For my student's writing assessment today, I allowed them to "choose their target". I gave them the expectation for what Advanced, Proficient, and Developing skill level would look like and let them choose how to proceed.
Proficiency-based Performance Assessment
All assessments in my classes are Performance assessments that are proficiency-based. Remember that Proficiency is what a learner can do in the real world, across contexts, and Performance is what a learner can do in the classroom context on discrete tasks. Whenever I administer a writing task, I am assessing my students' PERFORMANCE, and I do so based on the Proficiency Guidelines. I am predicting what they might be able to do in the real world; although students will almost always perform higher than their real-world proficiency when they are in the classroom.
My courses are now all standards-based. For each skill (reading, writing, speaking, listening), I have set a goal, or standard, that I think that all students in that course will reasonably be able to meet by the end of the marking period. When students perform at that standard level, they are considered 'Proficient'. A 'Proficient' performance equates to a 'B' in the grade book. You can read more about my assessment and grading system here.
Match performance targets to tasks
Many of our writing assessments are Free Writes, and I encourage students that can't think of what to write to just write out a familiar class story. What I've found, however, is that my struggling students get hung up on remembering the story and/or the vocabulary words to write it, and they don't end up writing anything at all! With no writing, I have nothing to assess!
In order to support all of my students in writing something (and to build their confidence in writing for the future), I decided to allow my students to choose the performance standard that they were reaching for: did they want to aim for Advanced (A), Proficient (B), Developing (C), or Emerging (D)? Depending on what they chose, I gave them a different task and different supports.
Note: This post (originally published in 2011) was updated in 2020 to include examples of some of the following tasks.
ADVANCED / I CAN PERFORM AT NOVICE HIGH
I can write a new version of the story or an original writing piece. (Student demonstrates that they can use familiar structures in new contexts.)
PROFICIENT / I CAN PERFORM AT NOVICE MID
I can write the story accurately from memory. (Student demonstrates that they can use familiar structures in familiar contexts.)
DEVELOPING / I CAN PERFORM AT NOVICE LOW
I can translate key parts of the story without help. (Student demonstrates that they can list familiar, practiced structures.)
EMERGING / I CAN REACH FOR NOVICE LOW
I can translate key parts of the story accurately with vocabulary clues. (Student demonstrates that they can transcribe familiar words into familiar contexts.)
I explained to students that if they don't remember this week's words, then this is the target they should choose, because I was going to give them a small vocabulary list.
I did not allow students to aim for "Beginning". The students whose writing pieces were assessed as 'Beginning' are not able to translate simple sentences, even with vocabulary support.
FOCUS ON 'I CAN'
By offering differentiated tasks and supports, I am able to assess what my students can do. I'm anxious to see how it will impact their confidence moving forward!