Feedback and Assessment

Feedback and Assessment


Assessment is the systematic, continuous, and purposeful gathering of data to inform instructional actions by determining students’ capacities and accomplishments. It is intended to inform administrators, teachers, students, and families; it is used to drive instruction, analyze curricula, and enable students to continue progressing in their learning.[80]

Evaluation is the process of interpreting the evidence and making judgments and decisions based on the evidence.[81] Evidence is collected via assessments. It includes pre-assessments, formative and summative evaluation.

Feedback is information teachers, peers, experts and others offered in the forms of supportive prompts and evaluative comments like, “Your argument would be stronger if….”

Differentiated feedback and assessment involves real procedures and criteria characteristic of the disciplines involved in an activity. As often as possible, the assessment should be undertaken by a member or members of the authentic audience for the product. These assessors act as students’ professional peers. Although the students are newcomers to the field or discipline, this adds a new dimension to the notion of “peer assessment.” Students should also be encouraged or required to self-evaluate their products using the same criteria as the expert.

Best practices associated with the implementation of a balanced assessment program for all learners apply to learners with high ability as well. Balanced assessment integrates traditional, portfolio and performance-based assessments to “provide a more accurate portrait of the individual learner.”[82]All forms of assessment can be differentiated in powerful ways.

  • Traditional methods should include “on level” (grade appropriate) and “off level” (above current grade) assessments of mastery. These include teacher-developed assessments and standardized tests. Items should address content beyond grade-level expectations (more abstract, complex or advanced) for students who have had an opportunity to learn this material. This recognizes the difficulty and sophistication of their work. Their results may be used for reporting purposes.
  • Performance-based assessment tasks (also known as alternative or authentic assessment) “require students to apply their knowledge and skills in order to solve problems, create original products, or demonstrate particular skills. The subjectivity of the task and the creativity of the possible responses require criteria-based assessment rather than an objective-style test.”[83] The tasks are often presented as problem scenarios involving real-life situations and require complex thinking. The criteria and levels on rubrics developed to assess student work may be differentiated to inspire and assess sophisticated products.
  • Portfolios are collections of student evidence that show students’ growth and development over time. Portfolios allow students to examine their own work and reflect on the evidence of change in their thoughts and feelings. They allow students to analyze their strengths and weaknesses and set both short- and long-term goals. A portfolio can contain both formative and summative evaluations because it is a collection of evidence to show how or if students are meeting goals or standards.[84] Assessment rubrics can be differentiated so criteria and levels are sensitive to the rich, deep reflections and surprising growth in skills and understanding highly able learners may achieve.

Whenever possible, the student and teacher should develop assessment criteria, rubrics and procedures for major products collaboratively and this should be done before the student begins work on it.

Once curriculum has been differentiated, the outcomes often exceed or fall outside of grade-level expectations. In such cases the teacher should collect evidence that the student has both:

  • Fulfilled grade-level expectations. This evidence should be assessed as it is for other students in the grade and this should be used in calculations of grades for reporting purposes.
  • Gone beyond grade-level expectations. Evidence of additional learning, beyond grade-level expectations, resulting from the differentiated task should be documented and assessed as well. Anecdotal records, formative and summative assessments for this material may be reported separately. Distinguishing student achievement in grade level and differentiated curriculum ensures a clear record of these accomplishments is available to all stakeholders.

Comments should provide a balance of strengths and those areas to be considered for future improvement.


Differentiated feedback and assessment should focus on student growth in expertise as a developing member of a professional community and consider aspects of work in that community beyond knowledge of content. This might include style of communication (conventions), attitudes and behaviors, problem-finding, resourcefulness, etc.

Differentiated feedback can focus on metacognitive aspects of the student work. Explore and scaffold students’ planning, monitoring and self-evaluation of their learning and production.

The criteria and levels on rubrics can be differentiated to “raise the ceiling” on the activity and to inspire students to enhance aspects of their work by valuing it in the evaluation process. Expectations should reflect student potential for growth, not grade level expectations. This can be achieved by adding a criterion that values creativity, or humor, or impact. Or, a more challenging criterion can be substituted for one that includes it. For example, “impact” might be substituted for “coherence.” A collection of options for criteria is provided in Appendix J.

The levels of accomplishment used on rubrics can also be modified, extending them to include expectations of products produced by experts in the domain. Roberts and Inman’s Performance Scale{{85))suggest adding one or two levels beyond “Proficient”: “Advanced” & “Professional”.

6  = Professional: level of performance expected from a professional in the content area
5  = Advanced: level exceeds expectations of the standard
4  = Proficient: level expected for meeting the standard
3  = Progressing: level demonstrates movement toward the standard
2  = Novice: level demonstrates initial awareness and knowledge of standard
1  = Nonperforming: level indicates no effort made to meet the standard
0  = Nonparticipating: level indicates nothing turned in

The National Research Center for Gifted and Talented at the University of Virginia has developed a collection of performance-based assessment tasks (with rubrics) developed for mixed-ability classes including high ability learners in middle school English/Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science and Interdisciplinary Studies.