An Educators’ Glossary for Performance Assessment

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 26, 2019 1 min read
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OK, I admit it: I have always involuntarily rolled my eyes when encountering the terms “performance assessment” or “competency based learning” or “project based learning,” mostly because it was never entirely clear to me what they were supposed to mean.

It turns out I was on to something. People in the testing world tell me, somewhat sheepishly, that even they haven’t always seen eye to eye with colleagues on how to define these terms. And there’s a long history of this. John Dewey and William Heard Kilpatrick, two of the professors who helped birth progressive education theory in the early 20th century, quarreled over the right ways to set up student projects!

Well, this time we here at Education Week got smart. We spoke to educators, testing folks, and consultants about how they’d distinguish among these terms, and then boldly created our own glossary. Now we’ve put this into a nifty video format for you. It’s succinct, it’s clear, and it’s beautifully illustrated. (Eat your heart out, John Dewey.)

Most of all, we hope it’s useful for you.

And if it whets your appetite, be sure to read our entire special report on performance assessment. You’ll find highlights of lessons learned from past attempts to do this work, an on-the-ground look at graduation projects in Oakland, Calif., and an illustration of how three teachers can reach pretty different conclusions when they’re judging student work on open-ended questions.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.