A group of teachers standing in a room discussing example performances assessments that are posted on the wall.
In the midst of a pandemic, educators are striving to creatively and effectively motivate and engage students in meaningful learning opportunities in a variety of environments: in-person school with masks and social distancing, fully virtual settings with synchronous and/or asynchronous components, and hybrid blends of the two. At the same time, educators still need critical formal and informal assessment data about student learning and achievement to ensure instruction meets students' needs. To support educators statewide, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is providing waivers and emergency guidance to reduce the need for in-person testing and allow multiple pathways for students to demonstrate learning. The shifts in policy and instruction resulting from the necessity of the moment present a perfect opportunity to expand approaches to assessment by rethinking how educators evaluate what students know and can do. Enter: performance assessments.
High-quality performance assessments challenge students to apply complex knowledge and demonstrate skills to construct an answer, produce a product, or perform an activity that can be both fun and rigorous. 1 “Performance assessment” refers to the entire assessment, which might include several student performance tasks and the instructions, rubric, and materials that teachers use to support students and measure their skills. Performance assessments provide opportunities for both educators and students to be innovative, creative, and adaptable in ways that lead to the development of what Virginia promotes as the “5 Cs”: critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and citizenship. These assessments can be adapted to a variety of content areas, students' interests and passions, and formats, from essays and reports to demonstrations and portfolios. The adaptability of performance assessments is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic as many teachers are looking for flexible and engaging assessment options.
VDOE embarked on efforts to integrate performance assessments into teaching and learning nearly two years ago in order to promote alternatives to traditional standardized assessments, such as multiple-choice tests, in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and the humanities. The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia partnered with two Virginia public school divisions to support the implementation of performance assessments in science in grades 4–8. The goal of the project was to co-create accessible resources with our partners in the field and support the implementation of high-quality performance assessments through on-going coaching relationships. REL Appalachia staff documented input from teachers about their experiences using performance assessments and, in partnership with science teachers and district leaders, assembled an array of resources to help educators develop and implement high-quality performance assessments detailed below.
Supports for high-quality performance assessment implementation
Teacher Traci Holland supports her students in completing their performance-based task by asking probing questions.
To learn more about performance assessments, review the resources below and check our site regularly for upcoming events and new resources.
Trainings and course materials from the REL program
REL Appalachia partner organizations
Footnotes:1 J. McTighe (2014), Designing cornerstone performance tasks to promote meaningful learning and assess what matters most. Jay McTighe & Associates Consulting. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/ela/resources/ McTighe_Handout_2%5B1%5D.pdf
Kori Hamilton Biagas