strategic and productive ways. She frames an assessment task in a way that will engage students to learn as they prepare for the final presentation and concert. Peer-design reviews, conversations, and other assessments were built into the activity of designing and building instruments so that students could draw from these to inform their design and construction of instruments. She provides the students with prompts and elements that should be included in their presentations so that the students will be clear on what is required. She has clear guidelines about the quality and depth of responses in terms of how students will demonstrate their understandings and skills.

The usefulness of assessment does not stop at teachers collecting information in the course of their teaching and providing feedback. Like Ms. K and Ms. R, they plan and structure specific assessment events, such as individual conferences with students, occasions for the students to write about a topic, design reviews, observations of students at work, presentations of work, and initiating whole-class discussion of what they have learned so far. These are just some of the many assessment activities and methods available to teachers and students. In these same scenarios, teachers could also have integrated the use of additional written assessments—including selected response, short answer, essay, lab reports, homework problems, among others —into their teaching in ways that would generate rich assessment opportunities.

Throughout this text, we have attempted to avoid technical terms whenever possible. When we do use them, we try to offer a definition or use it in a context where its meaning makes sense. Box 3-2 provides operational definitions of several terms you will find in the assessment literature.

BOX 3-2 Assessment Terms

Alternative assessment:

Assessments that are different in form than traditional paper-and-pencil assessments.

Performance assessment:

Assessments that allow students to demonstrate their understandings and skills (to a teacher or an outsider) as they perform a certain activity. They are evaluated by a teacher or an outsider on the quality of their ability to perform specific tasks and the products they create in the process.

Portfolio assessment:

A purposeful and representative collection of student work that conveys a story of progress, achievement and/or effort. The student is involved in selecting pieces of work and includes self-reflections of what understandings the piece of work demonstrates. Thus, criteria for selection and evaluation need to be made clear prior to selection.

Embedded assessment:

Assessments that occur as part of regular teaching and curricular activities.

Authentic assessment:

Assessments that require students to perform complex tasks representative of activities actually done in out-of-school settings.

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