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Page history last edited by Ashley C. 13 years, 6 months ago

The Importance of Rubrics in Alternative Assessments

By: Ashley C

Alternative assessment can be used to:

  • Show growth and improvement of students
  • Inform instructional methods
  • Match “real life” situations
  • Get at higher-order thinking skills
  • Motivate students
  • Assess psychomotor skills


Integral to any alternative assessment is the creation and use of a rubric for grading purposes. A rubric identifies key behaviors of students at different performance levels. The use of a rubric:

  • Targets and evaluates key behaviors
  • Defines quality work
  • Increases objectivity
  • Gives students corrective feedback


Kathy Schrok’s Guide for Educators (http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/assess.html) is a useful tool that gives examples and templates for rubrics used in alternative assessment. On this website, teachers can find rubrics by subject for easy use. There has also been an addition of rubrics created for Web 2.0 alternative assessments. There are rubrics for:

  • Animoto
  • Glogster
  • Skype
  • Twitter
  • Voicethread
  • Wiki
  • Blog
  • Podcast
  • Multimedia
  • Digital Video/Camera


These rubrics are beneficial because they provide a basis for teachers to build upon. They can also spark interest as to the different ways to alternatively assess students using technological tools!



Miller, M.D., Linn, R.L., & Gronlund, N.E.  (2009).  Measurement and assessment in teaching.

Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson. 






Alternative Assessment


This website was great because it was useful first of all in explaining the importance of alternative assessment in the classroom.  The website then went on the give different ideas teachers can use as forms of alternative assessments, what students can do and how to incorporate it into classroom activities that students will enjoy.  Finally, I really liked the rubric ideas that the site gave.- Jennie G. (6/22/08)



Alternative Assessment Resource


I found this website useful for researching different ways to include alternative assessments into your classroom. This is very beneficial in including performance based tasks into the assessing portion of the class.- Reagan J.



Enhancing personal relationships through better peer understanding, a little self-development opportunity. (Rolando V. 11/07)

“Know Thyself.” Understanding where one comes from is critical to accepting the communications we receive. Knowing what makes us tick, and what makes others tick can be the difference between taking offense at a statement or a behavior, or not. As a professional educator the better, you understand yourself and your peers, the better you will be able to perform as a member of the team. Therefore, I like to take this opportunity to share with you, my colleagues, an experience that I found very productive in the hopes that you too will be able to learn a little more about yourself. 
First, we know that the results of any one instrument alone should not be used to assess an individual’s personality. With that in mind, I like to share my experience with Dr. Betty Bennett’s at the University of North Florida. During the course of one of our Educational Leadership classes, “Leadership for Learning Organizations,” she shared various personality/leadership type instruments. The instruments were a short version of the Myers-Briggs, and Kingdomality, as personal instruments, and a “Lead self” “Power Perception Profile,” and a “Decision Making Profile,” based on a “Situational Leadership” course.
At the end of the semester, we then wrote a culminating document of personal reflection based of what we had discovered, or re-discovered about ourselves from the combined perspective of all the instruments used. 
The most interesting aspect of this experience is that I was able to apply the same approach in my corporation, and just using one of the simplest of the instruments, “Kingdomality,” I was able to observe a distinct positive difference in how people communicated and behave towards each other. Thus, I want to share the free Kingdomality instrument at http://www.kingdomality.com/ See additional related links below:
A Myers-Briggs style personality instrument on-line, Jung- Myers-Briggs can be accessed via;
Another site you may also be interested in visiting for further investigation on this subject is http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/tt/t-articl/mb-simpl.htm 
Lastly, I will strongly recommend purchasing the book “Now Discover Your Strengths (linked below) and taking its on-line assessment. These results are based on over 10 years of data collection through the Gallup organization and have been referred by ADP’s Chief Learning Officer as being 95% valid.
I hope that this posting will assisting you in further discovering yourself.
Personality Assessment Instrument for Education Staff Development


Alternative Assessment


Some things we probably need to know about Alternative Assessment. Add content where appropriate OR add other headings.


Define alternative assessment

The utilization of non-traditional approaches in judging student performance.

An alternative assessment is any type of assessment that is an alternative to the traditional written exams that usually contain multiply choice, true/false, and even essay questions. Alternative assessments allow students to express what they have learned in other non-traditional manners. The students may keep journals, create portfolios, perform tasks, draw designs, verbally present information, physically demonstrate ideas or information (e.g. exhibitions or models), or they may create a public service announcement based on the subject matter.

