Performance-based and summative assessment to measure student learning for objectives

Before writing about assessing students I first like to clarify:

What is a performance-based assessment?

The definition of performance-based assessments varies greatly depending on author, disciple, publication, and intended audience (Palm, 2008). In general, a performance-based assessment measures students’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit or units of study. Typically, the task challenges students to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process (Chun, 2010). Tasks can range from a simple constructed response (e.g., short answer) to a complex design proposal of a sustainable neighborhood. Arguably, the most genuine assessments require students to complete a task that closely mirrors the responsibilities of a professional, e.g., artist, engineer, laboratory technician, financial analyst, or consumer advocate. [1]


What are the essential components of a performance-based assessment?

Although performance-based assessments vary, the majority of them share key characteristics. First and foremost, the assessment accurately measures one or more specific course standards. Additionally, it is:

  1. Complex
  2. Authentic
  3. Process/product-oriented
  4. Open-ended
  5. Time-bound

Normally, students are presented with an open-ended question that may produce several different correct answers (Chun, 2010; McTighe, 2015). In the higher-level tasks, there is a sense of urgency for the product to be developed or the process to be determined, as in most real-world situations.[2]

I would like to write about assessing student’s learning in relation to nature. I teach children aged 3 up to 5 years (Early Years students) at an International school, which follows the PYP curriculum of IB schools.

I will assess students against the standard ‘Showing an interest in and wondering about the immediate environment’ I would like the students to reach the following goals/objectives:


– The student is able to identify and name the 4 different seasons (spring, summer, autumn/fall, winter) related to the Unit of Inquiry “The Natural World”

– The student shows awareness of how to take part in activities related to the Natural World

-The student makes links to their own experience when sharing the experiences with others

– The student listens to and demonstrates understanding by discussing experiences related to the Natural World

– The student gains some experience of the three columns of the forest pedagogy that are PURE –Protect (nature)-Use (Nature) –Relax (in Nature)

– The student recognizes natural resources (such as specific kind of leaves)

– The student identifies vocabulary-linked to the UoI “The Natural World” (such as soil, sun, rain, water, leaf, tree, root)



How are students able to make their learning visible?

Throughout the year I take the students to the forest, which shows some project-related learning. It is important to show what the students have learned throughout the forest-project.


Summative Assessment

Each time upon their return from the forest the students are asked to draw a picture reflecting the forest-trip. They make visible their learning as they express themselves artistically.

Each student is asked individually to describe what they have drawn on their picture. The children that are not able to express themselves verbally (we have 27 out of 34 children being EAL learners) will get an opportunity to explain what is on their picture while getting some extra Mother tongue support. This means that there are many adults being involved in assessing student’s understanding of the four different seasons in Germany.

Also, key vocabulary used identifies what the student has learned: through using words such as: tree, branch, color (red, orange, green), roots, mouse, squirrel, bunny – they show their understanding of what we saw and experienced in the nearby forest. Finally, their picture will be displayed with the children’s comments (that are written down in English, as well as in their Mother tongue).




Performance-based Assessment

At the end of school year the students will have a student-led-conference to show the parents what they have learned in relation to their nature experiences, – whether in the forest or at the outdoor environment nearby school.

One part of these conferences is a presentation, where each child:

Receives pictures of a tree related to the season: how does it look like in spring/summer/autumn-fall/winter?

The child shares with their parents what they have seen and concepts which they have understood.

Afterwards there is a slide show with different topics related to Nature:

In their Mother tongue the student talks about what they have seen, and what has been important to them.

Although some of our young learners don’t talk about these experiences at all, but the older ones are highly engaged in telling their parents about the forest and everything they have learned. For example what squirrels collect in autumn, why there is hardly any food for them during winter time, that they build nests in spring and like the warm sun rays in summer time.



Carola Deinet-Knittel

  • [1]
  • Chun, M. (2010, March). “Taking teaching to (performance) task: Linking pedagogical and assessment practices.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Education.
  • Darling-Hammond, L. & Adamson, F. (2013). Developing assessments of deeper learning: The costs and benefits of using tests that help students learn.
  • McTighe, J. (2015, April). “What is a performance task?
  • Palm, T. (2008). “Performance assessment and authentic assessment: A conceptual analysis of the literature.” Practical Assessment Research and Evaluation, 13(4).






