Performance assessment, known as authentic or alternative assessment, requires students to perform a task or complete an activity that demonstrates their learning in a particular area rather than select answers about that area on an objective test. Performance assessment is used for assessing what students can do rather than what they know. Some disciplinary areas, such as those in the arts and humanities, rely primarily on performance assessment to determine what students can do.
Examples of common assessment activities include writing essays or research papers, creating artistic works, or performing a dance or a musical piece. Performance assessment is also used in labs in clinical settings. However, this type of assessment need not be confined to only the arts and humanities and professional programs. In any disciplinary area where real-world performance tasks can be designed, performance assessment can be used and should be used when it is important to assess procedural knowledge rather than content knowledge. Performance assessments are often not used because of issues with scoring efficiency and consistency. Rubrics are a very useful tool for increasing scoring efficiency and ensuring scoring consistency and should always be used to evaluate performance assessments.
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Rhode Island Department of Education & the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment (n.d.). Calibration protocol for scoring student work. Providence, RI: Author.