The following is a website that contains a few examples of non-traditional assessment ideas:North Central Regional Education Laboratory.



Identify various types of alternative assessments

There is only one form of alternative assessment but with many measurement techniques:

Constructed Response/Performance Assessments – One in which a student is to develop his or her own answer in response to a stimulus or prompt.

Forms of the assessment are: Essay, Performance, Project or Portfolio, etc.

Each alternative assessment requires human scoring rather than machine scoring and therefore can become quite subjective. In Europe Alternative Assessment rather than Standardized Assessment are the rule rather than the alternative! The link below is an outstanding summary to Alternative Assessment.




Additional Assessment Ideas (Jill S. 2/21/07)

My school is a PK-12 institution that has mapped all of our curriculum online. One of the mapping features is an assessment section. We have used the following alternative assessments in our curriculum: Book reports, creative writing assignments, data based questions, essays (descriptive, expository, narrative, persuasive, position), group assignments, group discussions, group presentations, journals, lab assignments, lab reports, models, notebooks, observations (group, individual), oral assessments, oral presentations, oral proficiencies, outlines, portfolios, recitals, research projects, research reports, self assessments, skills check, speeches, technology assignments, thinking maps, visual arts assignments, visual displays and written assignments.


Portfolios are gaining in popularity and are used in the traditional "paper" format, as well as in an electronic form. Portfolios help students collect work, understand their learning, see connections between parts, and create long-term goals that enhance their education. Portfolios also promote the idea of student ownership of his/her own education. A portfolio helps a student track his/her own progress in a subject. The student also has a thorough and thematic record of his/her year's work. Writing in an integral part of creating a portfolio. Even in classes (or especially in mathematics), writing is an important part of the curriculum offers an alternative assesment opportunity. The following web sites are useful when working with students, teachers, and parents new to writing in mathematics: http://server1.fandm.edu/departments/Mathematics/writing_in_math/guide.html http://server1.fandm.edu/departments/Mathematics/writing_in_math/writing_index.html




Integrating connections with web-based portfolios also leads to higher level thinking, as well as reflection. Helen Barrett has an interesting recorded webcast on high school portfolios at this website: http://present.bccampus.ca/p43204744/. For Helen Barrett's Favorite Links to Alternative Assessment and Electronic Portfolios visit: http://electronicportfolios.com/portfolios/bookmarks.html#res.


More Alternative Assessment Ideas(EllaY. 6/24/07)

When we think of alternative assessments we often think of portfolios and books reports instead of multiple choice tests and true/false questions. Eventhough electronic portfolios were mentioned and suggested above, I believe that there is more to be done to bring assessment into the web 2.0 age. Here are some ideas to use technology, the internet, and read/write web when doing assessments:

  • Have students blog thier brainstorms,drafts,writing on a personal blog, make sure their classmates and you add comments to each post. At the end of the assigment the teacher can easy review the blog to assess the students progress. Make this simpler by having the teacher use her Bloglines account to keep track of the multitude of blogs.
  • Have students take photos of group work, upload them to a class site or a photosharing site like Flickr, tag and label them. The teacher can then review these photos to see the work done, student participation, and completetion. It is also a convenient way to comment on student work.
  • After teaching a lesson, have students participate in an online chatroom, forum, or blog in respond to a topic, question, or prompt. The teacher can then review the discussion and track understanding.


Alternative Assessment in the Language Classroom (Melanie W. 2/25/07)

Alternative assessment can be very useful in the language classroom. Like many other subjects, language is difficult to test in a traditional way once you move beyond basic grammar and vocabulary. This website offers some excellent resources to learn more about using alternative assessment in the classroom: http://www.indiana.edu/~reading/ieo/bibs/altasses.html. The links include information about developing your own alternative assessment methods, including how to use Learning Contracts!


Online Assessment Resources for K-12 Teachers


Here you will find a hand selected index of authentic assessment resources. (e.g.performance assessment, rubrics, negotiable contracting, and electronic portfolios).


University of Wisconsin - Scout



Alaska Department of Education & Early Development: A Collection of Assessment Strategies



ASSESS 21: A Database of 21st Century Skills Assessments (Oksana H. 2/07)



Harcourt eProducts (Kristen S. 2/11/07)


This website is a great tool if your school uses the Harcourt curriculum.


