Although research has shown that student engagement is strongly related to performance on assessment tasks, especially for traditionally underserved subgroups of students, increasing student engagement has not been the goal of standardized tests of content knowledge.
Recent state and federal policies, however, are changing the assessment landscape. For example, the adoption of the Common Core State Standards has spurred a renewed interest in the development of more balanced assessments that are designed to measure higher order thinking skills and support deeper learning.
The goal of this study is to provide guidance to educators, assessment developers, and policymakers on how to increase student engagement in performance-based assessments. The researchers examine how students and teachers conceptualize and recognize engagement features in performance-based tasks. To provide theoretical grounding for this study, student engagement is defined as a combination of the following concepts: relevance, authenticity, autonomy, collaboration, higher order thinking skills, and self-assessment. Next, based on interviews of study participants, the authors report on what qualities students and teachers perceive to be engaging in assessments.
This study confirms the importance of these six engagement concepts, adding an understanding of the nuance and features of each. The authors conclude by discussing how student engagement may be meaningfully incorporated into assessment tasks so that all students are more fully engaged and motivated to demonstrate their understanding.
The Student Engagement series was prepared with the generous support of the Sandler Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge their support. The research was conducted independently by Stanford University and does not represent the views of the sponsors.
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