With a performance assessment, the appraisal of the competency of a student takes place by observing their actions when performing a certain task. This can be an assigned task in a simulated situation, but also an observation in the workplace.
What can be assessed?
You assess the capacity to act/competency level: is the student able to perform certain tasks adequately? This can be about isolated skills, but also about complete, integrative actions in the workplace.
An example is vaccinating. An isolated skill would be: how do they vaccinate? A complete, integrative action is about their entire functioning: how is the instruction during the vaccination? Is the patient greeted in a friendly manner? Is the patient being listened to? It is about total competence: knowledge, attitude and skills.
Which levels can you assess?
Bloom’s Taxonomy does not apply to the performance assessment, because it is about skills and/or competences and not just about cognitive levels. To inquire about the underlying knowledge of a student’s actions, the performance assessment is often combined with a competency-based interview (CBI).
Within Miller’s Pyramid, you assess Shows; it is often about a simulated and defined situation. Additionally, you can also assess Miller’s highest level Does: behaviour in the workplace.
Prerequisites for this assessment method
- The performance assessment is suitable for individual students or small groups who work together.
- This assessment method is often taken on campus. The assessor observes the student(s) in real time while they are performing the action/task.
- Additionally it is possible to have a student let themselves be recorded while performing the action/task, so the assessor can later observe the behaviour on film.
Points of attention while taking the assessment
The duration of the assessment depends on the goals that need to be assessed and practical considerations. Allow for a maximum of about 40 minutes to account for the workload of both the examiner and the student.
In general, it is recommended that the assessment is administered by two examiners who are preferably not involved with the students. This is to strive for objectivity. The examiners need to have substantive expertise, since they will also carry out the appraisal.
Students may be nervous beforehand, which can negatively influence the reliability of the assessment. As an examiner, it is important to make sure of a relaxed setting so the student is allowed to perform optimally.
If there is only one examiner, it is advised to make a video or audio recording of the assessment. This can serve as proof if a student objects the final judgement. Additionally, it might be handy to take notes of answers and other details during the conversation. This creates input which you can use to give feedback to the student and for evaluating the assessment method.
As an examiner, you guide the conversation by asking questions. These are open questions to which the student can give their own response. How the conversation is structured may vary:
- Fully structured: based on a fixed set of questions that are asked in a fixed order;
- Semi-structured: based on a fixed set of questions, but the order may vary;
- Unstructured: based on fixed subjects, but when and how these are addressed depends on how the conversation goes.
If several examiners administer the same assessment, make sure there is a prior agreement on the approach and the desired level. This creates comparable situations for the students.
With a performance assessment, the appraisal takes place based on an appraisal model with assessment criteria. A content specialist administers the assessment and appraises it.
You can express the end result in the form of a grade, but it is better to apply a more general judgement such as ‘insufficient, sufficient, good’. Ultimately, it is about appraising whether or not the student is sufficiently competent to carry out an action or a task. A grade suggests a form of precision that is difficult to achieve with this assessment method. A more general judgement expresses less distinction in quality than a grade. But the appreciation of a performance can be expressed quite well in the form of (oral and/or written) feedback.
Feedback to the student
What feedback do you give?
In addition to the end result in the form of a grade or a more general judgement, it is desirable to give feedback on the performance as a whole and/or per assessment criterion. It is common to at least give an explanation for the parts for which the score was low or insufficient. For an optimal learning experience, it is recommended to also explicitly name the things that were positive.
How do you give feedback?
The feedback is at least based on a form. Additionally, you also give your feedback, if possible, orally immediately after the assessment.
Evaluating an assessment method
What do you evaluate?
Points of attention for adjusting the assessment are:
- Are the assessment criteria well applicable? Do they provide guidance?
- Does the assessment tool discriminate sufficiently between performances on different levels?
- Do the results correspond with the expert-judgement of the assessors?
- Are there no assessment criteria that overlap?
How do you evaluate?
When evaluating the assessment, you make use of calibration sessions. The process for this is:
- Beforehand, independently appraise the same performance. This needs to be a recorded performance.
- Together, discuss the similarities and differences.
- On the one hand, this discussion will lead to mutual agreements on how to apply the assessment criteria and, on the other hand, it will give input for adjusting/honing the assessment explanation, assessment criteria and/or other aspects of the assessment tool.
A calibration session is mostly meant to help align multiple assessors. Even when all appraisals are done by the same examiner, coordination with a peer is recommended (external validation).