Making meaningful connections: promoting authentic learning through Performance-based Assessments

LCI's role

Learner-Centered Initiatives is leading a multi-year Performance Assessment Design Initiative (PADI), teaching educators in participant districts to design, implement, validate and refine existing and new performance-based assessments (PBAs) in service of improving student learning.  Phase one involves designing curriculum with embedded rigorous, authentic PBAs, with phase two focusing on refining courses and performance tasks based on implementation data.  Performance tasks are crafted to be relevant to the lives of students, fostering retained learning along with a sense of engagement.

The student experience

Member districts customize their PBAs, but all share the traits of being student-centered, designed with student input, and incorporating reflective prompts and questions to elicit in-depth thinking.  

One PADI design, from the North Shore School District on Long Island, involved 5th graders performing environmental research about the effects of a local power plant.  The interdisciplinary project required students to structure and conduct scientific research, then develop pieces of art to raise awareness of their findings in the larger community.  

From the onset, students were asked to take charge of their learning in a way that they hadn’t before.  Teachers helped students to frame their objectives but asked them to originate their own hypotheses and experiments to test the hypotheses.  Dealing with real-world data meant that results were not always straightforward, and students had to think critically to interpret results.  They also had to consider how to frame their findings to most effectively communicate their message to a stakeholder audience (their school Board of Education and local residents).