Using Performance Assessment and Portfolio Assessment Together in the Elementary Classroom

By Chen, Yih-Fen; Martin, Michael A. | Reading Improvement, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Using Performance Assessment and Portfolio Assessment Together in the Elementary Classroom


Chen, Yih-Fen, Martin, Michael A., Reading Improvement


Traditional forms of assessment have often been criticized for their failure to truly assess children's learning. To counteract this, many teachers have been using various forms of authentic assessment to supplement their use of traditional forms of assessment. The purpose of this article is to discuss the use of performance assessment and portfolio assessment as viable means for assessing children's efforts. Specifically, this article will provide the basis for using both performance assessment and portfolio assessment together in order to get a more authentic assessment of children's performance in the elementary classroom. Additionally, guidelines are presented to facilitate this assessment process so teachers and children may be knowledgeable team members in the assessment of children's learning and development.

Traditional forms of assessment have often been criticized for their failure to truly assess children's learning. Traditional forms of assessment do not represent activities children typically perform in classrooms, they do not reflect current theories of learning and cognition, and they are not based on abilities students actually need for their future success (Pierce & O'Malley, 1992). In addition, traditional forms of assessment often focus more on a product versus the processes used in learning and creating. For example, objective paper-and pencil tests usually focus on whether children get the "right" answers, instead of the process of how they arrive at their responses (Fischer & King, 1995). Another concern about the traditional forms of assessment, such as standardized tests, is that they cannot be used to closely monitor children's progress in the school curriculum throughout the year because they are only administered once or twice annually (Pierce & O'Malley, 1992). As a result, they do very little to guide teachers' planning and children's learning.

To ascertain a more realistic assessment of their children's abilities, many teachers are turning to forms of alternative or authentic assessment. Authentic assessment involves gathering information concerning a child's performance while the child is engaged in genuine or realistic learning opportunities (Rhodes & Shanklin, 1993). Various forms of authentic assessment have been used to supplement traditional forms of assessment. Authentic assessments have proven to be particularly useful in many classroom situations where paper-and-pencil tests cannot gather specific types of information about children's achievement (Tierney, Carter, & Desai, 1991). Some examples include not only assessments in the academic areas, such as reading and writing, but also in the areas of art and the development of social skills (Levick, 1998). To gather appropriate evidence related to such performances, teachers have to observe and judge each pupil's actual performance and the products of those performances (Airasian, 1994).

Performance assessment and portfolio assessment are two examples of alternative or authentic assessment strategies. These forms of assessment enable teachers to continuously assess children's progress with regard to the learning processes they use as well as the products they produce. These forms of assessment also allow children to use their higher-order thinking skills, and create a collaborative approach to assessment which enables teachers and children to interact in the teaching/learning process (Pierce & O'Malley, 1992). The purpose of this article is to describe performance and portfolio assessments, to present some guidelines for their use, and to share some ideas which will assist elementary classroom teachers in the use of these forms of authentic assessment.

Performance Assessment

Performance assessments are tasks which require children to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in response to authentic activities (Cooper, 1997). This form of assessment requires the classroom teacher to observe the behavior of the children or to examine the product that is reflective of that behavior, and to apply clearly articulated performance criteria in order to make a judgement regarding the level of proficiency demonstrated (Pierce & O'Malley, 1992).

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Using Performance Assessment and Portfolio Assessment Together in the Elementary Classroom
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