Overview of Alternative Assessment Approaches
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
Costumes of characters Crossword puzzles
Diaries of historical periods Directories
Foods of a country or time period
Graphs, charts, diagrams
In-class group essays
Letters to parents, editor, TV station, or a business
"Me Bag" for introductions
Newspapers for historical periods
Parenting job descriptions
Peer editing critiques
Results of surveys
Reviews of TV programs
Soap opera parodies
Campaign speeches Character sketches Charades
Classroom maps Commercials
Cooperative learning group activities
Exercise routines Experiments
Interactive book reviews Interviews
Jump-rope rhymes Laboratory expeniences
Oral histories of events
Presentations Psychomotor skills
Singing of songs from historical periods
Song writing to fit a topic
Spoofs Storytelling Surveys
TV talk shows
Checklist observations for processes
Concept mapping Conferences: teacher and peer
Debriefing questioning for lesson closure
Journal entries regarding processes
Responses to reading
Retelling in own words
Telling how they did something and justifying the approach used
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.
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