Alternative Assessment Educational Reforms Are Revolutionizing Term Paper

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Alternative Assessment

Educational reforms are revolutionizing the ways in which teachers deliver instruction and how students exhibit their knowledge and skills. Many educators have not been satisfied with traditional assessment tools and practices for some time. For this reason, educators and researchers have been developing more reliable and valid evaluation methods. As a result of this concerted effort, several alternative forms of assessment are now at teachers' disposals.

One of these innovative evaluative practices is performance assessment. Historically, it has been used in action-oriented disciplines; this is an intuitive statement. For example, physical education lends itself particularly well to performance evaluation. In addition, performing arts (i.e., drama, choir, orchestra, etc.) instructors traditionally evaluate students in this way. What is relatively new in education, however, is the widespread practice of assessing learning through students' performance in subjects as diverse as biology, literature, and history.

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As its name implies, performance assessment requires students to demonstrate their grasp of particular ideas, concepts, and processes; it entails a tangible indication of learning objectives. This means students actively engage in the assessment procedure. What's more, evaluation is perceived as an opportunity to extend learning. Research indicates that active learning, as opposed to passive learning, is a most sound instructional custom. Another characteristic of performance assessment includes student participation in the creation of evaluation criteria. This generates a sense of individual responsibility for one's education. Naturally, responsible learners are those for whom education is most worthwhile and enduring.

Term Paper on Alternative Assessment Educational Reforms Are Revolutionizing the Assignment

Examples of performance assessment are numerous and are available in all disciplines. For example, science students may be asked to conduct an experiment. Mathematics pupils may need to build a three-dimensional geometrical shape. Literature students may be expected to critique a poem, short story, or novel. Foreign language learners may be required to generate and enact a realistic situation using targeted vocabulary, grammar, and cultural information. History students may analyze and evaluate a particular event and provide an alternative resolution to it. The ways in which performance assessments are used in classrooms are only limited by teachers' imaginations.

The author of this essay recognizes the inherent value of performance assessments. It appears a sound method of eliciting learners' knowledge and skills. The very nature of performance assessment allows students to arrive at educational objectives through various paths. This is of critical importance, as a flexible notion of education will undoubtedly generate more student enthusiasm and input than more rigid perspectives of learning. Naturally, motivated and responsible learners are preferable to their lethargic and disinterested counterparts. Furthermore, this translates into more dynamic and positive classroom atmospheres.

Another benefit of performance assessments is that they trace the learning process and students' academic growth by way of concrete products. Students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members have tangible student results to which they may refer as they reflect on individual and group progress. Performance assessments folds nicely into the recent emphasis on demonstrating educational achievements.

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of performance assessments is how it tends to positively impact students. Through demonstration of their scholastic abilities, learners may gain or fortify their sense of self-worth. Classrooms that foster positive emotions and experiences undoubtedly contain students who are comfortable with and open to education. What's more, in a safe, predictable, and encouraging environment where tasks are appropriate and obtainable, students are likely to engage in reasonable risk-taking. Many educators would agree that taking risks is central to a life-long relationship with learning.

There exists severe criticism about traditional assessments (i.e., multiple choice tests); many recognize the deficiency and artificiality inherent in these forms of assessment. For this reason, there is a growing movement away from traditional tests and practices towards more authentic assessment methods and tools. Researchers, educators, and policy makers believe authentic assessment is a sound testing practice as it accurately reflects real life situations. In fact, authentic assessment, by its very nature, requires students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in realistic situations or settings.

All authentic assessments have certain characteristics in common. They are open-ended scenarios or problems wherein students may pursue various interpretations, points-of-view, and outcomes. Effective authentic assessments consider the interests, backgrounds, and beliefs of students; meaningful tasks afford learners potent educational experiences. Moreover, authentic assessments require pupils to demonstrate essential knowledge and skills. Conversely, extraneous information remains on the periphery of education. The process and outcomes of authentic assessments prompt students to further question, explore, research, and reflect on the subject at hand. Naturally, students must be able to realistically execute the assigned tasks. In other words, objectives are within reach of learners' abilities. Finally, students are assessed on their demonstration of important knowledge and skills. Astute teachers and pupils collaboratively develop rubrics prior to engaging in tasks; this allows all parties to better direct the learning process.

