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This paper intends to discuss Performance Based Assessment (PBA) as a form alternative assessment in the classroom in line with my background as a classroom teachers before undergoing this course. The paper will also look at rationale for the choice of PBA and consider ways I can implement it in my school. Finaly I will consider the challenges that a teacher is likely to face and the possible solutions.
First we need to understand the meaning of assessment. Black and Wiliam (1998, p. 2) defines assessment as all those activities undertaken by teachers and their students in assessing themselves, which will provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities. This type of diagnostic assessment is known as formative assessment (assessment for learning) as it uses feedback and feed-forward for students and teachers to improve learning, contrary to summative assessment, which is usually undertaken after a period of instruction and requires making a judgment about the learning that has occurred. Carol, B (2002). Therefore in this paper I would be discussing my former conceptualizations about formative assessment and my current position as a learner in AKU.
This paper will deal with performance based assessment (PBA). Other types of alternative assessments include portfolio, peer assessment, self assessment projects etc.
BACKGROUND (MICRO AND MACRO POLICIES)
At the national level, the Kenya National Examinations Council is charged with the responsibility of conducting for school and post-school summative assessment (examinations) except for tertiary institutions such as universities. (http://www.examscouncil.or.ke/)
My school assessment policy
Teachers were supposed to give one assessment (continuous test) at the end of every week. Purpose, to show the progress of the students on a weekly basis. Apart from the weekly assessment pupils also sit for mid-term and end-term commercial exams.
Class seven and eight are given test at the beginning of the term for the purpose of screening the pupils to be enrolled in the respective classes. Group marking of the test is done using the subject panel members. In addition to the classroom and weekly assessment pupils in class seven and eight sit for end-term mock commercial examination. The rationale for this test was to prepare pupils for the national exam (KCPE). Although mock examinations have been discouraged by the ministry of education; the school administration believed that the printed mock exams will make the candidates familiarize with printed exams.
To carryout classroom assessment at the end of every lesson to â€¦. Whether the lesson objectives were achieved, identify area which need more clarification etc. I also used t carry out assessment at the beginning of some lessons to gauge the extent to the previous lesson's objectives were achieved and introduce the current lesson. In addition I used to carry out weekly test also were used to identify students general and individual weaknesses so that they are given remedial lessons. Talk about giving home works and projects as part of assessment.
This kind of assessment has been widespread among teachers as confirmed by, Weeden, P., Winter, J., Broadfoot, P., (2002) who say that, research carried out in England in 1984 showed that assessment policies of schools tended to focus on how work would be marked and how assessment would be structured during the year. Most schools emphasized on the collection and recording of data about students so that they could be graded and compared. (Pg 125)
Alternative mode of assessment (performance-based assessment PBA)
Having acquired new skills on assessment my focus has shifted from what most proponents of alternative assessment call the traditional paper-pencil test which emphasizes on validity and reliability only as a basis of their acceptability Frey B. & Schmitt Vicki L. (2010), to other alternative modes of assessment. I have decided to choose performance based assessment as one, among the many other alternative assessments I would use in my teaching career.
Numerious educational researchers such as Brookhart, 1999; McMillan, 2001; Mertler, 2003; Popham,1997, and 2005; Stiggins, 1995 have recommended the use of performance based assessment. Frey B. & Schmitt Vicki L. (2010) pg 109.
What is performance based assessment and how it is different from traditional assessment
According to Violeta, C., Marini, A., & McDougall, D (1998) performance assessment as a sort of assessment that involves "real life" open-ended, activities that are intended to measure aspects of higher order thinking. P 145. Performance assessment involves students performing a variety of practically relevant tasks tailored to skills to be assessed, controlled in a standardized testing situation using predefined criteria. Cunningham G (1998) describes Performance based assessment as "â€¦ an authentic alternative form of assessment in which students are assessed directly by having them perform high level. Real-world tasks, often in a group setting"
The question is how is performance based assessment different from the "conventional assessments" that are used by most of the teachers (including myself)? Reynolds, Livingston & William (2006) differentiate the two by asserting that conventional paper and pencil test emphasizes rote memorization and other low level cognitive skills at the expense of higher-order conceptual and problem solving skills, while PBA requires test takers to complete a process or produce a product in a context related to a real world situation. Pg239. This means that conventional tests provide a limited amount of information of learners. They primarily tell us how students compare with each other, which is only useful for assigning grades. Cunningham (1998) sums by saying, "In order for an assessment to be labeled as performance -based assessment, it is necessary to have the student respond by doing something other than select the correct answer from among several choices or provide a single word answer." Pg 121
Rationale for assessment chosen
There are numerous reasons why PBA is important as a classroom assessment. Banks (2005) pg 165 enumerates four reasons why it is important for teachers to use Performance Bases Assessment in class instead of the traditional tests. First, it appears to give the learners more intrinsic motivation than the traditional test. Second, it is flexible, in that the students can develop their own interests. Third, it helps students to apply learnt knowledge in real world setting, hence it is authentic. Fourth, it develops the learner's critical thinking, problem solving and creative skills as stressed by Moon T, & Callahan C, (2001).
