Grading Performance Assessment

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By Susan M. Brookhart

The goal of grading performance assessment is to arrive at an accurate and meaningful indicator of each student’s level of achievement on the learning goals that a task was designed to exhibit. Doing this fairly and accurately however, often raises lots of questions.  

At the Dylan Wiliam Center Formative Assessment National Conference, I’ll be presenting a session to share what I’ve learned and to answer the most pressing questions about the grading of performance assessments. If you haven’t registered to join us yet, I hope you will! Here are a few things I’ll be covering and questions I’ll be addressing during the presentation:

How do we…

  • Use rubrics that match learning goals and proficiency expectations?
  • Keep them aligned not only with standards but also with our grading policies and practices?
  • Assign a grade when a student performs a process or produces a product to demonstrate learning? 
  • Grade performance assessment that included group work?

First Things First: What Is Performance Assessment?

Sometimes, students’ progress toward achieving learning goals or standards are best assessed with a test. Other times, they are best assessed with performance assessment. Therefore, we need to be able to make this important distinction. One way to do that is to remember that performance assessment occurs when a teacher is using observation and judgment to assess a student’s process or product.

Performance assessment tasks offer students rich opportunities to not only apply what they know, but also to demonstrate their achievement on more than one standard. To use these tasks properly, it’s critical to be sure that you know exactly what knowledge and skills are tapped by each performance assessment task, and how this knowledge and these skills map onto curricular goals or standards.

A Note About Rubrics

A good rubric helps students along as they work and learn. I like to think of a rubric as having two basic parts: criteria and performance-level descriptions.

Criteria should be about learning (not following directions) and it should map to standards. Success criteria for individual learning targets can become criteria OR criteria can encompass success criteria for individual learning targets.

Performance-level descriptions should be about the quality of the work—not counting the number of things. Performance levels should usually map to the grading scale, and performance-level descriptions should reflect the appropriate proficiency level for the standard at each level of that grading scale. For example, the description of performance on a criterion at the Proficient level should describe what the standard expects of a proficient student.

How Should We Grade Group Performances?

Group work does NOT mean group grades. We need to assess group process skills separately from individual students’ achievement of subject-matter goals and standards. Here are some methods that can effectively assess a learner’s progress:

  • Have students reflect on their learning
  • Use oral questioning to gauge learners’ understanding
  • Leverage multi-step task design strategies
  • Measure learning with post-project testing

Are you and your team ready to take performance assessment to the next level in the upcoming school year? There’s still time to register to join us at the Formative Assessment National Conference. I’m looking forward to diving into this topic, and I’d love to see you there.