Alternative Assessment: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Jesse Richter

Jesse holds two masters, a doctorate and has 15 years of academic experience in areas of education, linguistics, business and science across five continents.

Are you looking for a better understanding of what alternative assessment is and how to implement it? This lesson defines the term and provides tangible examples of how to use this powerful methodology in the classroom.

What is Alternative Assessment?

Are you craving more organic and genuine ways of observing and documenting student achievement and progress? Many educators are, particularly in our modern world of overwhelmingly restrictive and prescriptive standardized testing requirements. Fortunately, education sciences support several alternatives to traditional assessment by leveraging creativity, student involvement and strategic curriculum development.


Alternative assessment is any classroom assessment practice that focuses on continuous individual student progress. Perhaps the best way to define alternative assessment is to say that it is the counter to traditional forms of standardized assessment. Let's take a closer look at what alternative assessment is and is not.

Characteristics of Alternative Assessment

Alternative assessment is also known as formative assessment and portfolio assessment. The characteristics of alternative assessment may include:

  • Is usually teacher-generated, as opposed to being passed down from an administration, government or third-party organization.
  • Takes into account the individual background and needs of every unique learner.
  • Considers the big picture of individual student progress over an extended period of time.
  • Is flexible, responsive and continually developing according to curricular objectives.
  • Takes into consideration different learning styles and preferences.
  • Allows language learners to demonstrate content knowledge and skills mastery without language barrier difficulties.
  • Is highly effective for use with students who are entitled to accommodations and/or modifications.
  • Is normally documented with qualitative data, such as performance descriptors, comparisons with previous work and skills demonstration.

What Alternative Assessment Is Not

Now, let's take a look at what alternative assessment is not:

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