternative Assessment Approaches

Published: 2010

What Tools Should I Use for Assessing Learning?

Assessments can be classified into four categories: tests, product/project assessments, performance assessments, and process skills assessments. All types are useful; however, each has limitations. Therefore, maintaining a balance becomes of utmost importance.

The chart that follows presents a wide range of assessment ideas from which you can choose in devising your assessment system. The left column lists the test devices tradtionally used to assess knowledge. The items in the remaining columns are primarily assessment activities rather than devices - the basis for authentic measurement. Students demonstrate knowledge and skills through performance of authentic tasks. Assessment of their performance would be done using such devices as checklists or rating scales or rubrics, which will be discussed in the final section of this guide. In some cases, particularly in the right-hand column, some assessment devices are listed in amongst the assessment activities. This is because the line between learning activities and assessment activities ideally should be nonexistent. A student watching another student complete a process could use an observation checklist to assess the peer's performance. The student observer and his/her peer are both learning and assessing. The functions are simultaneous and inseparable.

Please note that this is just an idea list; it is not the intent of this guide to provide in-depth information about each of the items listed. For inservice teachers, many, if not most, of these activities and devices are probably already familiar to you. For preservice teachers, if you haven't covered some of these items and would like more information, check in the library or ask your teacher educators.

Assessment Ideas for Individuals and Groups

 

Tests Products/Projects Performances Process Skills
Essay
Multiple-choice
Matching
Short answer
True/False
Ads
Advice columns
Artifacts
Audiocassettes Autobiographies
Banners
Blueprints
Book reviews
Books
Brochures
Bulletin boards
Cartoons
Case studies
Collages
Computer creations
Costumes of characters Crossword puzzles
Databases
Diaries of historical periods Directories
Displays
Drawings
Foods of a country or time period
Games
Graphs, charts, diagrams
Graphic organizers
Handbooks
How-to books
In-class group essays
Job applications
Job descriptions
Journals
Lab reports
Learning centers
Learning logs
Letters to parents, editor, TV station, or a business
Maps
"Me Bag" for introductions
Mobiles
Models
Movie reviews
Newspapers for historical periods
Pamphlets
Parenting job descriptions
Patterns
Peer editing critiques
Pen-pal letters
Photographs
Picture dictionaries
Portfolios
Posters
Product descriptions
Projects
Proposals
Protest letters
Questionnaires
Research centers
Research papers
Results of surveys
Resumes
Reviews of TV programs
Scrapbooks
Short stories
Simulation games
Slide presentations
Soap opera parodies
Story illustrations
Student-kept charts
Tests Timelines
Travel folders
Videotapes
Want ads
Work products
Writing portfolios
Activities
Announcements
Anthems
Apologies
Ballads
Beauty tips
Campaign speeches Character sketches Charades
Classroom maps Commercials
Conferences
Cooperative learning group activities
Dances
Debates
Demonstrations Discussions
Dramas
Exercise routines Experiments
Explanations
Fashion shows
Field trips
Interactive book reviews Interviews
Introductions
Jingles
Job interviews
Jump-rope rhymes Laboratory expeniences
Person-on-the-street
interviews
News reports
Oral histories of events
Pantomimes
Plays
Presentations Psychomotor skills
Puppet shows
Reports
Role plays
Sales pitches
Simulations
Singing of songs from historical periods
Skits
Sociograms
Song writing to fit a topic
Speeches
Spoofs Storytelling Surveys
Tongue twisters
TV talk shows
Verbal comparisons
Warnings
Weather reports
Anecdotal records
Checklist observations for processes
Concept mapping Conferences: teacher and peer
Debriefing interviews
Debriefing questioning for lesson closure
Experiences checklists
Interactional analyses
Interviews
Invented dialogs
Journal entries regarding processes
Learning logs
Metaphor analyses
Observations
Oral questioning
Process-folios
Question production
Responses to reading
Retelling in own words
Tailored responses
Telling how they did something and justifying the approach used

Tests

For information on how to improve your proficiency with paper-pencil testing, a good source is Assessing Learning by Lowell Hedges, which is available through Ohio's Vocational Instructional Materials Laboratory. It also contains additional information about alternative assessments, particularly performance testing.

Product/Project Assessments

A project can be an assessment task given to an individual student or a group of students on a topic related to the curriculum. The project results in a product that is assessed. The processes used during the project could also be assessed. The project may involve both in-class and out-of-class research and development. The project should be primarily a learning experience, not solely an assessment task.

Projects have always been a part of the curriculum. The elementary school curriculum is full of projects. Unfortunately, in high school the number of creative projects decreases, while the number of written research papers and multiple-choice tests increases.

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing a quality product from a project assessment task. Therefore, teachers should allow some class time to work on the project. The complexity of the project will determine the time allotment required. Also, the criteria for evaluation should be determined before starting the project by the teacher and students working together.

Burke (1994) identifies the following advantages of project assessment tasks:
1. Allow the students to formulate their own questions and then try to find answers to them
2. Provide students with opportunities to use their multiple intelligences to create a product
3. Allow teachers to assign projects at different levels of difficulty to account for individual learning styles and ability levels
4. Can be motivating to students
5. Provide an opportunity for positive interaction and collaboration among peers
6. Provide an alternative for students who have problems reading and writing
7. Increase the self-esteem of students who would not get recognition on tests or traditional writing assignments
8. Allow for students to share their learning and accomplishments with other students, classes, parents, or community members
9. Can achieve essential learning outcomes through application and transfer

Assessment, Portfolios, Exhibitions

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