Learning Assessments

The various methods for learning assessment have different applications and implications, often drastically so. Three common assessment models — performance assessment, authentic assessment, and self-assessment — are examined here. According to Feinstein (2002), performance assessment incorporates higher-level problem solving and real-world application of knowledge into the assessment of a subject’s learning. Usually occurring over a longer period of time, performance assessments include individualized measurement of aptitude and growth for each student, collaborative projects, often culminating in a presentation to their peers, and an incorporation of different learning and teaching methods (Wookfolk, 2001, ctd. In Feinstein, 2002). Applications for performance assessment of learning are far-reaching and diverse; such assessments have been used effectively in corporate instructional settings and, in the case of Feinstein’s study, juvenile detention centers where two-thirds of the students were determined to be special needs (Feinstein, 2002).

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The major cause for the broad-range effectiveness of performance assessments is the necessary individualization of the assessment and the type of learning usually associated with it. Moving beyond the rote memorization needed in standardized assessments, or a measure of isolated skills as in mathematics exams or reading comprehension assignments, students subjected to a performance assessment have the opportunity to demonstrate real-world skills and the correlations and meaning of the knowledge they have acquired. This tends to lead to more positive results as well as higher levels of student satisfaction and enthusiasm (Feinstein, 2002).

Authentic assessment includes, arguably to an even greater degree, the individualization of performance assessment, in some cases allowing students to develop their own projects based on relatively loose though still focused criteria and guidelines provided by the instructor (DeCastro-Ambrosetti & Cho, 2005). Students are thus able to express the progress/extent of their learning over a given period in whatever way they deem they are best equipped to do so, leading (in theory) to a more realistic or “authentic” assessment of that learning. The creation and grading of what will necessarily be a diverse and widely differing assignments can create a burden for the instructor and, in some cases, the other students in the learning group, therefore authentic assessments are best utilized only in situations where other assessments may prove inadequate, i.e. In instances where the students have already demonstrated a diversity of learning styles (DeCastro-Ambrosetti & Cho, 2005). The use of authentic assessments includes greater student directive-ness and increased empowerment and self-guidance and -reliance in the learning process.

Self-assessment is seen by many to be the culmination of the individualization of learning assessment, but when this occurs solely for the purposes of accountability, learning is far from guaranteed (Gaytan & McEwen, 2007). This is partially due to the difference students and instructors, at least in the study conducted by Gaytan and McEwen (2007), perceive in the purpose of self-assessment tests; students viewed them primarily as a way to receive feedback as to their progress and achievement, while instructors saw them more as a way to make sure students understood the material (Gaytan and McEwen, 2007). Both views underline the usefulness of self-assessments, but perhaps they can be best applied by instructors who know and understand what students expect to get out of them. Self-assessments are especially useful in situations when instructor assessment is either unwieldy, such as in very large learning groups or distance (online and television) education. However, it is also worthwhile to note that students tend to favor the self-assessment of learning at rates nearly twenty-percent higher than instructors (Commons 2003). This implies that students may receive inordinate and unfair benefits from the overuse of self-assessments.


Commons, P. “The contribution of inspection, self-assessment, investors in people…: an initial exploration.” Journal of further & higher education, vol. 27, issue 1 (Feb 2003), pp. 27-47

DeCastro-Ambrosetti, D. & Cho, G. “Synergism in learning: A critical reflection of authentic assessment.” High school journal, vol. 89, issue 1(Oct/Nov 2005), pp. 57-62

Feinstein, S. “Performance assessment in Juvenile Correction education programs.” Journal of correctional education, vol. 53. Issue 1 (Mar 2002), pp. 9-12

Gaytan, J. & McEwen, B. “Effective online instructional and assessment strategies.” American journal of distance education. Vol. 21 issue 3 (Sep 2007), pp. 117-32