Illuminating Understanding: Performance Assessment in Mathematics

This article describes what performance assessment is in the context of teaching math to adult learners.

Tricia Donovan
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Adventures in Assessment
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

This article describes what performance assessment is in the context of teaching math to adult learners. The author argues that this type of assessment is most appropriate for working with math content because too often, math is tested by selected response (i.e.: multiple choice tests) resulting in either the right or wrong answer, which does not allow students to demonstrate their process. This in turn causes the instructor to have a difficult time understanding where the student needs to focus more effort. The author discusses what constitutes a 'good performance task' and provides several examples of these, along with a discussion and examples of using rubrics to accompany the performance task.

Required Training

The article can be used in training to help practitioners learn how to incorporate performance assessment in math classes. The subject matter described needs some practice in order for the practitioner to become comfortable with the methodology.

What the experts say

The resource highlights how performance tasks (as opposed to selected response items) can help a teacher gain insight into the math processes of students. The paper presents a good overview of the concept of performance assessment but is weak on the specifics of implementation into the classroom. More explicit examples of performance tasks, custom-created rubrics, and actual student work that is scored using the rubric would greatly help a teacher see how the information in the article can be applied to the classroom. Links to pre-existing Web-based resources on math performance tasks and rubrics could help the teacher actually see how performance assessment could work in a classroom. It can also help the teacher to better understand his/her role when utilizing performance-based assessments.

This is a smart article. It's clear that Donovan understands performance assessment. It's a little more prescriptive than I would like, but that is not a bad thing at all for practitioners. Instructors will like the rubric, even though there is isn't much explanation of how to use it.

A supplemental resource:

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