Beyond Paper and Pencil Assessmentsby: Chris Demers

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Most paper-and-pencil assessments provide adequate insight into students’ ability and can help effectively guide instruction. A well-designed performance-based assessment propels a science program beyond this level of adequacy and guarantees that teachers are making curricular decisions based upon a more complete picture. After all, if science literacy is going to be measured in terms of what students know and are able to do, then the tests we give them better allow students to do something.

Grades
  • Elementary
Publication Date
10/1/2000

Community ActivitySaved in 384 Libraries

Reviews (17)
  • on Tue Jun 27, 2017 12:35 AM

It amazes me how we continue to have this information published about the importance of moving beyond paper and pencil tests, but the school is almost solely rated on paper and pencil tests. Thank you for sharing this information!!

Melissa
Melissa

  • on Tue Nov 04, 2014 10:32 AM

The article discusses steps that were taken to implement performance based assessments in a pilot program and the information it uncovered. This article begins by addressing the struggle that districts and nationally we have had implementing science standards. Even though research points mastery towards application, as a nation our way of assessing by paper and pencil feels like an old friend. As the committee in this article met to discuss the task at hand they kept in mind that inquiry based instruction along with the combination of performance based assessment would show the most student growth. The researchers even noted in the articles that these assessments would be hard to standardize and that paper and pencil assessment can give us great insight into where students are initially, it is the actual performance of the task that shows true depth of knowledge.

Lauren Abrams
Lauren Abrams

  • on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:33 PM

In this world of multiple-choice testing, this article gives multiple examples of how we might assess our students in a way that truly shows their understanding of inquiry and experimentation. There are examples of questions/prompts along with several rubrics.

Wendy R  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy R (Pocatello, ID)

  • on Fri Mar 23, 2012 2:24 PM

In this world of multiple-choice testing, this article gives multiple examples of how we might assess our students in a way that truly shows their understanding of inquiry and experimentation. There are examples of questions/prompts along with several rubrics.

Wendy R  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy R (Pocatello, ID)

  • on Tue May 24, 2011 5:55 PM

This article presents a well-rounded view of performance assessments. The author presents supporting literature based on studies in the classroom. The article gives examples of performance assessments on many levels and links to additional performance assessments. The author also provides the rubric used to grade. My favorite part of this article is the reflection where the author discusses the problems and what they will change about the assessment, rubric, and grading process. If you are considering expanding away from pencil and paper test, this article will be a great asset.

Angelika Fairweather  (Bradenton, FL)
Angelika Fairweather (Bradenton, FL)

  • on Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:35 PM

I appreciate the work of this article I would still like more guidance on developing more performance tests...If anyone knows a valuable resource for these types of assessments please share!

Chasity Collier  (Mobile, AL)
Chasity Collier (Mobile, AL)

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 7:59 PM

It is nice to see that work is being done to create a science assessment that does not just consist of multiple choice questions. A performance based test is the best way to determine if a student knows the material and knows how to "think and behave like a scientist." The author discusses how some of the students who participated in this assessment said it was fun and did not seem like a test. I believe this type of testing environment while give educators a clearer picture of what our students actually know. On the down side, it is easy to see how the grading of this type of an assessment could be subjective.

Nicole Lawton
Nicole Lawton

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:38 PM

Although his article was interesting and I agreed with the main idea, I wonder how practical it really is. I completely agree that students don’t always show all that they know on the standardize tests given. I have often said I wish “they” could come in and observe my students in action. Oh the things they would see! They would see that James can solve and question better than most adults and that although Alice can’t understand or speak all the vocabulary correctly she can draw and show you that she understands concepts. So this sounds like a jack pot idea. Kids would be able to show what they really know. The list of concerns/suggestions hit the nail on the head for me, with the biggest being teachers grading their own tests (concern) and Spread task out over time (suggestion). We already have people that question every little thing that we do as teachers and cheating rumors can you image if we graded our own tests? How would we find a way around this? I did get very excited when I read about spreading out the tasks over time. This to me is the most real world assessment that was shared. Never in my adult life have I been asked to share everything I know about reading, math, or science in one sitting. You use the knowledge in pieces when it is needed. I believe that we could get a better look at what students know if we complete tasks over a period of time rather than in a one day paper pencil test at the end of the year.

