Lesson 5 - Learner Assessment Illinois State Library

Alternative Forms of Assessment

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In addition to standardized testing, adult learners can also complete alternative forms of assessment. Alternative forms of assessment can be used to improve instruction and increase learners' understanding of what they need to know and be able to do. Performance assessment is the most common alternative to standardized testing, although it may take several forms. Performance assessment is a form of assessment that requires students to perform a task, rather than select an answer from a ready-made list. These assessments allow the learner to create a response to questions and/or tasks.

One form of performance assessment is open-ended, or extended, response exercises. These assessments consist of questions or other prompts that require the learner to explore a topic orally or in writing. Typically answers will be given in an oral presentation or in short-answer or essay form.

A second performance measure could be extended tasks, which require work to be completed over an extended period of time. These tasks often include projects that require research in the beginning and then conclude with a presentation. For example, a student may draft and then revise a written work, conduct an experiment, or complete an art project.

A third form of performance assessment is the use of portfolios. Portfolios are selected collections of a variety of performance-based work. A portfolio might include a learner's "best pieces" and his or her own evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of his or her work. A portfolio may also contain assessments "in progress," which illustrate the improvements made over time.

In addition to performance-based assessments, progress measures may also be documented by a collection of pre- and post-work. These collections will consist of curriculum-based assessments gathered both prior to and after the lessons are taught. In addition, if a learner completes an assignment after instruction, and the results indicate further or extended tutoring is needed, the same assignment may be given again. Completion of the assignment for a second time may document the hoped for progress.

Achievement is not always linked to standardized tests. As we have discussed, a learner may show progress through performance-based assessments or through collections of completed pre-and post-assignments. However, if a learner is demonstrating progress through assignments and tasks, but standardized testing indicates a decrease in progress, external factors may be the cause. The most common of these external factors is test anxiety.

In addition to the forms of assessment found in this module, the Carolyn Burke Reading Interview should be considered as an alternative form of assessment. The Carolyn Burke Reading Interview will indicate how the learner thinks about reading. It is best to administer this orally and write down the learner's responses. Most likely, one of two patterns will be identified. Many learners rely on phonics and believe that he or she must pronounce every word to get meaning. This over reliance on phonics interferes with comprehension. Learners will need to be reminded that reading is for comprehension and reliance on sounding out or pronouncing every word works against that goal. To learn more about assessment, read Chapter Seven: Developing the Learning Program in Charlene Ball's Demystifying Adult Literacy for Volunteer Tutors: A Reference Handbook and Resource Guide.

Permission to link to this resource was granted by Literacy Partners of Manitoba, August 21, 2008.

The Carolyn Burke Reading Interview - Reflective Activity

Compose an email to your trainer. Put the title The Carolyn Burke Reading Interview - Reflective Activity in the subject line. Copy and paste the following questions into the body of the email. Take some time to think about your own reading development. Type into the email your answers to each question and send it. Completing this assignment is a requirement of your training. Your trainer will respond to you through email.

The Carolyn Burke Reading Interview

  1. When you are reading and you come to something you don't know, what do you do?
  2. Do you ever do anything else?
  3. Who do you know that is a good reader?
  4. What makes him or her a good reader?
  5. Do you think he or she ever comes to something he or she doesn't know when reading? If your answer is yes, what do you think he or she does about it?
  6. What do you think is the best way to help someone who doesn't read well?
  7. How did you learn to read? What do you remember? What helped you to learn?
  8. What would you like to do better as a reader?
  9. Describe yourself as a reader.
  10. Using a scale of 5 to 1, with 5 being a terrific reader, what overall rating would you give yourself as a reader?

Additional question:
Did you ever attend remedial reading classes? Or have a special tutor? If yes, what did you do in those classes?

Final reflection:
Now that you have completed the quiz, reflect on the answers you provided. What does this interview say about you and your reading habits? What do you think this interview will tell you about your students reading habits? How can you use it to assess reading?

The Carolyn Burke Reading Interview adapted from C. L. Burke (1980). The Reading Interview: 1977. In B. P. Fair and D. J. Stricker (Eds). Reading Comprehension: Resource Guide, Bloomington, Indiana: School of Education, Indiana University and M. Barrs et al., (1988).