Learning about unpacking standards and backwards mapping

As a teacher of the International School of Stuttgart I use the IB standards of the Primary Years Program. The standards are used by the teachers for students of all grade levels in our school. It is very important to unpack these standards as they need to be used in relation to students’ age, development and background. Mapping them backwards is important as students develop their learning individually, and related to their age, and it aids us as teachers to plan for our units. For instance, mapping backwards by thinking about what our summative assessments will be, informs how we introduce and pre-assess the students.

If there is a student that gets some tasks related to one of our Mathematics standard, such as

“Making use of previously acquired knowledge in practical or new ways”

we discuss this in our weekly PYP team meetings. Together we look where this standard can be implemented into our unit, lesson plans and which concrete examples of learning can be given to the students.

In this case I would use this standard as follows:

If my students have gained some awareness of inquiring into common shapes (such as triangle, square, circle), I will teach other lessons while implementing their acquired knowledge. For example, I will go on an outdoor walk. Looking for objects that remind my students of these common shapes makes the understanding of their learning visible and shows whether they have understood the concept of shapes. It could be that my youngest learners (3 to 5 years old) find things that they relate to their former experiences. I then will take a photo, hang it up and let them explain where they found it, what it is made of, where else it could be found, etc. Creating a mind map is also a good tool to reflect on former knowledge, and deepen the students learning to make them sensitive for new experiences. The assessment of their learning (for example, an audio of the child explaining the shapes found) will be taken into the Evernote database, to which each parent has access to learn about their child’s understanding and growth related to the given standard.


Unpacking the standard

This video is a good tool to make clear what a standard is about, how it can be unpacked and how it is taught- related to components taught by the teacher in one or even more lessons. The video has been helpful to me, as it has deepened my understanding of how to unpack standards at my own school.

I would like to give a statement related to our Mathematics Standards, written down in the Common Core State Standards Initiative as:

Understanding Mathematics

These standards define what students should understand and be able to do in their study of mathematics. But asking a student to understand something also means asking a teacher to assess whether the student has understood it. But what does mathematical understanding look like? One way for teachers to do that is to ask the student to justify, in a way that is appropriate to the student’s mathematical maturity, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from. Mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical tasks of sufficient richness.[1]

I believe that this statement –mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important – is absolutely true. I also like to make the standards work for my young students, and bring enthusiasm and engagement to class in order to unpack them.

Carola Deinet-Knittel


© 2017 Common Core State Standards Initiative


Mathematics Standards


Backwards mapping related to a standard of the International School of Stuttgart

This is my blog post related to the standards that are taught at my current school. I am a homeroom teacher at the International School of Stuttgart and in my 11th year teaching the Early Years students. The blog I have created is used for this grade level (3 to 5 year old children, Early Years). The standards we follow are related to the PYP (Primary Years Program) curriculum, and manifested in “Atlas”, a computer program to which all our teachers have access to. We as a team meet weekly together with our PYP coordinator, Maths coordinator and EAL coordinator to improve children’s learning by discussing a variety of activities related to our four Units of Inquiry which are called ‘Form’ (Mathematics), Communication ‘(Language), Relationships (socil Studies), and ‘The Natural World’ (Science). The standards are given by the IB organisation, and we/I are mapping these backwards to make the learning happen related to our students’ age.

I chose the standard of:

Showing an interest in and wondering about the immediate environment


This standard I like to be reached by my Early Years students throughout the two years, during which they are a member of our mixed-age group (3 to 5 years) .

When I started 10 years ago there was hardly any outdoor learning offered, the children spent most the day inside the building. Since then a program has been developed to engage the children in some outdoor learning, what is a part of our daily schedule, and usually is about 1 up to 1 1/2 hours per day.

I have realized that there are many children with hardly any outdoor learning experiences. Also, I have observed that sometimes they feel uncomfortable and struggle to be outside, even showing some fear if being taught some outdoor learning (science related lessons). I like to take their fear away, become them curious about the outdoor learning environment, and engage them in becoming critical thinkers and inquirers while saving and protecting this environment, and finslly our planet.

As a forest pedagogy person (in German: Waldpädagogin) there is a lot of teaching experience I have been gaining throughout the last years. The main aspect of saving Nature, the environment and especially the forest-areas (globally!) are these three columns: PROTECT –USE –RELAX in the forest.

With my youngest children I started this way of learning through a huge variety of activities, such as: making our playground a home for butterflies and insects, protect little animals, such as rain worms and spiders, give us shade through planting trees, collect water if it rains, don’t break plants and flowers as they are a part of our ecological system, plant a hedge for birds and other animals, etc.