Kathryn Smerker
Kathryn Smerker

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 2:52 PM

This article provides examples of performance based assessments that teacher can use and/or adapt for use in their classrooms. These performance based assessments makes sense, especially since they allow students to demonstrate how well they understand a particular topic. We all should be moving toward some sort of inquiry based assessment that allows students the freedom to investigate and ask and answer questions. The author, Chris Demers sums it up best with this statement, "...if science literacy is going to be measured in terms of what students know and are able to do, then the tests we give them better allow students to do something."

Danielle B
Danielle B

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 12:26 PM

Paper and Pencil Assessments By Chris Demers A committee of three teachers in Concord, NH set out to develop a performance based test that would test students’ science abilities by a meaningful, hands-on approach. The committee had three goals in mind: addressing the state standards, develop a guidepost for elementary teachers in their daily instruction, and to allow students to freely investigate and answer questions based on their own ideas and experiences. The committee referred to the state science curriculum frameworks as a guide to the task/test questions. Instead of a multiple answer type test they developed open-ended questions and tasks for the students to respond to using their scientific knowledge. The problem with performance based tests it that it is very difficult to standardize them. In order to score the tests, the committee had to come up with detailed rubrics and they can be very subjective. However, having students take a well-designed performance assessment pushes the completeness of the students’ science knowledge above the paper pencil tests because it shows the whole picture. As it said in the article the students that took the test said that it was fun and that they did not mind the test at all. This would cut down on some of the stress of taking the “normal standardized tests” if the students could actually show what they know by using the hands-on experiment type approach. I feel this would help students who do not memorize the content well or are not good test takers to show what they know by actually doing it.

Virginia Scialpi
Virginia Scialpi

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 11:53 AM

When I first saw the title of this article I thought it would be a great read for me. In the past I have had a hard time getting past using just paper and pencil assessments (as that is the only way I was assessed while I was in school) so I thought this article would offer some different ideas that I could use. After beginning to read this article I soon realized that it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but still offered some ideas that I could use. I like the idea of using tasks that offer students equipment and materials to use, which most of the kids favored during testing anyway. I just worry about the time involved to grade this type of test using rubrics. I don’t think this type of assessment could given in just any subject, but would be a great assessment to use for science. As stated in the article, the subjectivity that the committee dealt with when scoring the pilot tests was one reason many educators prefer not use this time of tests. I agree that this could definitely be a problem, maybe a nonbiased person could score the assessment... I think the article sums it up perfectly – If science literacy is going to be measured in terms of what students know and are able to do, then the tests we give them better allow students to do something. I’m just not sure what the best way to do this is.

Ashley Murphy
Ashley Murphy

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:53 AM

I read the article Beyond Paper and Pencil Assessments, and was immediately struck with two conflicting thoughts...one was how informative these product-based assessments would be and two, how difficult they would be to score! I completely agree that our current "high stakes" assessment tool for science is adequate, at best. Who are the high stakes for, anyway? The students or the teachers? That is a whole other subject! I know that I have students today who would excel in a performance based assessment like the ones described in this article, but would merely make an average score on a pencil and paper assessment due to many factors, including poor study skills and difficulty with the language. I also began to feel a little stressed when I looked at the sample performance assessments that were suggested! My first thought was "Who is going to obtain all the materials needed for each activity for every teacher giving this assessment?" You understand how this works. The first year of implementing a new idea like this, and everyone is on board, and the system purchases equipment for everyone. Then the second year, teachers change grade levels or leave for some other reason, and the materials somehow go with them or get lost. The system cannot replace these items every year, so the new teacher is left scrambling to find these items on his/her own. Some will succeed, some will not. Now we have inconsistencies, which you cannot have if these assessments are to be used as a standardized measure. Now we have to talk about scoring these things! The rubrics provided are okay, but not great, even by the author's own admission. Even after repeated testing and comparing different assessors and their scores, inconsistencies were found and there was simply too much subjectivity involved. Some teachers feel that spelling and grammar are less important in science, whereas others place more importance on it. I wish I knew the answer here. I think we really need to look at the very long range goal of science instruction, which we have been discussing in class every session: making our kids "science literate". Helping them become adults that can identify and solve a problem using sound practices and experiments. Perhaps science should not be included in the "high stakes" testing world, but inquiry-based science instruction be required every year, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Marjorie Burt
Marjorie Burt

  • on Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:14 AM

In order to meet the demand for higher standards and test scores, schools and educators must find and explore alternate methods of science instruction and assessment. The article states that most teachers and administrators don’t believe that standardized tests accurately reflect the level of students’ understanding of the science standards. The teachers in this article wanted to create an authentic assessment that could be used alongside the data from the standardized assessments. They created several hands-on, performance based tasks with which to assess their students. The results were positive with most students enjoying the tasks, and not even realizing they were taking a test. I think almost all educators know what needs to be done and would agree with the points made in this article, but finding the time to actually follow through might prove to be difficult.

