Articles > Dalia Ibrahim

Performance Assessment and Distance Learning

Performance Assessment and Distance Learning

By Dalia Ibrahim

Measuring someone’s knowledge, capabilities and skills is not an easy task. How can you be objective and accurate in doing that? How can you be sure that the result of that particular quiz or exam reflects the actual knowledge of your student about your subject? How can you be sure that the questions of your assessment target the various learning styles and multiple intelligences of your students? These questions come to my mind whenever I need to assess my students; I always feel there is a hidden realm inside them, a realm of knowledge that is still undiscovered and that goes beyond traditional assessments.

Where live in an era when learning assessments should be based on 21st-century skills, and if this was the case when physically at school, I believe it is way more important during distance learning. Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are essential to engage students who were obliged to virtually learn. They do not feel the atmosphere of the classroom, their room has become a microcosm for their school, and the only link they have with their teachers and classmates is the screen of their laptops.

Engaging students and making them enjoy their lessons has become a challenge to teachers, and assessments have turned into a nightmare for students, believing they have no chance to properly learn the syllabus during distance learning. Students have started losing self-confidence and motivation, and all rules about what should be done and what shouldn’t have blurred.

For all these reasons, I believe that teachers should utilize ‘performance assessments’ to evaluate their students, such as portfolios including samples of their best tasks, those tasks they enjoyed doing and they believe accurately reflect their knowledge and skills. In these portfolios, students should include those tasks that needed brainstorming, planning and much of their time and effort; teachers should feel their students’ characters between the lines of their essays, in the pictures included in their PowerPoint presentations, or in their opinion expressed in a speaking recorded activity.

To verify that this is what my students actually need when being assessed, I have surveyed 75, grade 11 students, asking them whether they preferred to be assessed through quizzes or presentations. 69% of students chose presentations over quizzes. While analyzing the results of the survey, I have discovered that those 69% were the high achievers and average students, those who usually prefer tasks based on 21st-century skills because they are generally more confident when it comes to being creative and innovative. The high achievers and average students chose presentations because they believed that traditional forms of assessment limited their skills, especially in distance learning. The remaining 31% of the students were the low achievers, who preferred traditional quizzes because, in their opinion, these rely more on memorization and because these students usually lack self-confidence when it comes to creating something new and creative. Freedom and flexibility confuse them and make them feel frustrated and uncomfortable.

This survey made me realize that the majority of the students support the idea of a digital portfolio as an assessment tool during distance learning and that, when asked to create something new, students give more than expected and enjoy learning more. In addition to this, I realized that low achievers should be encouraged to be creative, not to fear others’ opinions, and to explore more. For that, presentations, flipped classroom tasks, self-evaluations, reflections, and pair/group work should be encouraged in all subjects.

For all these reasons, teachers should focus more on creative formative assessments, where students are less stressed and can perform better; teachers should assign projects and presentations where students explore and create, and teachers should also focus on metacognitive assessments, where students continuously self-assess their performance and skills, being aware of their progress and of what they still need to develop.

Let us focus more on making our students learn and be aware of their progress than being focused on numbers and scores as the only way that gives value and importance to their work. Let us make our students value their knowledge and capabilities, develop self-confidence, try new activities, explore, and apply whatever they learn to their everyday life. Let us change the vision they have of the educational process, let us make them love to learn, and love to be assessed and challenged. Let us focus more on them and their needs, especially now that we cannot have them around and feel them like before.


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