It has been one of my personal goals (what is also included in the school’s curriculum) that outdoor learning becomes a constant lesson of the Early Years schedule. Our students from 3 up to 6 years get to learn outside a “save classroom”, and get outdoor learning in the nearby forest-area as well. Daily with a small number of students one of us teachers goes outside, working on activities that are related to the standard, and the Unit we are currently teaching.

Example: if we work on numbers or shapes, we use the maths outside. In the forest we collect a huge amount of acorns and cones, bring them back to school, use them at the maths area for sorting, weighing, measuring and creating shapes.

The students get the following efficiencies:

  • respect our Nature and its resources
  • get an awareness how nature can be used in daily life
  • get an awareness of responsibility for the outdoor environment

We assess the students individually and document our observations on our e- portfolio which is called “Evernote”.

If going through the woods in autumn, I will assess the following:

  • the child is able to look at natural resources related to fall/ autumn (such as hazelnuts, acorns, colourful leaves)
  • the child is able to describe in own simple words what about the identity of a natural resource (such as: flat surface, oval shape, rough, spiky, flat surface, etc) Therefore we also use some Mother tongue support, (for example German and Japanese) as most our students are EAL learners.
  • The child is able to count objects being found (for example, rote- count acorns). Most of our young learners start rote counting up to 5, will develop rote counting acorns to 10, 20 and even 100 (only a few students are able to get this far).

The formulation of the assessments are the following:

Science Standards Assessment – Communication

Describe and compare things in terms of:

– number,

– shape

– size

– texture

– colour

and motion

-Draw picture of object being observed or described.


I hope this blog has shown and made transparent some learning related to my standard above.


Carola Deinet-Knittel 

How to give positive reinforcement and how to react if students breaking rules

How to give positive reinforcement and how to react if students breaking rules

By Carola Deinet-Knittel

Positive reinforcement is a very important way to improve a student’s behavior and learning, and also to deepen their self-confidence.

During my teaching career I have always had some children that needed more attention than their classmates, have been more restless, aggressive, needy than others. And as a teacher you learn step by step to get an idea how to ‘get them on track’- as you realise that otherwise teaching will become more difficult in class.

I have had students from 3 up to 13 years so far. In Germany there are educators who take care of students before/after school, as often school finishes at 1 ish pm. Since a few years ago there has been a change in childcare, so more students are taken under a teacher’s wings than a few years before. Also, there is much more time spent on “after school activities” around school what has become a very engaging way to effectively support the children in being with their classmates.

I would like to give a few examples how I have interacted with children having difficulties in being with others (behavior wise, needy, aggressive potential, etc.)

Having a boy in class who likes hitting a lot:

I first have a closer look at his behavior, take some notes, when aggression shows up, and related to withitness might see it coming (depending on time, schedule, being exhausted, being tired, for example). I gently try to have him around me, doing some activities together with him to keep him engaged, praise him if there is any kind of positive effect, such as: ”You are a real constructor today. Your tower you’ve been working on looks very impressive!” Also, one-to-one correspondence is often needed to get the child’s positive action. If hitting, pushing, starts there will be an immediate reaction following, such as direct appeal. I will stand next to the child, keep him away in a kind of way the students in class are not aware of (otherwise he might be in a negative ’drawer’ related to his behavior), and I also signalize: ‘I am the person that sets clear borders’.

Borders in class I always discuss with my students, -I call these borders ‘agreements’, such as be kind with one another, keep your hands to yourself, raise your hand if you like to speak during circle time, etc. With the children there will be group discussions. The children and I talk about what happens if these agreements won’t be fulfilled, or not respected. To make it visible, I take a mind map collecting what about their ideas if the rules, procedures will be not accepted. Then the children/teacher take photographs related to a specific agreement (for example: Me ‘pulling, pushing’ another teacher: this picture is “red crossed”, next to this picture a photo related to the agreement: ”We are kind” showing two children helping each other to get dressed). These aspects on our mind map are hung up on our classroom wall -being obviously for everybody. Also, the main aspect is translated into students’ Mother tongue, as the parents also can translate this important agreement.

Back to my first case:

If the boy breaks these, there will be further steps we as a class have decided as a follow-up: that means, the boy needs to learn to reflect on his behavior issues, as there will be another step set he might not like, such as not participating in the next library session if disturbing the slot. Also, I have constant discussions with angry, screaming and shouting students that don’t like to get dressed in their puddle pants for outside recess if it rains! But the agreement is: no outside recess -if you are not properly dressed. It might take a few days (maybe a week) until a misbehaving young student realizes –the teacher won’t let me be outside, if it rains. She likes to protect me from getting sick in wet clothes. Most of these issues are also discussed in the afternoons during key group time. Reflection (even with the youngest students) is a great tool to avoid stress in class, as the children realize that they are taken seriously. Also, related to any misbehavior we do read stories related to the topic.

