Authentic assessment encourages students to use knowledge to create meaning, reflect on work and think in original ways, and assess and redirect learning. Does performance-based assessment benefit students? Absolutely. Does performance-based assessment design require special skills? Alignment to the standards and curriculum? Absolutely.
If you are eager to polish your performance-based assessment design skills, consider earning a micro-credential in this area.
Through the Center for Collaborative Education, I had the opportunity to not only earn micro-credentials, but to also polish my skils and reflect on the design and validation of performance assessments. I completed a stack of three related micro-credentials:
Study the research, resources, and guidelines for each of these micro-credentials. Practice what you learn. Share what you are learning with your colleagues. Submit evidence of your success. Expect to be amazed by what you learn and the impact it will have on your students.
Allow me to share what I learned from completing these micro-credentials. Let’s start by reviewing the assessment I designed.
The Performance Assessment
Students wrote a speech from Desdemona’s perspective or prepared a cover letter and resume from Iago’s perspective to demonstrate knowledge about the power of language- use of specific diction and rhetorical appeals/strategies, to convince, persuade, and manipulate others. (Shakespeare’s Othello)
OPTION 1: DESDEMONA SPEECH
In Shakespeare’s Othello, Desdemona is unable to prove her innocence, which ultimately results in her tragic death. Develop a “missing” speech to address Othello’s accusations and prove Desdemona’s innocence. Students referred to the sample, rubric, and the numerous speeches analyzed throughout this unit as well as the assessments completed.
- Content: The speech must convincingly use well-chosen diction, rhetorical strategies (leading questions, hesitation, intimation, repetition), and rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) to convey the purpose.
- Formatting: The speech must accurately represent the format of a play.
- Explanation: The explanation must indicate the purpose of the speech, describe the significance of the diction and discuss the rhetorical strategies and appeals applied.
OPTION 2: COVER LETTER AND RESUME
Imagine that Iago has not died at the conclusion of the tragedy, but that he was banished from the Venetian military. He is now applying for a position as a speechwriter. Create a cover letter and resume that highlights his rhetorical skills and would impress a prospective employer. Students referred to the sample, rubric, and the numerous speeches analyzed throughout this unit as well as the assessments completed.
- Content: Indicate Iago’s qualifications and demonstrate that he is able to effectively write speeches that include well-chosen diction, rhetorical strategies (leading questions, hesitation, intimation, repetition), and rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, pathos) to convey a specific purpose.
- Formatting: Use a template to accurately format the cover letter and resume.
- Explanation: The explanation must indicate the purpose of the cover letter and resume, describe the significance of the diction used, and indicate how the resume and cover letter emphasize Iago’s skill in using rhetorical strategies and appeals.
- Academically challenge students.
- Allow for choice and voice.
- Use creative writing skills
- Assess understanding of the text and ability to apply knowledge of rhetorical appeals and strategies.
- Encourage deep thought
The cover letter and resume option did not yield the result I wanted nor did it accurately measure the learning objective (assess understanding and application of rhetorical appeals and strategies).
The students were not as excited about the performance-based assessment when it was first introduced to them, because it was a challenging and rigorous assessment. However, once they began brainstorming, pre-writing, and sharing their ideas during conferences, they became more enthusiastic.
Students who reviewed the exemplars and the instructions for the assessment, demonstrated a good work ethic, and put forth sufficient effort did well. Those of varying ability levels, including ELL learners,students with 504s/IEPs, and some who generally display low motivation/engagement reached proficiency.
- Student 1: Enrolled in English 12 CP (college preparatory course). some motivation, but frequently absent: 88/100, proficient
- Student 2: Enrolled in English 12 Honors, highly motivated and often exceeds the standard: 89/100, proficient
- Student 3: Enrolled in English 12 CP (college preparatory course), little motivation, requested to meet with teacher for extra help after school, 72/100, developing
- Student 4: Enrolled in English 12 CP (college preparatory course), motivated, 94/100, advanced
- Student 5: Enrolled in English 12 CP (college preparatory course), highly motivated, IEP/504, 89/100, proficient
- Student 6: Enrolled in English 12 CP (college preparatory course) highly motivated, ELL/ foreign exchange student, 88/100, proficient
The Validation Process.
Working with colleagues to review a performance-based assessment, calibrate student work, and gather ideas for revision is essential to the development of strong curriculum and assessments. My colleagues offered useful feedback, asked important clarifying and probing questions, and caused me to rethink some of the criteria presented. When executing revisions, I reviewed my notes and those of my colleagues, examined the learning target, and attempted to clarify and focus the assessment to increase student understanding. I was also more thoughtful about the formatting of the task and instruction necessary to more successfully prepare students of varying ability levels. In sum, the validation process influenced me to become more reflective about the design and implementation of performance-based assessments.
The Next Step
After reflecting on the assessment, I determined that although offering only speech writing as an option reduces student choice, it will better focus instruction while allowing for some choice. It will also enable me, the teacher, to assess students on a more targeted learning goal.
When given again, this performance assessment will contain the following revisions: Your summative assessment requires you to update the tragedy and demonstrate your knowledge of diction and rhetorical appeals/strategies by developing a speech from Desdemona’s or Iago’s point of view.
- Desdemona: In Act 3, scene 4 and later in Act 5, scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Othello, Desdemona attempts to convince Othello of her innocence, but is largely unsuccessful. Develop a “missing” speech or a revision to these scenes in which Desdemona addresses Othello’s claims and presents a convincing defense.
- Iago: In Act 5, scene 2, Iago surprisingly chooses to remain silent when questioned by Othello and other Venetians. Develop a “missing” speech or a revision to this scene in which Iago addresses Othello’s claims and presents a convincing defense.
Earning micro-credentials is a terrific strategy for improving skills and expertise in performance assessment design and validation. Teachers can access and study these micro-credentials at their own pace.
What are your goals for improving your skills in designing the best performance assessments possible for your students? Please share!
Lisa C.K. Melmed, M.Ed., is a English/Language Arts teacher at Mt. Hope High School in Bristol, Rhode Island who is celebrating her 15th year of teaching. She is a member of the NEASC committee, a leader of the Faculty Advisory Committee, and a building representative for her union. Although she has taught twelfth grade for the last two years, she is now teaching ninth grade English, specifically an innovative collaborative course that has been introduced to better equip students to further develop their reading and writing skills.