Dr. Helen Barrett's list of Electronic Portfolios (Kaylen S. 6/20/08)



Recognize & discuss pros and cons to alternative assessment strategies

Some of the Pros of Alternative Assessment are that each student is allowed to be creative without being judged for their specific disability, thus creating a more equitable interpretation of student performance. One of the major benefits of alternative assessment is that it can help eliminate educational inequalities that stem from a student's racial and socioeconomic background. It is a well-documented fact that inferences based solely on the measurement of tests, can result in gross inequities. Time and care in creating tests is tailored to the individual. Knowledge of the subject is still a requirement but some students perform better with non-standardized measurements. There is also a benefit that the teacher is testing on the principals of the lesson rather than a trained response. With the current trend toward differentiation of instruction, the subjective type of assessment allows students to showcase their efforts to the best of their abilities.


Alternative assessments allow students to show their strengths in different ways. They allow teachers to take a different route than the standard paper and pencil tests. Some children do not test as well as others. Alternative assessments allow for these differences and they let children succeed in their own, creative ways. Alternative assessments can take many forms, and teachers can come up with their own ways of evaluating his/ her students. After a teacher is able to see how the students learn best, then he/ she can create alternative assessments for the students to complete.

One of the major drawbacks of Alternative Assessment is the cost and the human factor. How can you expect a human to truly be subjective. In an environment of achievement it is perceived as not being fair to all. Another drawback can be that you will have students who go above and beyond what they are supposed to do and create their own masterpiece of an assessment tool while others will barely do just enough to get their specific job done. This can be tough on the teacher who must subjectively grade the work after seeing the effort that has gone in.


Explain why alternative assessment strategies are often appropriate for technology-enhanced activities

Alternative Assessment is often used for tracking student's pace in comprehending the topic. The technology allows for various repetitions of certain facets of an entire lesson. A writer of a lesson can provide many alternatives to the primary teaching in various forms or examples. As we know as teachers, all students do not learn in the same manner or at the same pace. What is easy for some might not be easy for others and vice versa. The technology-enhanced activities allow for various alternatives that can better meet the individuals needs.

This includes modifications for students who need remediation, accommodations, and/or modifications to the regular ed student. While some may perceive this as unfair because not all students produce the same product, teachers understand that assessment is a tool to determine whether a student has met a learning objective. There are various levels of mastery. Alternative assessment offers the chance for students at all levels to exhibit mastery. This is the basis for the current trend toward differentiated instruction.

In addition, the use of technology such as word processors, presentation software, and social bookmarking sites makes modifications simple to execute. Teachers can easily make changes to content and instructions to adjust for the needs of different learners.

For more on differentiated instruction, check out: http://www.educationworld.com/a_issues/chat/chat107.shtml


Another good resource on technology and alternative assessment is the article “Finding from Teaching, Learning, and Computing Survey: Is Larry Cuban Right?” - a November 2000 article by Henry Jay Becker (University of California, Irvine) that discusses technology in the classroom and assessment techniques. It can be located at:




Alternative Assessment also caters to Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. Alternative Assessment assignments can cater to each of the eight Intelligences through the use of technology. The needs of linguistic, spatial, logical, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and bodily/kinesthetic learners can all be met using technology in alternative assessment.


Develop alternative assessment strategies for curriculum-based, technology-enhanced lessons

As far as strategies go for a curriculum driven learning experience I would set up each student with their own computer loaded with the lessons of the day. Math, Science, even English with a common method of teaching. For each lesson, the teacher provides the basic context or desired premise. The computer software is then utilized to walk the child through various scenarios demonstrating the theory. Guessing quickly becomes obvious because the percent of tries vs. correct answers is immediately sent to the teacher and the teacher then works independently with the student to ensure that the lesson is understood to their expectation. Also the use of portfolios, journals and projects can ensure that the student comprehends the lesson. Authentic Assessment, The multidimensional process of judging students' acceptable performance behaviors in life-like role applications then becomes the norm. This also allows the teacher to help with behaviors that are acceptable including self-talk.

