What’s all the fuss about performance assessment?

Performance assessment is not just a passing fad – it is an essential part of a complete and balanced assessment plan.

Let’s be honest – some outcomes simply can’t be measured by a test or quiz. And just because students need to complete some multiple choice tests during their schooling doesn’t mean that we have to use tests as the default assessment format within our classrooms. We have the opportunity – and responsibility – to help prepare our students for the real world. After all, when was the last time you had to do a multiple choice test within your world of work? For me it was decades ago, but that’s a topic for another day!

Performance assessment provides a way for students to demonstrate skills, processes, and competencies, such as critical thinking and creativity, through open-ended tasks that focus on big ideas from the curriculum.

Chances are you are already using performance tasks, but they may exist within your unit plans as projects. With a bit of planning, you can take your projects to the next level. Here are some tips to make it easier for you and your students!

  1. Start small.
    • Start with something that can be completed in one class period or two. Don’t spend too long crafting the perfect task. Instead, put a prototype in action as quickly as possible, and use the lessons you learn on your next attempt.
  2. Collaborate with your colleagues.
    • Work together to create a good question or prompt for the task, then collaborate at the end to examine student work together and reflect on what you’ve learned.
  3. Clarify the learning destination for yourself.
    • What is the learning that really matters here? Will the task you have in mind actually provide the opportunity to demonstrate that learning? Remember that the details of the mode of presentation may not be the most important part of the task. This may be a shift for the students – and their parents! And be sure to check that the rubric is also measuring those same things that really matter.
  4. Clarify the learning destination for your students.
    • How will you build a shared understanding of the learning goals of the activity? Are students clear on the qualities of excellent work?
  5. Consider the needs of all your students.
    • Does the task have entry points for every student in your class? Will students have opportunities to take the learning further if they’re able?
  6. Provide opportunities for practice and feedback.
    • Students need opportunities to practice, receive feedback, and use the feedback to improve, before you assign a mark to their work. Feedback is a checkup, not an autopsy!
  7. Provide choice whenever possible.
    • This might be choice in the question or topic students are responding to, the way in which they demonstrate their learning, or the types of scaffolding available.
  8. Involve students in the assessment process
    • This might include providing time for students to review exemplars, examine their work in relation to the exemplars, engage in peer feedback and self-reflection on work in progress, and set goals for next steps.
  9. Look for ways to include an authentic audience.
    • Students from another class or grade? Presentation to an outside audience? Work displayed inside or outside of school? Digital sharing of the work? A performance task should connect to, or at least mirror, something within the real world.
  10. Don’t panic!
    • The open-ended nature of performance tasks requires a level of independence and risk-taking that might be unfamiliar to your students. Be patient with them, and with yourself!

 

And here’s one last bonus tip – not everything students do needs to be included in their report card mark. That’s right! When an assessment format is new for students (and perhaps also for their teachers), everyone needs time to learn, reflect, and try again.

 

What opportunities exist for including a performance task within your current unit plan? Give it a try! The results may astound you!

Looking for some ideas? Check out https://aac.ab.ca/materials/.

Does test prep have to look like test prep?

The test is coming! The test is coming! Break out the practice questions and bubble sheets!!

We know that some of our students are required to take large-scale assessments, and that the results matter, to a greater or lesser degree, to students, parents, teachers, schools, and districts. Naturally, we want our students to perform to the best of their ability on these assessments.

So that means lots of practice multiple choice tests, right? Maybe it would be best if we model all our assessments on the format of these exams? And wouldn’t it be helpful if students in the grades leading up to the test years also get lots of practice on multiple choice tests?

Not so fast!

Multiple choice tests have their place. They’re straightforward to administer and easy to grade. They can provide some evidence of learning, especially if you’re assessing a student’s knowledge.

But… there’s danger in over-doing multiple choice – and, the information you can get from a multiple choice test is limited.

They require students to recognize correct responses, rather than create ones of their own.

Students can answer questions about a skill, but that’s different than demonstrating the skill themselves.

Multiple choice questions can tell us if a student got the right answer, but not always how.

They tell us if a student got the wrong answer, but not always why.

They aren’t very accessible to our students who have learning challenges, and the comprehension load means that students whose first language is not English are at a disadvantage.

When you look at a Program of Studies for any subject or grade level, it’s easy to find outcomes that simply are not assessable at all through a multiple choice question. That’s why it’s important that we gather evidence in a variety of other ways.

So, how do we prepare our students to do their best on large-scale assessments? If not lots of multiple choice practice tests, then what?

Here are some review strategies that don’t require students to get hopelessly lost in bubble sheets before the big day.

