Rhetoric and reality in science performance assessments: An update.

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This article addresses the rhetoric of performance assessment with research on important claims about science performance assessments. We found the following: (a) Concepts and terminology used to refer to performance assessments often were not consistent within and across researchers, educators, and policy-makers. (b) Performance assessments are highly sensitive not only to the tasks and the occasions sampled, but also to the method (e.g., hands-on, computer simulation) used to measure performance. (c) Performance assessments do not necessarily tap higher-order thinking, especially when they are poorly designed. (d) Performance assessments are expensive to develop and use: technology is needed for developing these assessments in an efficient way. (e) Performance assessments do not necessarily have the expected positive impact on teachers' teaching and students' understanding. (f) If teachers are to use performance assessments in their classrooms, they need professional development to help them construct the necessary knowledge and skills. This article attempts to address some of these realities by presenting a conceptual framework that might guide the development and the evaluation of performance assessments, as well as steps that might be taken to create a performance assessment technology and develop teacher inservice programs. © 1996 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.