For example, just this last week there was an English speaking boy (4 ½ years old, Indian background) screaming for about 15 minutes because it was time to tidy up the play dough area. He started hitting the teacher, too. I needed to react immediately: I took him aside from the others, so no one could point at him, and brought him to an area called the ‘calm space’: there a bear is sitting on a chair waiting for someone who is upset. I placed the screaming student there, gave him the teddy into his hands, and left him a bit. After a short while (I always could see the boy sitting there!), I went back (2 minutes), and started talking: ‘I am here if you get calmer. Hold the bear, he might help you.’

It usually works if students get used to this routine (I also talked about this to our school psychologists). After a while I was able to talk to the boy again, telling him it was necessary to tidy up because there was a new lesson starting, such as language-time. I also repeated our classroom-agreement, be kind with one another, keep your hands to yourself, and explained what will happen if he don’t do so. We as a class (3-5 year old children!) agreed on the person need to apologize by saying: ”Sorry,” drawing a picture to make someone happy again or holding hands with the one that got hurt. Also, there is another way to say loud: ”Stop! I don’t like this!’ With this sentence we encourage our young learners in showing self-confidence if being attacked by another student. This time, the boy really calmed down, couldn’t apologize but being held by the teacher’s hand together with her went tidying up, holding the brush and broom together, got finished in time and went for the next lesson calm again. In the afternoon I read a story titled:” If you are angry, and you know it…” (being recommended by our psychologist!) Finally, I asked the group whether there was someone who had this feeling once. Nobody reacted. I asked the boy whether he might remember some, and –he did. I explained that it is okay to feel angry, and also that it is okay to say: Sorry and think how to find a solution, such as tidying up quickly to be ready for the next lesson. The boy tidied up the next day very well.

To keep children focused on positive behavior I also try to mention positive behavior of students a lot, but it needs to be not only honored but also mentioned in a way that the children feel my honesty. If being identical the students realize me being the support of their positive behavior.

For example, last week has been the start of our settling-in procedure at our school for the new academic year. My colleagues and I had 22 new students settle into the Early Years area (3 to 5 year old ones!), what could be challenging sometimes.

During the afternoon circle time with the key group students I reflected on our first week, talking about what went well, what they liked a lot, what they didn’t like so much, etc. In my opinion there existed quite a good classroom atmosphere, what lead me to do the following:

Usually I praise and positively support my students by using words, or also by giving feedback to their parents after school, if there was something that really went well. This afternoon I went to my desk, got small glittery stickers and shared them with my students who were thrilled.

I said that this special treat was something I don’t use very often, but if I take it they all can be sure they did an outstanding job. All of the children felt positively and highly valued. In case things don’t work well these are also being discussed during key group time, and solutions will be tried to figure out together as well, such as how to be treaten fair if behavior issues turn into wrong (as mentioned above).


As it is said in “The Art and Science of Teaching”, Chapter 7, page 134:

“One of the conclusions is that a combination of positive and negative consequences appears to be the optimum approach. This conclusion is echoed by

Miller, Ferguson, and Simpson (1998) in their review of the research literature:

“Clearly, the results of these studies should permit schools to strike . . . a ‘healthy

balance’ between rewards and punishments” (p. 56).

It is important to note that the topic of positive and negative consequences

is a controversial one, at least as played out in the literature. [1]


I have also observed that students start interacting strange if I start praising them for things they usually do right anyway. So, for me it is a daily balance to keep the little ones on track in supporting them through voice, words and activities positively to make the class run smoothly. I also interact if there is a child being disruptive; first I try to planful ignore this but if it gets to difficult I interact by getting them into ‘time out’, talking to them calmly, or giving them some kind of attention they do need just right now.


This is the link I created related to the topic: ‘How to best support students having behavior issues in class’



[1] Print Products Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, Jane E. Pollock (#101010) Classroom Management That Works: Research Based Strategies for Every Teacher by Robert J. Marzano, Jana S. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering (#103027) Grading and Reporting Student Learning by Robert J. Marzano and Tom Guskey (Professional Inquiry Kit; # 901061) A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert J. Marzano, Jennifer S. Norford, Diane E. Paynter, Debra J. Pickering, Barbara B. Gaddy (#101041)