Performance Based 21st Century Assessment

We’re looking to put some more muscle behind the idea of preparing students to do more than take multiple choice assessments. We looked at a variety of products and were not happy with the options so we decided to make our own. Working with, John Ross1 we got together a team of core content teachers from four different schools.

We all attended a CLA workshop on how to create performance based assessments. The model is essentially based around providing a limited source of materials with varying degrees of reliability and in need of varying levels of analysis. Marc Chun2 was the presenter and he did a good job outlining the process and providing time for us to begin building our assessment over the two day workshop.

I like the CWRA model as a whole but the pre-made route was expensive for the scale we’re interested in and we wanted the assessment to allow more freedom in terms of the final product. The CWRA assessment only allows text and we were hoping to encourage students to select from a variety of technologies as part of determining how to present their final product.

So our goal was to create a scenario that both interested and engaged 8th grade students. It needed to have interdisciplinary elements that required using higher order thinking skills in all of the core content areas.

We opted to have students argue about current HCPS cellphone policy for students. They would analyze the data and then present their opinion on what the school board should do in the most effective way possible.

The goal was to present them with a variety of fact based media artifacts from a variety of sources (text, graphs, audio). John Ross created these artifacts from a variety of sources and added some context specific to HCPS. I’ve put the source files for the artifacts up at The SITX compressed files are probably what you’re interested in.

The video that started off the lesson is below3

I’ve been to see one of the assessments being given and it was very interesting. I’ve got a great video clip of a student despairing about the public and how they don’t double check the information given to them and so believe all sorts of things based on false information. I’ve got to clean up the audio but I’ll get that posted soon.

After Spring Break (this week for us), we’ll meet with the four teachers and debrief in preparation for scaling this assessment out to more teachers. It’s going to be interesting in a variety of ways. I think we have a fairly scalable model and one that seems to interest at least a portion of students and teachers. I think we can create a repository of these assessments and align them to content, skills, and SOLs/Core Content. I also want to see what happens when we stop creating content and simply aggregate and display information directly from the real world.

1 A very good consultant who I highly recommend.

2 He’d have a decent picture in this post if he’d have let me add him to my (now neglected) Stranger portrait series but I seem to have scared him.

3 As an interesting aside, Jen was shot in front of a fairly typical cinder block wall. It looked bad enough that I took a stab at chroma keying it out. It worked surprisingly well but I had some holes in her shirt where the blue background showed through at times. I “fixed” this by dropping a new layer in and putting a white box between the Jenn layer and the world background. Not perfect, but a decent fix if you’re in a hurry.

Comments on this post

  1. Ben said on April 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Great project, Tom, nails the authenticity as well as the performance in one neat little bundle. I’m curious, how are you guys going to assess the results? Do you have rubrics, self-assessment tools, etc? I’d love to see how you responded to the students’ efforts.

    • Tom said on April 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm


      I have mixed feelings. It’s fairly authentic in that it could be real but it isn’t. It reminds me of historical fiction. I’m still struggling with that one. I’d like to make things more real and less forced but trying to do that at scale and being able to assess that would get messy fast. Maybe we’ll get there in the future.

      We have some rubrics etc. I’ll post them after we meet with the teachers and break all this down.

  2. Ben said on April 29, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Awesome, I wait on the edge of my seat!