Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Performance Assessment Tasks

Performance assessment tasks are commonly used in mathematics classrooms to provide students with an opportunity to engage in challenging tasks that require mathematical thinking. According to O'Daffer and Thornquist, (1993) mathematical thinking "involves using mathematically rich thinking skills to understand ideas, discover relationships among the ideas, draw or support conclusions about the ideas and their relationships, and solve problems involving the ideas" (p. 43).

What are the potential benefits and/or drawbacks of using Performance Assessment tasks ? Share an experience from the perspective of teacher or student.


  1. Formative assessment "can be a powerful weapon if it is communicated in the right way" (Black, 1998). That is to say that it is the responsibility of the teacher to create a culture in which testing does not become a pursuit of the right answer. Rather, the teacher must create a testing "culture of success, backed by belief that all pupils can achieve" success (Black, 1998).
    I worked in a high school classroom last year. As the teacher was preparing the students for the standardized test, she did several things that stood out in my mind as creating a positive testing culture. She shared local area school scores with the students, thus the students were not in the dark as to reason for testing. She also brought healthy snacks in on testing day and also incorporated the test results into the students' grade. The students were not crazy about the testing, but they also saw the purpose and reason for the testing rather than mindlessly filling in bubbles.

  2. Hi Rick,

    Thank you for sharing your ideas here! I like the example which you shared as the teacher is taking into account students basic needs (Maslow) and also thinking of ways to engage the students as well. As a math coach I encouraged the teachers to have a pre-conference with the students and parents to share and discuss results from previous years. Seeing growth can be a powerful motivator. We also had students set a goal for the upcoming test. So if they were 20 points away from being "Proficient" this was something we had discussed and encouraged students to think about. Goal setting can be extremely beneficial when it comes to sharing the results.

    In terms of formative assessment, how will you use these results in your instruction?

  3. In my opinion, Formative assessments are not equitable especially when funding distribution is determined by formative assessment. By formative assessment, I mean Standardized tests. How can a "high need/low-income" school reach a proficient score on these tests without the proper resources and teachers? It's seem like these Assessments are setting students up to fail. Teachers in these low income areas are focused on trying to raised their test scores rather than focusing on the conceptual and procedural understanding of the material. The assessments expect students to perform to an unrealistic score. Some performance Assessment tasks only focus on one mode of response which limits students ability to make multiple representations within and between.

    We do need some sort of assessment to measure students skills within the classroom, school, and state. Formative assessment is a solution but the reasons and purposes why these tests are being administrated needs to be strictly stated. (for data purposes and reference,reference as to where goals should be set and changing instructional practices. )

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  5. One potential drawback of using Performance Assessment tasks is simply that they are very time-consuming. Teachers (especially new ones) come into the classroom wanting desperately to teach students for conceptual understating, they want to engage their students in math and relate it back to their lives, but we’re often pressed on time and are expected to show certain results by certain times (i.e. end of the semester state tests). I am not making excuses, but it is really going to take great effort on our half, as new teachers, to make sure that we at least TRY to make these connections. We might feel restricted at first, but if we take the time to build these connections then our students should score well on state formative assessments (I am not at all agreeing with the way our state uses these scores to rate/fund schools, but it is the way it is).

    However, Danielle makes a great point that formative assessments (state standardized tests) are an unfair way of testing students in high-needs/low-income areas because they almost always have unequal access to qualified/effective teachers and other resources, and feel restricted to teach to the test. In theory, Performance Assessment tasks are a great way to test students’ knowledge about a subject because they are open-ended and leave room for multiple solution paths that allow you to see HOW they are thinking and working through math problems, but it seems unlikely that our state would ever adopt these tests over formative assessments because of how time-consuming and costly they would be. They are a great way for teachers to understand what their students know/don’t know, and they provide feedback that teachers can use to improve/alter instruction in their classrooms.