Debates can help students review big ideas and supporting details on a number of topics, which can be invaluable in preparing for written response questions. This activity can also provide important background information for source based multiple choice items.

Have students work in groups to answer a section of multiple choice items. Ask students to identify the correct answer, and to analyze why the other responses are incorrect. By so doing, they can become familiar with how distractors are embedded within the question design.

Use a jigsaw format to help students review large amounts of content, and then prepare to share what they have learned with other groups of students. Of course, teachers will need to oversee the information to ensure its accuracy before it is shared with other groups. This technique can motivate students to do their best work as they realize the benefits of working together and sharing.

Ask students to deconstruct a higher order thinking sample question to determine the background knowledge required in order to answer the question. Students can work together to develop questions (and answers) based on this background knowledge. These questions can be shared with other groups of students or as a whole class review prior to working to solve the answer to the question.

Game show formats can be used to help students become confident with background information they will need in order to answer more in-depth questions on the test. Be sure that the highest level categories require students to synthesize their knowledge and skills in order to answer the type of questions the curriculum requires and that they are likely to see on the test.

All of the above strategies can be used to help students not only review the content and skills they need to know, but they can also help students learn more about how multiple choice tests are designed. These strategies can help students prepare for the test without adding more anxiety.

And the best part of all – none of these review strategies require additional marking! After all, if a student is anxious about an upcoming large-scale test, and the preparation for the test includes multiple days of practice tests that are marked, we are potentially accumulating more and more evidence of what the student doesn’t know, or doesn’t feel confident to do. Our students don’t need any more anxiety in their lives!

We can change all that – and perhaps even have a bit of fun in the meantime. And who doesn’t need a bit of laughter and true engagement at a time like this?

This term, this year – let’s make test prep not even remotely look like test prep!

Hey Leaders! Do you know how important your work is?

Hey Leaders! Do you know how important your work is?

Seriously! It’s true.

In a review of the research, Leithwood, Louis, Anderson and Wahlstrom (2004) determined that “…leadership not only matters: it is second only to teaching among school-related factors in its impact on student learning…”

With the new TQS and LQS officially in place, AAC has a fabulous new resource to support you as leaders in having important conversations about – what else but classroom assessment, of course!

This new resource has been developed especially for busy school leaders – like you! This resource:

  • is based on 32 AAC videos that show real teachers and real students engaged in effective classroom assessment – in real schools – like yours.
  • contains background information to help you lead conversations about assessment with your staff.
  • provides a suggested framework for creating a school-based assessment team – a bonus to help broaden the conversation about assessment within your school.


Click to Download PDF

Now that the first round of reporting and conferencing has finished, this is a perfect time to reflect on any assessment questions that were raised throughout that process.

Yes, you can be an instructional leader in assessment! And the reason that matters, is so that we can reach all the students under our care – even the ones who seem difficult to reach.

Check it out! This work was funded through a development contract with the Alberta Teachers’ Association to support implementation of the TQS and the LQS. It’s available to everyone!

Want more information? Contact us info@aac.ab.ca and we can help with ideas on how to make the most of this resource.

Important Conversations… At Any Time of the Year

Report cards, conferences, checking the online parent portal for the latest entry, looking at your child’s test or project rubric – what matters most to you?

Is it your child’s grades? Where they are in relation to their classmates? Or are you more concerned with their attitude toward learning? Where they’re being successful, and where they struggle?

If you’re like me, the one thing you really want to know is that the teacher knows your child as an individual. They understand your child’s strengths and learning needs. They have a plan to help your child keep moving forward. And they see you as a partner in that learning journey.

Teachers communicate with parents in many different ways. When you’re not sure how to approach one of these important conversations, it’s important to see the big picture of your child’s experience in school.

A report card can never tell a complete story about the learning that happens at school, no matter how many grades it includes or how long a comment the teacher writes. It’s simply a snapshot. Some parents have access to their children’s grades online, but again – marks tell only one part of the story!

So be cautious about putting too much focus marks and grades. If everything your child does in class is marked and ‘counts’ towards the report card, where is the time for learning? School should be a safe space where students can learn, make mistakes, receive feedback, reflect on their learning, make adjustments to work in progress, and apply their learning in new situations. As parents, we can step back a bit, and give our children that space.

Instead of focusing on the grades, imagine that your child could select a piece of work to represent their learning – one they are particularly proud of, that shows the growth they have made over time. What could they tell you about their learning journey? It doesn’t matter whether your child earns top marks or faces learning challenges at school. They will benefit from seeing that you believe the growth and learning that has happened, and is still to come, is more important than the grade on a paper or a report card!

