What is Performance-based Assessment In Online Learning? Michael Rackley offers advice to account owners and owners of online schools.
What Is Performance-based Assessment In Online Learning?
When learning develops in a robust online environment, I take note of the many variations of online learning in creative arts, industrial engineering, chemistry, biology, and the culinary arts. As each learner navigates his or her way through those difficulties, a set of various kinds of performance-based assessments can’t help but surface, reflecting whatever individual notion of success the learner brings to those challenges.
In the most powerful types of performance-based assessment, that leader seeks immediate feedback on his or her performance against the standards of the real world. More precisely, that leader seeks an immediate reward for reaching some kind of standard.
I have no doubt that the world of online learning presents a masterclass of these types of performance-based assessments. The number of challenges available to the student is vast, the assessments are plentiful, and the disciplinary demands can be severe.
From the national achievement standards for American students to the requirements of specific education programs, the dimensions of competency and success have changed, and so must the way we assess them.
Performance-based Assessment in Online Learning
When the stakes are as high as if you are being tested for college admission or a career, and the recognition for achieving that goal is as substantial as someone’s livelihood, as learning occurs online we start to think of performance-based assessment as a specialty.
Performance-based assessment is when the academic practice of learning is extended to reflect on how the subject material that is being learned affects the person’s own skill level, awareness, life experience, and expectations.
Performance-based assessment might start with exploratory research and experimentation to understand the method by which the new material was created, to understand what might possibly determine how learners gain their understanding. (That is when you have the person on stage with the microphone trying to discern if it’s true that, “beeping,” represents an object of awareness in their own mind, or if it really sounds like something else when it makes the beeping noise.)
The next stage might be testing with proper norms for reception and response, to obtain evidence of the quality of the material in order to evaluate what it sounds like to the user (this is where ELA questions can be offered). As the learner begins to deal with the material, they might be asked to complete puzzles or quiz them on the material, attempting to identify the details of the learning experience that they feel has clearly brought them closer to the goal of improved response or performance.
This might be expressed through an experiment in which the learner might be asked to take a series of three-way quizzes, and as the student correctly identifies each correct answer, that is how they are recognized as having gained the required performance.
These types of performance-based assessment must be grounded in the precise definitions of the learner’s situation and those skills that the student is attempting to attain, otherwise they can be viewed as programs designed with poorly designed systems. I am trying to avoid that temptation; by understanding the learner’s situation, and by attempting to better understand the learner’s thinking, goals, and preferences, performance-based assessment can help develop a set of standards that is truly appropriate to the learner and that matches the available practices of online learning.
Quality vs. Quantity
Another problem I run into with Internet teaching is that it fails to include as much of a quality-assessment process as I would like, and when I say “quality,” I mean some amount of measurement. I would like to see higher quality assessments that take more time and require less documentation, but online learning has other resources that I feel are necessary to keep costs down.
If the questions are too easy to complete, and the answers supplied by the teacher are not presented in a thoughtful way, then the learner is not given any feedback on what is learned, and he or she is at risk of becoming careless with the information. The student might then learn very little that would be useful. If there is too much of a focus on quantity, then there might not be any self-awareness at all and learners might think that they have been assessed accurately, only to end up returning to school or resuming studying very soon, believing that more content is required and seeking more help.
A Quality-Assessment Process
The ability to measure a student’s learning process is the best assessment of his or her performance. This is where online learning really shines, because it is easy to measure what you can see, and that is definitely where we are focusing the initiatives at Saint Joseph’s in development of a professional development program to help teachers create thoughtful assessments.