About Alternative Assessment
The Grady Profile provides the electronic tools you need to implement performance-based
and collaborative-learning models for assessment. Here, we want to discuss the
educational background behind what the program does, and provide sources of
And for our perspectives on portfolios, please click here to
download a brief article.
What Is It?
We like the following definitions, taken from the August 1993 issue of
Visions, the newsletter of the Education
for the Future Initiative, which was sponsored by Pacific Telesis.
- Alternative Assessment
- The utilization of non-traditional approaches in judging student performance.
- The act or result of judging the worth or value of something or someone.
- Authentic Assessment
- The multidimensional process of judging students' acceptable performance behaviors in life-like
- Culminating Outcome
- An ultimate synthesis and application of prior learning in significant performance contexts.
- A set of signs for determining the student's level of achievement in a performance or product.
- An authentic assessment activity by which students demonstrate or perform what they have learned.
An exhibition might be a project, an essay, an oral or written report or performance, a portfolio, or
piece of artwork. Effective exhibitions define essential learning and focus the curriculum, teacher
- Achievement toward which effort is directed. Concerned with ultimate outcomes and usually phrased
in general or global terms.
- Holistic Scoring
- Score based on an over-all impression as opposed to conventional test scoring which counts up
performance on parts to make a total score.
- A standard or example for imitation or comparison.
- Needs Assessment
- The process by which one identifies needs and decides upon priorities among them. A need may be
defined as a condition in which there is a discrepancy between and acceptable state of affairs and an
observed state of affairs.
- Statement of short-term behavior that taken together with goals are thought to contribute to the
envisioned final goal.
- Open-Ended Thinking
- When one is presented with a problem or question with no “right” answer or the
best answers can be obtained by an almost infinite variety of solution paths. Typical writing prompts
are open-ended; by contrast, multiple-choice tests are not open-ended.
- Culminating demonstration of learning that really matters.
- Performance Assessment
- To "act upon and bring to completion." Involves displaying one's knowledge effectively
to bring to fruition a complex product or event. Performance assessments typically involve the
creation of products.
- A purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student's efforts, progress and
achievements in one or more areas. The collection must include student participation in selecting
the contents, the criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit and evidence of student
- Refers to intermediate steps students take to reach the final performance or end-product. It
thus includes all strategies, decisions, rough drafts and rehearsals - whether deliberate or not -
used to complete the task.
- The tangible and stable result of a performance or task. An artifact from which we can infer a
good deal about both a student's ability to perform and the processes that led to the product.
- The quality criteria and standards by which a product, performance or outcome demonstration of
significance will be developed and/or assessed.
Common Characteristics of Authentic Assessments
There are many ways to implement alternative, authentic assessment models in a classroom. But however
it's done, the model will probably demonstrate most of these characteristics:
- Asks students to perform, create or produce something
- Encourages student self-reflection
- Measures outcomes of significance
- Taps higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills
- Uses tasks that represent meaningful instructional activities
- Invokes real-world applications
- Uses human judgment (rather than machines) for scoring
- Requires new instructional and assessment roles for teachers
- Provides self-assessment opportunities for students
- Provides opportunities for both individual and group work
- Encourages students to continue the learning activity beyond the scope of the assignment
- Defines explicit performance criteria
- Makes assessment equal in importance to curriculum and instruction
Other Information Sources
We update our bibliography of books, articles, etc. periodically (although we're
a bit behind at the moment). But you know how hard it is to keep up to date with
everything. So if you know of a good source that we've missed, please let us know
and we'll update the bibliography.
This brief article represents our thinking about portfolios what they are,
why they are important, what should go into one and how to get started. It also
includes a discussion of reflection with some suggestions on developing reflective