There are instances when these 3 most common assessment strategies might not be best-suited for the task at hand.
The good news is that there are many additional types of assessments that exist as a means to assess student knowledge and learning.
A research study from the University of Exeter looks at eight assessment types total. For arts integration, just concentrate on these three alternative assessment options: Dynamic Assessments, Synoptic Assessments, and Ipsative Assessments.
These assessments should not be used on a daily or even weekly basis. But hopefully, they can serve to provide variety and a holistic perspective to your assessment toolbox. Each of these methods also works well paired with Arts Integration and STEAM learning. Why? Because they lend themselves to creative learning in multiple subject areas.
Dynamic assessments are meant to measure not only the skills a child possesses but also their learning potential. They’re complementary to “Static Assessments,” like standardized tests. They’re also usually very interactive between the teacher and student.
These types of assessment are often particularly useful when working with special populations of students. Some examples of special populations include English Language Learners and Special Needs Learners.
Even students coming from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Like in a diagnostic assessment, dynamic assessments might use pre/post tests to gauge student learning. They also examine how much teaching and what type of teaching was required for student learning, and the degree of transfer of learning.
So Many Types of Tests!
In a traditional static test, a teacher might rephrase a question or encourage the child to show understanding. But in a dynamic assessment, the teacher would go beyond simple feedback to provide more elaborate feedback. For example, instead of “that’s correct!”, the teacher could instead say “that’s correct because a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea and a dog fits into one of those specific categories!”.
In a dynamic test, a teacher might also participate during a test by asking a student “why do you think this is the correct answer? How do you know this?” in an attempt to get the student to verbalize the reasoning behind their responses. The teacher might also intervene by testing, teaching, and then retesting.
For example, an English Language Learner might be asked to tell the story of the Three Little Pigs. The teacher might evaluate initial story narratives. Then, teach specifically to the places where the student’s first tests showed a lack of understanding. The teacher may then ask students to retell the story. The pre/post tests are compared and considered along with listener effort and responsiveness.
More than a specific style of test, dynamic testing is meant to be a method of “active testing” as opposed to “passive testing.” Take a deep-dive into dynamic assessments at this Colorado Department of Education resource page.
A synoptic assessment is a specific type of summative assessment strategy that tests the student’s understanding of connections between different elements of a subject or different subjects. The purpose of this type of assessment is to teach students how to make connections between topics and to increase student engagement while using a holistic assessment approach.
The key to synoptic assessments is that students need to be able to recall knowledge from previous units of study, and transfer that knowledge to a new subject or area of learning. These can be aural or written assessments. They also tend to be more project based.
For example, students might learn about different countries’ geography and culture over several units of learning. For an assessment, they might be asked to create a “mock United Nations” where students role-play and come together to use background knowledge to solve the “problems” established in the assessment outline. Or students might have to utilize the design process and background knowledge of forces and Newton’s Laws to create and refine Rube Goldberg machines.
In this model of assessment, students can offer peer feedback. In this set-up, they are learning from the way others have approached the task. Learning through assessing the work of a peer helps students to evaluate and benchmark their own personal performance. Teachers using synoptic assessment look for breadth of understanding. In other words, the student’s abilities to see beyond obvious and black/white responses to deeper implications of questions. Students should link relevant ideas and arguments across subject and topic areas.
Another example of a synoptic assessment could take the form of an essay that requires students to acknowledge more than one viewpoint. Synoptic essay prompts usually start with the words “How far…” or “How valid/convincing was…”. An example of a synoptic essay prompt for secondary students might be “How far was the personality cult of Adolf Hitler responsible for the success of the Nazi party?” This question asks students to think about the leading figures and events of WWII with a broad lens. To find more synoptic essay prompts check out this resource offered by the Historical Association.
An ipsative assessment compares a student’s achievement against their own previous achievement. One of the most common ways we might be familiar with an ipsative assessment strategy would be at the gym. You can compare how far or fast you ran this time to how far or fast you ran last time when running on a treadmill. When lifting weights you might compare the amount of weight you are capable of lifting and note how that changes over time. When using a bicycle machine you may take note of endurance or speed compared to previous rides.
In all of these examples, it is not particularly important how you are doing compared to how someone else is doing, or how you are doing compared to a rubric or standardized expectation (as a criterion-referenced test would do). All of these are examples of ipsative assessments and they serve the purpose of measuring personal progress and development. This type of assessment shows whether a student is taking advice from a teacher on previous tests, learning from past mistakes, and growing as an individual.
Ipsative assessments benefit all student learners. Why? Because students who may normally test low and become discouraged, can instead take note of improvement over time. This type of assessment also prevents students who are usually very high achievers from becoming complacent with good assessment scores. Instead, they strive to improve their score with each iteration of an assessment.