During this summer, I have taken classes in both science and social studies content areas. Through these classes, I have strengthened by understanding of effective assessment in the elementary classroom and how I can deliver assessments that show full student understanding.
When most people think of assessment, they are plagued with past memories of tests, pop quizzes, and standardized testing. While these structures of assessments might help the teacher see which students have mastered the content, the teacher can not be 100% sure that a student has full content understanding.
According to the textbook we have been reading for social studies, Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High Quality Units, a student has full content understanding if she or he constructs big ideas in her or his mind through processes of inquiry, inference and rethinking in order to 'transfer' material learned across situations, places and times. If teachers are expecting students to have this understanding for content in their classrooms, then teachers must learn to properly assess this understanding so that students are able to show their range of performance. This is why performance tasks are one of the most effective assessment strategies that a teacher can use. Typically this requires students to apply content learned to a new situation that they are not expecting or haven't seen before. Students must use strategic thinking methods autonomously and must use habits of mind to persist with the taks and polis the work to suit purpose and audience. Through an assessment such as this, a teacher is able to get much more insight into the students' knowledge to guarantee that they really understand versus only seem to understand.
In the areas of science and social studies, performance assessments are extremely applicable. In these content areas, teachers are teaching authentic lessons to help students understand fundamental content that will be builded upon throughout their education. It is only appropriate to assess students after these authentic lessons in an authentic manner that requires them to apply their understandings. Performance assessments do just this!!