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Standards for assessment

From norm-referenced to criterion-referenced assessments

Many teachers and schools are making the transition from norm-referenced standards to criterion-referenced standards. In the latter, each student’s performance is compared to clearly stated performance descriptions that differentiate levels of quality. A student's performance is judged by what s/he does compared to the standard (criterion-referenced), not compared to the performance of other students (norm-referenced). 

Teachers identify what they want their students to learn and be able to do and what evidence they will use to judge that achievement. These are often referred to as product criteria, because grades are based on final examinations and final products such as projects, reports or portfolios.

Objectives and rubrics

There is a natural relationship between writing objectives and assessing instructional success. The process can be considered as a two-step decision-making sequence.  First teachers determine what they want their students to know and be able to do (objectives). Then they define tasks in which students can demonstrate that they have achieved the objectives. For these tasks, they construct rubrics--the rules for evaluating the product or performance. By making these decisions early, teachers can clarify what they are trying to accomplish. 

Rubrics also tell students which elements of performance matter most, how their work will be assessed and therefore what they should work toward. Rubrics help students to assess their own performances and make adjustments as they work toward a standard.

Taken together, a performance task that suits the objective and a rubric for assessing the performance or product soundly and reliably may be called a "performance assessment."

Tool: Developing performance assessments