'If learners should be able to solve problems, be critical and analytic thinkers, and be able to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired, then educators must use assessment tools that can accurately gauge the success of learners in achieving those goals.' p 48
In addition to the above PBA provides feedback to both the teacher and the learner which can be integrated into the instructional process to provide additional learning experiences for students. Brualdi (1998) pg 2.
How to implement
Now that I have decided on performance assessment, then the next task would be how to implement this type of assessment in school. Violato, C,. et al 1998 argues that the content of performance assessment test instruments must be related to the school curriculum. Earlier I have mentioned that assessment is not a stand alone activity or task in the teaching learning process, it should therefore be integrated into the lesson. Planning, actual teaching and after teaching. This means that I have to abandon to some extent my usual ways of administering classroom assessment of for example giving students multiple choice tasks or fill in the blanks tasks at the end of the lesson to a more elaborate alternative assessment (PBA) to make meaning full inferences into the learning needs of my students.
The first step would be the identification of a suitable tasks for assessment during lessons, which would require students to respond to a small number of significant tasks rather than a large number of less significant tasks. Popham 2005 says that the selection of tasks will depend on the inferences the teacher wants to make about the students learning and the decisions to make on the inferences pg 181. Popham 2005 continues to give seven characteristics of a good PBA.
Generalizability. Students performance will generalize to comparable tasks.
Authencity. Does the task imitate real world situation
Multiple foci. Does it measure multiple instructional outcomes?
Teachability. Will the task make students to become more proficient
Fairness. Is the task taking into consideration students individual differences?
Feasibility. Is the task implementable in relation to time, space and resources?
Scorabilty. Can students' responses be reliably and accurately evaluated? Pg 181
However, Popham 2005 contends that, it is not a must for PBA test to satisfy all the seven characteristics.
With above characteristics in mind the first step is to identify a performance based task. For example, in my subject area; Geography in map reading a possible student the task can be 'determining distances and areas using scales on maps and the earth surface using the school playground'. Form2.
With this kind of skills task one can assess both the process and product of assessment. Lund. J, K. & Kirk, M F (2005) state that "How students complete (process) an assessment is just as important as the final product" pg 20
The second step is to develop instructions that clearly state what students are expected to do. Reynolds, C R., Livingstone R., & William V., (2006) recommend that the instructions should specify the types of responses the teacher expects from the students.
The third step is to develop scoring rubrics for evaluating students' responses and share it with the students Reynolds, C R., Livingstone R., & William V., (2006), so that they can self assess when undertaking the test. Popham 2005 classifies rubrics into task specific, hypergeneral and skill-focused rubrics. While on the other hand Mertler Craig (2001) classifies them into holistic and analytical. For the holistic rubric the assessor gives an overall score, without judging the component parts separately. On the other hand analytic rubric, the assessor gives separate scores, individual criteria, then sums the individual scores to obtain an overall score. For the above task an analytical rubric with skill focus would be most appropriate. The skills to focus on would include observation, measurement, drawing and interpretation skills. Space may not allow me to develop a rubric for the above assessment. Specific performance criteria and indicators need to be developed.
The individual and overall scores will help in giving feedback to the teacher and students on the area of strength and weaknesses in the learning process.
4.0 Challenges and possible solutions
Violato C, et al notes that for the first time students may become anxious or envious especially if the test is "high stake" assessment which determines pass or fail. The
Popham 2005 gives three common sources of errors when scoring student performances which can contribute to making inaccurate inferences as:
Flaws in the scoring instrument which might lead to unreliable ratings. Reynolds, C R et al suggests that it would be appropriate for teachers to request their colleagues to critique their scoring rubric before using it. Pg 255
Procedural flows and errors associated with teachers personal biases. This is tendency of teachers using large number of evaluative criteria which can result in ambiguities. The solution to this problem is to select few evaluative criteria.
Teachers' personal bias errors when scoring student work. Some of these include; generosity errors when teachers' rating results in higher rating than deserved, severity errors which occurs when teachers underrates students work and central tendency errors which occurs when a teacher tends to give all students scores in the middle range. In addition teachers personal bias can result from what Reynolds et al (2006) pg 254 called the halo effect which is associated with the tendency of assessors being influenced by a positive or negative trait of the student which not related to the traits or skills being tested. Pg 24. the best possible way to reduce the halo effect is by scoring students performances anonymously (without knowing the students identity).
Gipps Performance assessments is time consuming, tends to provide detailed multi-dimensional information about a particular skill or area. Scoring is generally complex ans usually involves the classroom teacher ; standardization of the performance is not possible and therefore reliability in the traditional sense is not high.PG 100. Paraphrase
Resistance from pupils
According to my experience I would recommend starting with simple PBA tasks to motivate the learners and gradually increase the difficulty of tasks depending on individual and group differences.
because the possibility of reaching them is more probable and therefore more
motivating. Later when pupils are used to working with the learners get acquinted with more their pupils, they can prepare the materials or tasks in different
diffuculty levels in mutual cooperation. The main intention is to encourage
pupils to learn, not to discourage them
Popham, W. J. (2008). Transformative assessment.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD
Pophan 2008 pg 11 contends that it is not a must for all classroom assessments be formative assessment since teachers could administer other tests (traditional) that do not improve grades but rather to exclusive assign grades in certain cases.