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 additional information.

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 role applications.
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 and students.
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 self-reflection.
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:


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.

  About Portfolios

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 practices.