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Developing performance assessments that produce deeper learning

MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2014 13:04 PM

In an attempt to create more reliable academic performance assessments for both teachers and students, school officials across the U.S. continue to seek out more accurate metrics that can be used that are specific to the education field. With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards gaining steam in many classrooms, teachers and school administrators feel the pressure to provide their students with the best education possible. Many jobs are at stake, and the reputation of a school as a quality academic institution will be challenged if its students do not perform well on the state-mandated exams based on the Common Core. Some teacher advocate organizations are working toward assisting educators and school officials to help alleviate some of that pressure. They believe that using curriculum-embedded achievement measures designed to develop deeper learning in students will help prepare them for college and careers.

The importance of a multifaceted approach to student performance assessment
Educational experts believe that a multifaceted approach to assessments is necessary for student mastery of subject material because it provides different ways to look at student performance. This creates a more accurate gauge of a broader set of skills, knowledge and levels of ability. By accessing all these abilities and skills, students develop a process that allows them to understand material beyond superficial memorization. Multifaceted approaches use analytical tools in conjunction with educational software that will reveal sticking points in individual student learning. This data will then be used to inform educators of the direction they should take the classroom, which students will need more one-on-one time, at what pace students learn best, and the medium in which the most learning occurs. Today's measurements like the SAT and ACT are useful to show how well a student might do in college, but they are limited in providing  information that teachers and school administrators can use to help students before or after taking the exam.

What should a comprehensive, multifaceted approach to assessment look like?
Competencies assessed in these performance measures should include the ability to communicate effectively through a variety of media, the ability to solve content-based problems through critical analysis and problem-solving skills, collaborative abilities and the capacity for self-learning. A group of education experts hired by the 2013 Gordon Commission on Future Assessment in Education decided assessments should meet certain criteria in order to truly prepare students for college and careers. For example, tests based on the Common Core should be able to determine how well students communicate, with questions coming directly from examples in the real world. These exams should also require students' application of critical thinking of the highest order and be able to demonstrate transferrable knowledge to multiple Common Core subjects. The overarching goal of these assessments should be to prepare students for real college and career experiences.