Performance Assessments: Product vs. Process

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  • 0:10 Introduction
  • 0:40 Definition
  • 1:22 Choosing Appropriate Tasks
  • 5:26 Guidelines for Assessment
  • 5:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst
Playing a musical instrument, creating a spreadsheet and performing in a play are all activities that many of us engage in on a regular basis. These activities are also examples of ways teachers assess a student's mastery of a subject in educational settings. This lesson will define performance-based assessments and discuss the various uses of performance assessments in the classroom.


PE and band tests are examples of performance assessments
Performance Assessments Examples

Did you take a band or PE class in school? The tests in those classes were always a bit different. Instead of pulling out a pencil and answering questions on a piece of paper, you probably had to perform an activity for a grade. Those activities served as ways to measure your knowledge and abilities for that particular subject. Those activities are referred to as performance assessments, and we will focus on performance assessments in this lesson.


Performance assessments are assessments in which students demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a non-written fashion. These assessments are focused on demonstration versus written response. Playing a musical instrument, identifying a chemical in a lab, creating a spreadsheet in computer class, and giving an oral presentation are just a few examples of performance assessments.

These types of assessments provide educators with an alternative method to assess students' knowledge and abilities, but they must be used with a specific purpose in mind. Let's discuss four concepts to aid our understanding in choosing appropriate performance-based assessment tasks.

Guidelines for Choosing Appropriate Tasks

The first guideline deals with products versus process. A product is a tangible creation by a student that could take the form of a poster, drawing, invention, etc. Performance assessments are useful in assessing these products in order to gauge a student's level of understanding and ability. For example, asking a student to create an invention for a science class that incorporates Newton's laws of gravity would be a way to assess a product and the student's knowledge of scientific principles.

Completing a push-up in PE is a restricted performance
Restricted Performance

Sometimes we don't have a product to assess and must assess a process. In situations with no tangible product, teachers must assess the process and the behaviors that students display. Giving an oral presentation, singing a song, or demonstrating a tennis swing are examples of processes that could be assessed.

When assessing a process, teachers may be interested in examining students' cognitive processes as well. Teachers can learn a great deal about a student's thinking by assigning a process task. For example, if a teacher wants to understand the thinking processes behind her students' knowledge of force and acceleration, she might assign students an activity in which they perform experiments to determine how fast objects will roll down an incline. In this example, the teacher would have students make predictions first, then complete the experiments. The student predictions allow the teacher to gauge their understanding of the scientific principles behind the experiment.

When considering using performance assessments, we must also consider individual versus group performance. Teachers have the ability to assign individual or group assessments. Group performance assessments allow teachers to assign complex projects and tasks that are best accomplished by many students. For example, a geography teacher wants to assess his students' understanding of town planning. He may assign a project requiring the students to collect data, make maps, predict population growth, etc. Group performance projects allow students to assess their peers also, which provide a different level of assessment for the teacher.

Some performance tasks are relatively short in duration; this is referred to as restricted performance. These are tasks that involve a one-time performance of a particular skill or activity. For example, a PE instructor asks her students to perform a push-up. She wants to assess their form for this one particular exercise.

Planning, writing, and performing a school play is an extended performance example
Extended Performance

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