For additional information on Assessment Strategies for Curriculum-Based learning, check out:


Building Blocks of a WebQuests

Six Web and Flow Activities

Alternative Assessment Examples and How to Templates

WebQuests- In a Webquest, students use resources found on the Internet to complete a task or tasks. Students must use the resources provided to analyze and synthesize information in order to produce a final product that often solves a problem or showcases knowledge gained through the course of the "quest". Creating a webquest for the very first time is time consuming. It is important to remember that the pedagogy is most important. Some activities appear to be webquests actually are not. It is helpful to use a template when first creating a webquest in order to concentrate on activities that encourage collaboration, crititcal thinking and appropriate use of technology.



  • Are found by the teacher and given to individual students or groups of students
  • Are based in Problem-based learning
  • Give students a fun role playing situation, and asks the students questions to reveal a story
  • Once you know enough about Webquests, with a little knowledge of Webpage design you can create your own!

Quest Garden has an excellent template and also walks you through the entire process. http://webquest.org/questgarden/author/

This site offers useful information for adapting and enhancing webquests that others have already done


Other examples:




More webquest resources (Ann H. 6/19/07)

There are many internet activities that are titled webquests but are no more than a knowledge hunt. Refer to Tom March's blog http://www.tommarch.com/ozblog/ as another good resource for learning about webquests. Look under Tom's writings for "The Learning Power of Webquests", "What Webquests are really" and "My Webquests". He explains what an authentic webquest should include as well as provides examples.


The following are three links to numerous middle school math webquests that have already been created:


Lists numerous quests by subject and grade level


Although this is from the NCTM 1999 conference, the quests are still active


Grades 6-8 math specific quests


Suject Sampler - Subject Samplers are used when students have some background knowledge of a particular topic. The teacher chooses a small "sampling" of websites related to the topic and presents them to the students. The students then answer questions related to each of the sites, but the questions require students to make a personal connection with the information being presented. Instead of students reading and regurgitating, they are exploring and connecting with the topic and providing their own opinion creating ownership of their learning.

Topic Hotlist - A Topic Hotlist is a teacher-created collection of websites about a particular topic. Topic Hotlists are particularly useful when a teacher does not want students aimlessly searching the web for information.

Knowledge Hunt - Knowledge Hunts allow students to gain a particular body of knowledge the teachers wants them to learn without the teacher lecturing and the students taking notes. In a Knowledge Hunt, the student uses resources to answer teacher created questions. Often, the questions are posed and students must select from a list of resources. A Knowledge Hunt can be taken one step further by adding a critical thinking component with a gist question asking students to synthesize what they have learned from the websites they have visited.

Concept Builder - A Concept Builder gives students many different examples of a concept allowing them to recognize the different parts of the concept and make meaning of the concept for themselves.

Insight Reflector


Here is a powerpoint that gives you a brief overview of Internet Based Instructional Strategies. It also provides links to examples of the strategies overviewed.

An Introduction to Internet Based Instructional Strategies.ppt


Alternative Assessment for Second-Language Learners


This type of assessment is excellent for students that do not speak English as their first language. This gives them an opportunity to really show you what they have learned and not just take a test on the content. Here is a great article about Second-Language learners and Alternative Assessment.





Rubric Generators

In Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education, the authors discuss advantages and disadvantages of alternative assessment. One major disadvantage mentioned is the difficulty in assigning a score or rating to learner performance. In explaining the use of portfolios can be extremely time-consuming to evaluate, the authors takes an example of a nine-step process to create a portfolio rubric. Besides, “unintentional bias or low interrater reliability” may result from the subjectivity of the scoring process without “a finely detailed and clearly illustrated set of standards” (276). But, how does a college or university compares a student’s portfolio with the standardized tests traditionally required of applicants? The authors indicate that generic “rubric generators” are available online for teachers to use now. RubiStar is recommended: “RubiStar is a template that guides the instructor through the rubric creation process and provides example criteria for use in developing a scoring matrix for assignments ranging from oral presentations to science fair experiments (276). This website is especially to create rubrics for project-based learning activities.

For information, please visit the web at: http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php


M. Simonson, S. Smaldino, M. Albright, & S. Zvacek. (2002). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (2nd. ed.).Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.