Conferences, whatever their format, offer another, often richer, source of information. When you have an opportunity for a conversation with your child’s teacher, come prepared with some questions in mind. Here are some ideas…

  • What do you see as my child’s greatest strength at school? What makes them feel proud and accomplished?
  • How does my child’s skill in ____ (e.g. writing, reading, mathematics, oral language…) compare to where they were 2 months ago? What can we do at home to help them continue to grow in this area?
  • Here’s something we see at home that concerns us: _________. Do you have any ideas that could help us deal with this together?
  • What concerns you the most about my child’s learning? What plans do you have to support them in this area? How can we help support?

Of course there is a place for grades and end-of-year reporting. But often the journey is more important than the destination. Mid-year report cards and conferences should be a time to celebrate the learning to date, and look ahead to the rest of the year. All children deserve a chance to feel proud, confident, and hopeful!

What Do Parents Really Want To Know?

Report cards or progress reports, and parent/student/teacher conferences can be a stressful time, no matter when they take place.

Some parents seem focused on grades. Some want class averages. Some want to know that their child is at the top of the class. Some want to know that their child isn’t at the bottom of the class.

Some want to know that their child is ‘fitting in’.

But no matter how parents present themselves at these conferences, I think most parents really want to know that their child’s teacher knows their child as an individual learner. Does the teacher know their child’s strengths and learning needs? How is the teacher working to help their child? What can parents do to support learning at home?

In preparing for these important conversations, let’s take a page out of social media. It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. What if a teacher took less than 288 characters to explain the grades! What if a student selected a piece of their work to represent their learning? And while we’re at it, how much more convincing could the story of the learning journey be from the perspective of the student?

Marks only tell part of the story.

School should be a time for learning. If everything a student does in class is marked and ‘counts’ towards the report card, where is the time for learning? School should be a safe place where students can learn, make mistakes, receive feedback, reflect on their learning, make adjustments to work in progress, and apply new insights to the next learning event.

Of course there is a place for summative grades and end-of-year reporting. But often the journey is more important than the destination. As adults we recognize this within our own lives. We need to allow students that same opportunity. Mid-year report cards and conferences should be a time to celebrate the learning to date, and look ahead to the rest of the year.

Think about a student that you worry about. Maybe this is the year that student gains confidence and hope. This video by Rick Stiggins might provide an opportunity to think about how you can use formative assessment to support the vulnerable students in your class this year.

Assessment to support vulnerable students

Watch it yourself, share it with a colleague, and then talk about how what this could mean for your students this year.

We’ve all taught vulnerable students. I only wish that I had known about formative assessment when I started my teaching career. And while none of us can go back, we can all go forward.

Formative assessment is a powerful way to help students learn and to be motivated to learn. And at the end of the day, isn’t that really what we all want for our students?

Test Error 500 Page 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

Test Error 500 Page

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

“There’s just not enough time to cover the curriculum if students don’t work together. And there definitely isn’t time to have students do a project that I can’t use for marks.”

While group work is an important part of the curriculum, it is essential that individual student grades be based on what individual students know and can do. A student’s grade cannot be based on what another student has – or has not done.

There are many ways to accomplish group work without resorting to group grades. 

AAC Member Only Content

Public Content

Add Your Heading Text Here

Sed placerat molestie velit?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Maecenas ultrices ultricies sapien ut pretium. Donec ullamcorper odio mauris, eget tempor turpis ullamcorper in. Phasellus ullamcorper sagittis turpis eu gravida. Phasellus sodales ac nisi non viverra. Aenean posuere at turpis consequat pellentesque. Sed auctor tellus nibh, eget maximus nisi auctor et. Cras leo tellus, gravida eget gravida ac, blandit eu felis.

Mauris porta tortor sit amet nisl lacinia, eleifend eleifend eros blandit. Sed placerat molestie velit, luctus molestie justo auctor vitae. Nulla facilisi. Nulla tincidunt quam id nibh consequat, nec tristique eros porttitor. Duis nec nulla scelerisque, scelerisque augue id, molestie tellus. Ut rhoncus velit nulla, ac vestibulum turpis consectetur vel. Nunc ullamcorper pharetra metus, lobortis sagittis dolor vulputate et. Praesent tincidunt a nisi at rutrum. Mauris maximus ligula sed consectetur auctor. Morbi fringilla molestie mi, ut fermentum mauris sodales ut. Proin luctus, orci tincidunt imperdiet sollicitudin, leo tellus rhoncus urna, sed consequat quam magna et neque. Integer lobortis, erat vitae auctor facilisis, elit dolor tempus justo, nec finibus dolor augue finibus nisl.

Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Duis egestas lacus vel pharetra sollicitudin. Interdum et malesuada fames ac ante ipsum primis in faucibus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Fusce commodo egestas felis, nec posuere nulla maximus sit amet. Interdum et malesuada fames ac ante ipsum primis in faucibus. Vestibulum varius varius massa sit amet aliquam. Nam eu viverra mi, maximus facilisis arcu. Vestibulum neque libero, faucibus et maximus ut, accumsan sit amet magna. Praesent iaculis velit ac tellus convallis, id sodales libero cursus. Donec accumsan blandit lacus eget sagittis. Ut metus metus, commodo vitae tempor sit amet, feugiat id dolor. Donec malesuada feugiat justo, cursus sollicitudin augue tempus vitae. Nam molestie mattis magna.

Nunc ut ornare erat. Integer sit amet vehicula ante. Vivamus at interdum lacus. Sed in turpis felis. Aenean rhoncus felis elit, vitae finibus eros consequat eget. Quisque laoreet tortor enim, quis rhoncus odio vehicula vitae. Aliquam cursus et lorem elementum efficitur.

Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Morbi ornare ultrices ullamcorper. Phasellus urna ipsum, dictum a hendrerit in, posuere vitae dui. Quisque condimentum, nisi mollis maximus placerat, velit nibh tincidunt odio, tristique euismod odio massa in sapien. Vivamus euismod eu lorem at venenatis. Ut vel dui quis lorem pharetra rhoncus et ac neque. Ut venenatis porttitor ipsum, sed hendrerit nisi egestas non.

Communicating and Reporting

Many jurisdictions have revamped their reporting systems over the past several years. Whether a jurisdiction is creating a new reporting system or reviewing an existing system, many variables and multiple audiences need to be considered. This project was developed in collaboration with AAC member jurisdictions.

This online resource is organized around the following topics. Click the links below to access the video and print resources within each section.

PLEASE NOTE: We are still moving content over to our new site. The videos will be available soon. Thanks for your patience.

Click here to access a pdf document of this resource.

This resource contains over 50 videos which are part of the AAC member collection. Member login is required to access the videos.

Acknowledgements

The Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC) would like to acknowledge the contribution of the following individuals for sharing information about communicating and reporting student learning in their school/jurisdiction.
 Jill Alexander Teacher, Foothills School Division
 Lois Gluck  Supervisor Curricular Services, St. Albert Public
 Linda Inglis  Former Principal, G.H. Luck School
 Janice Ottewell  Teacher, Foothills School Division
 Dorothy Paszkowski  Teacher, Foothills School Division
 Bryan Szumlas  Director Instructional Services, Calgary Catholic
 Colin Woelfle  Consultant, Edmonton Public Schools
AAC would also like to acknowledge the contribution Ken O’Connor has made in heightening awareness of the important principles of communicating about student learning.

New AAC Publication Now Available!

Assessment Conversations: Engaging with Colleagues to Support Student Learning

This new AAC resource has been ‘made for Alberta’. It is a practical resource that every system leader, school leader and teacher can turn to for background information, answers to perplexing assessment questions, and concrete ideas for moving assessment practice forward in classrooms, schools and jurisdictions. 

This publication has been written with the new professional practice standards in mind. Consider this newest AAC resource to be an integral part of planning for implementation of the new standards – for teachers, school leaders and system leaders. 

Available Now from the AAC Store!

Save the GST until May 31.

Public Assurance Discussion Paper

A New Look at Public Assurance: Imagining the Possibilities for Alberta Students

Alberta has much to gain by ensuring that our young learners acquire the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to ensure a solid foundation for future learning. Yet how can we know that students are ‘ready’ for grade four? Is it possible to design alternative assessments that can both support learning and at the same time, assure the public that Alberta students are receiving a high quality, world class education? It is the view of the Alberta Assessment Consortium (AAC) that it is not only possible but highly desirable. Assessment authors and researchers from around the world agree.

A review of international research citing the limitations of large scale accountability systems, followed by a proposed new model of public assurance, tailored for the Alberta context.

New AAC Publication Available Soon!

Assessment Conversations: Engaging with Colleagues to Support Student Learning

 

Designed for formal school and system leaders, as well as for those performing a variety of teacher leadership roles, this resource supports sound classroom assessment practices within the Alberta context.

Background information, AAC resource listings, and discussion questions are included to guide conversations with colleagues.

This resource provides school and system leaders with practical support for meeting professional standards relative to instructional leadership in assessment.

 

Available March 2017 – just in time for professional learning planning for next year!

Search AAC