Developing Performance
Assessment Tasks


What is performance-based assessment?

Performance-based assessment is an approach to the monitoring of students' progress in relationship to identified learner outcomes. This method of assessment requires the student to create answers or products which demonstrate his/her knowledge or skills. This differs from traditional testing methods which require a student to select a single correct answer or to fill in the blank.

What are the characteristics of an effective performance assessment task?

The Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress defines performance assessment as “any form of testing that requires a student to create an answer or a product that demonstrates his or her knowledge or skills.” According to Stephen K. Hess, Director or Criterion Referenced Evaluation and Testing for Frederick County Public Schools, the goal of effective performance assessment is “to develop important tasks that are worthwhile and engaging for student, requiring the application of skills and knowledge learned prior to the assessment.”

Experts in the field emphasize that any effective performance assessment task should have the following design features:

  • Students should be active participants, not passive “selectors of the single right answer."

  • Intended outcomes should be clearly identified and should guide the design of a performance task.

  • Students should be expected to demonstrate mastery of those intended outcomes when responding to all facets of the task.

  • Students must demonstrate their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to reality-based situations and scenarios.

  • A clear, logical set of performance-based activities that students are expected to follow should be evident.

  • A clearly presented set of criteria should be available to help judge the degree of proficiency in a student response.

What does current research in education and psychology suggest about the value of performance assessment?
  Click here to see suggestions for aligning instruction and assessment. Suggestions are based on a specific implication from Cognitive Learning Theory (CLT) research
What process do I use to design a performance assessment task?
  Use this link to see a step-by-step procedure for designing performance assessment tasks. Each step includes quiding questions for teachers to think about as they work through this process.
How are performance assessment tasks scored?
  This link provides an overview of process used in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program for scoring student responses. Included in this link are sample rubrics, rules, and keys, accompanied by an explanation of how each is used.

Back to Instructional Strategies Home

This site was developed by the Department of Staff Development, in collaboration with the Division of Instruction. Questions, comments, and other inquiries may be addressed to Allene Chriest ( or Jeff Maher  (