Chrissie
Chrissie

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:41 PM

In this journal article, Chris Demers describes the process of creating and implementing a performance-based assessment for science. I agree with the idea of allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge of science in a meaningful, hands-on fashion. However, just reading the article gave me a headache to think of how these assessments would be scored. I think the scoring process is why we have delved so deeply into the multiple choice format. Scoring is electronic, easy, and quick. When you are assessing entire school systems at every grade level, assessment needs to be as quick and as painless as possible. Evaluating students’ answers to actual hand-on science experiments and problems would be a great undertaking at a district or state level. It is often hard for me to get graded assignments back in a timely manner when I am using a rubric to assess student performance. I understand the need for students to actually get to “do” something to show that they understand the process and content of science, but to grade every child in the state based on a performance-based rubric would be outrageous and time-consuming to a system that already has budget issues! I think assessment needs to be placed back with the teacher. Good teachers can tell you whether the students understand a concept by observing them “doing” a task and writing about it. In my opinion, we have taken teachers too far out of the assessment equation these days. Teachers are afraid to talk during a test, point out skipped answers during testing, or interact with students at all during testing. This fear that is displayed by school administrators, teachers, and testing coordinators could possibly be the reason for the students’ scores to be lower than we would like. Stop testing the kids so much and let teachers teach! Let students “do” tasks instead of bubbling tests and they will learn how to be thinkers and processors of scientific information. Let students demonstrate their knowledge to the teacher and take her word for it that they understand the information. She is not going to let them get away with NOT KNOWING. Good teachers don’t do that! ?

Lisa Boysen
Lisa Boysen

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:23 PM

Seeing as this article was dated October of 2000, there is still good information that can be taken from it. I think that the assessment examples are good starting points for teachers looking to break away from the easiness that is a paper and pencil test. The author correctly outlines the benefits of performance based assessments.

Merry Willis
Merry Willis

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 1:37 PM

The focus of this article is the project of moving beyond a standard test to allow students to be graded and tested by behaving like scientist. The tasks given to students should allow the students to ask, explore, and generate answers like a scientist. The project was integrating assessments to support an inquiry based instruction classroom. Main focus was on using rubrics to evaluate a student’s evidence of learning, depth of knowledge, communication skills, and presentation. The ending result needing more anchor papers to guide assessment of the rubric and creating a rubric that is more students friendly. This idea would work great in the kindergarten classroom using a more simplified rubric for the learning objective. Students would then know the expectations and include as much as they know in the end product or investigation. Showing and communicating what you have learned is the direction of verbal, written, and explorative knowledge. I believe this process creates thinkers and plan to incorporate more rubric learning opportunities in my classroom.

Cindy Fountain
Cindy Fountain

  • on Sun Oct 05, 2014 3:47 PM

The information in this article is a history of the development of project based assessment in one small population. It seems the author seeks to inform other educators of the round-about pathway to developing, implementing, and assessing student-generated project based assessment. I agree with the need for these types of assessment in which students are able to demonstrate the skills acquired as a part of the "habits of mind" necessary for science and critical thinking. The author also speaks of the difficulty in standardizing these types of assessment and the subjectivity of assessing a product with a rubric. Given the public's desire to have easy-to-understand numbers as a part of the accountability process for teachers, project based assessment poses a quality/quantity problem. I did like the inset describing how a student might achieve a low evidence of inquiry score but a high communication score. Assessing over a wider scale allows for more students to demonstrate proficiency, but, again, very difficult to "grade" with equitable outcomes. As to the grammar/spelling problem, it seems a low level concern to me. Yes, students need to be able to communicate effectively, but critical thinking is the true goal of science. Any worthwhile word processor can correct grammar and spelling errors.

Lee D
Lee D


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