Acknowledging the benefits found therein, many educators have embraced this novel assessment philosophy and practice. Furthermore, applications of authentic assessments abound. Consider Wall Street Decisions (Moon, Brighton, Callahan, & Robinson 124). This task requires middle school learners to apply mathematical knowledge and skills -- such as estimation, numerical conversions, and rates of change to the stock market. In fact, students select stocks to purchase based on logical thinking and calculations. This project transfers classroom content to realistic situations. Many instructors would agree that students' application of curriculum to the real world is one of the definitive goals of education.

The author of this essay acknowledges and appreciates the value of authentic assessments. As educational research reveals more effective assessment tools and procedures, it is an instructor's professional responsibility to incorporate sound practices into his/her classroom. The advantages of adopting research-based assessment practices are twofold. Obviously, learners are provided with up-to-date classroom activities, curricula, and assessment that undoubtedly enhance their educational experiences. Secondly, educators are cultivating their craft. They are regularly and actively honing their knowledge and skills, rendering them more effective professionals.

Using the characteristics and goals of authentic assessment, instructors can offer students a wide range of powerful learning experiences. In other words, by incorporating genuine evaluation practices into the classroom, students realize that education is applicable to the real world. Furthermore, students realize there are multiple outcomes to education and various interpretations of information. Also, by involving learners in the construction of rubrics, teachers send a meaningful message to students that their input is a critical aspect of assessment. This leads students to accept responsibility for their education. What's more, it augments student motivation thereby increasing the likelihood they will commit to and complete learning objectives. Based on the research supporting authentic assessment, it is no surprise that intelligent educators are embracing this appealing evaluation practice and tool.

Alternative assessments are gradually entering mainstream American classrooms and instructional practices. This is due to a mounting rejection of traditional evaluation tools. Norm-referenced tests -- assessments that compare and rank learners in a group, are the subject of much controversy and criticism. For this reason, many educators now embrace criterion-referenced tests, which measure students' strengths and weaknesses on an individual, non-competitive basis. Said differently, criterion-referenced assessments evaluate what examinees know and what they can do with such knowledge, not how they score in relation to others.

At the conclusion of a lesson or unit, criterion-referenced tests reveal how much individuals have learned about a particular set of objectives. Alternatively, teachers may utilize them before a unit of study in order to assess students' existing knowledge and skill base. The results of such pre- and post-tests are important as they may guide subsequent instruction. In other words, pre-testing outcomes may indicate that students already have ample background knowledge and skills on a particular idea, concept, or process. Therefore, wise teachers eliminate or severely reduce instruction on the mastered area. At the end of a lesson or unit, the results of criterion-referenced tests may require instructors to re-teach a certain aspect of the curriculum. Teachers may even offer remedial instruction on an as needed basis. Naturally, to be effective, such support must be presented in a different form from the original. It seems logical the original instruction did not attend to students' needs.

The author of this article recognizes both positive and negative attributes of criterion-referenced assessments. One benefit of using these tests resides in the potential that all students may reach mastery of learning objectives or educational standards. It allows for individual progress to shape instruction and classroom experiences. When used as a pre-test, criterion-based tests may help teachers determine ability groups. In this way, students are provided instruction that is compatible with their respective needs and abilities. In addition, criterion-referenced tests are objective measurements; they generally do not require subjective interpretation of student knowledge and skills. This quality may prove helpful in pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses of instructional practices and objectives. It may also allow faculty members, parents, and students to track the progress of a unit or course. Finally, criterion-referenced assessments are designed to accurately reflect curriculum. This means that students are tested on the content of prior classroom tasks and activities. When created… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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