If you still have questions about rubrics, go to the following site http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/assess.html


Equity in Alternative Assessment

“Equity, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, refers to "the state, ideal, or quality of being just, impartial, and fair" (p. 462). In an educational setting, equity can be expanded to indicate a state in which all children--minorities and nonminorities, males and females, successful students and those who have fallen behind, and students who have been denied access in the past--have equal opportunities to learn, to participate in challenging programs, and to have equal access to the services they need in order to benefit from that education."

Retrieved from: http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/educatrs/presrvce/pe3lk21.htm

“Equity” is always a center topic in assessment. The following website provides us insights into this topic in alternative assessments. Please check out:

Critical Issue: Ensuring Equity with Alternative Assessments



Resources and References

If you are using de.licio.us as your boomarking service please use AltAssess as a tag for important resources related to this topic. All these links will show up when viewing this URL: http://del.icio.us/tag/AltAssess


Mcgrath, D. (2003). Rubric, portfolios, tests! Assessing understanding in project-based learning. Learning and Leading with Technology, 30(8), 42-45.


Porter, B. (2003). Raising the bar for student assessment and performance. Learning and Leading with Technology, 30(8), 14-17, 41.




Ideas for Alternative Assessments: (Stephanie M. 2-12-08)


There are so many different ways teachers can assess students. Alternative assessments allow students to prove what they know in exciting and engaging ways. Here are some of my favorite alternative assessments:




Digital storytelling: Students can use their knowledge of the writing process to create their story using technology instead of paper and pencil. ComicLife allows students to create comic strips.




Movies: Students can work individually or in small groups to create movies on any topic, from the water cycle to the Holocaust. Try using iMovie or MovieMaker.




Podcasts: If your students aren’t quite ready for movies, have them create podcasts of the stories they write or the concepts they are learning. You can download Audacity for free or purchase GarageBand.




Class Wikis or Web Pages: Students can share what they have learned with other classes, their peers, and their families. They can also reflect on what they have learned using these tools. Try PBwiki to create a class wiki or Freewebs to create a class web page.




One of the disadvantages of alternative assessment is the difficulty of the grading process. Rubrics are great tools teachers can use to assess students. It is always important to show the students the rubric before they begin the project so they understand how they will be assessed. RubiStar and Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators are great resources that have already been mentioned.


I believe alternative assessments are vital to the classroom, especially a democratic classroom. I have seen podcasts, wikis, powerpoints, and slideshows as a way of assessment.  But i was think about having students make stop-motion animations for book reports, having the shildren act out an important part in the book.  This then springboards into making digital music for the background music and adding title pages and credits to the movie.  This is why I love alternative assessments for the classroom using technology; the ideas are endless! (John Fuller, June 22, 2008)


Multiple Intelligences and Alternative Assessments (Danielle H. 6/16/08)

When assessing your students (alternatively or traditionally), it is important to consider multiple intelligences. Here is a website that is dedicated to multiple intelligences in the context of technology: http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic68.htm. This website provides information about the intelligences, along with activity suggestions - many of them including options for alternative assessments.



Use common sense when designing alternative assessments:  The ideas for alternative assessments are endless, especially today with all the technology that is available.  A teacher knows the strengths and weaknesses of his/her own students--too many teachers have made alternative assessments too difficult or too complicated or too time consuming.  As the lesson is progressing, watch your students and see where their learning is heading.  Try, whenever possible, to make them participants not only in the learning process but in the assessment process as well--let them guide you to the assessment that is right for them.  I teach a class of Multi-Handicapped students and I often try to carry the alternative assessment one step further to make both the lesson and the assessment applicable in a functional/daily living aspect.  I feel it's so important that the assessment process is just as meaningful as the instructional process is.  Rubrics have been mentioned by many here, and grading rubrics can be pretty creative and activity specific--therefore much more meaningful to the students.  (Sandy P. 10/27/08)  


Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 7:36 pm on Feb 17, 2008

I was one of the fortuante/unfortunate teachers who had to give the Florida Alternative Assessment Test to some of the chosen students who fit the test demographic requirements. Have you received your training on these tests yet? While it was in its pilot stage, it was the most unfair, biased test I have ever been forced to administer. The test is based completely on visual cues and visual perceptions and the expected me to give it to a child that had been blind since birth. I gave the test, because I had to but I submitted it to the state along with 6 pages of notes on the unfairness of the test materials. They better have changed it a lot since the pre-test!

Elizabeth Snider
ESE teacher, teaching 2-4 IVE, Florida

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