If you are trying to create a balanced assessment system with a combination of formative and summative assessments, don’t dismiss the use of performance tasks.
Performance tasks could be considered the “jack of all trades.” They can be used as learning experiences, formative assessments, or as summative assessments and performance tasks can enhance student learning and assessment.
With Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there are opportunities to rethink how we approach the education of our students. We want our students to be prepared for life and college, which requires that students are engaged in challenging learning and are provided the feedback they need to learn and succeed. ESSA requires that states have high academic standards and annual assessments measuring progress in attaining those standards—and planning for this provides educators with the opportunity to use performance tasks to enhance student learning.
Using performance tasks in the classroom allows for students to take their surface and deep learning and move into conceptual learning through the application of the knowledge and skills to a challenging situation that generates new learning and discoveries. Designing and Using Performance Tasks: Enhancing Student Learning and Assessment outlines the process to develop a quality performance task and promotes the use of performance tasks as learning experiences, but it doesn’t dismiss the use of performance tasks as formative or summative assessments. The quality performance tasks developed allow students to demonstrate their level of understanding and the application of the learning intentions and accompanying success criteria.
Now, not all performance tasks are created equal. They fall along a continuum from a basic performance task, such as writing an argument, on one end and an authentic performance task at the other end, such as when students are design and plant a garden in the school courtyard that can be used by the school cafeteria. In between are real-world tasks, which are more practical on a day-to-day basis and allow teachers to be creative while exposing students to a variety of real-world professions and what people in those positions would produce. A key attribute to a real-world performance task is a motivating context that engages students and brings relevance to their learning.
Do you think middle school students would be motivated and find relevance in writing an informative article on the events and causes of the American Revolution? What if they were told that they are they are a staff writer for the Washington Post and the paper wants to highlight the opening of the Museum of the American Revolution, which opens on April 19, 2017, with different articles on the American Revolution?
When creating performance tasks, aim for real-world tasks and, when possible, authentic performance tasks for learning and assessment and engage students through a motivating and relevant context. Move students from surface to deep and conceptual level of learning that challenge and motivate student learning.