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  • Performance Assessments, Portfolio Assessments, Rubrics, and STEAM - Final Team Project

    Chrystine Alhona, Marisa Drogan, Sean McKenna, Tim Paccione

    Marist College

    EPSY 605

  • Performance Assessments, Portfolio Assessments, Rubrics, and STEAM - Final Team Project


    For our final project, we were tasked with exploring the topics of Performance

    Assessments, Portfolio Assessments, and Rubrics. In addition, we were to examine these areas

    through the lens of a particular grade level and content area of our choosing, for which we chose

    a 9th grade science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) course. This

    interdisciplinary classroom setting gave us an opportunity to examine our topics from a complex,

    unique perspective.

    For each of our core topics, and for STEAM as well, we conducted a thorough literature

    review, which we then expanded upon to develop best practices for educators through a “theory-

    into-practice” process. Those literature reviews and best practices discussions represent the bulk

    of this paper. In addition, we developed a presentation in which we will share our key findings,

    as well as provide workshop activities designed to support viewer understanding. For each of

    our workshops, we created handouts, which can be found in Appendix A of this paper. Finally,

    Appendix B includes a rubric that we have provided to our instructor, with which she is to grade

    our overall project.

  • A STEAM Curriculum:

    Literature Review:

    It is easy to distance the arts and humanities when concentrating on a STEM curriculum.

    However, incorporating the arts and humanities, or STEAM, has proven to enhance stimulation,

    diversity and richness of learning (Madden et al., 2013). STEAM curriculums foster creativity in

    business and science industries by educating students to address complex problems facing human

    society. This type of instruction moves beyond discipline toward multiple modes of inquiry and

    viewpoints (Quigley & Herro, 2016). Quigley & Herro state that STEAM students not only

    strengthen their learning within the separate contents, but search for opportunities to make

    connections with art, music, and design.

    STEAM broadens the pool of prospective mathematics and science learners who are not

    predisposed to or interested in STEM. The arts and humanities integration causes learners to

    travel a different, often enriching and rendezvous route (Howes, Kaneva, Swanson & Williams,

    2013). A study conducted at a secondary school in Egypt concluded that a STEAM education is

    directly linked to higher brain activity. Their research showed that STEAM gives emphasis to

    both hemispheres of the brain; the right responsible for creativity, and the left responsible to

    logic and academics (Sickel & Witzig, 2017).

    A study from Hanyand Elementary School, located in Seoul, Korea, states that creativity

    is the most required competency to be developed at schools (Kwon, 2015). This is also prevalent

    in SUNY Potsdam’s curriculum, which revolves around student self-reflection in order to take

    responsibility for their own learning. The curriculum also fosters multiple levels of divergent

    thinking. It is creative in the way it teaches students to use widespread thinking when evaluating

    a problem or content area, while combining a unique personal connection with the individual.

  • SUNY Potsdam has stated that their creative STEAM approach has positively impacted their

    graduate students in the field of industry, business and sciences (Madden, et al. 2013).

    A STEAM curriculum is possible through projects and applied learning that focuses on

    using real-life applications, problems and interdisciplinary work (Madden, et al. 2012). The

    curriculum can shift around the students’ interests, and aim towards topics such as science in

    society (Howes, Kaneva, Swanson & Williams, 2013). Promoting this deep engagement, it builds

    on experiences and relationships between people and places using collaboration. Using real-life

    problems is essential, because it creates communities that provide stimulation, diversity and

    richness of experience (Madden, et al. 2013).

    Integrating a STEAM curriculum takes understanding, experience and knowledge.

    Educators need to understand the importance and differences of authentic assessments versus

    traditional paper and pencil methods. Experience in various content areas is also necessary. One

    of the hardest challenges, according to Sickel and Witzig (2017), when creating STEAM

    assessments is incorporating engineering. Teachers need to be creative within their contents in

    order to incorporate all aspects of STEAM to ensure the highest level of higher-order thinking.


    STEAM assessments often revolve around problem-based learning, technology, twenty-

    first century skills, student choice and authentic assessment (Quigley & Herro, 2016). A study

    conducted in Hanyand Elementary School, Seoul, Korea, showed the positive effects of STEAM

    portfolios in the classroom. The purpose of the portfolio was to promote a higher level of

    creative and critical thinking in the classroom as well as a higher level of enjoyment in

  • assessments across multiple contents (Kwon, 2015). The study proved in favor of all three

    desired outcomes.

    Rubrics are a common method for grading STEAM authentic assessments, projects or e-

    portfolios. STEAM rubrics often include criteria of group collaboration, reflection and

    knowledge of content (Kwon, 2015). Higher-order thinking skills, peer assessment and self-

    assessment are often present in STEAM rubrics as means of monitoring and evaluating students’

    learning (Sickel & Witzig, 2017).

    Sickel and Witzig (2017) recommend using the “WHERETO” acronym as means of

    evaluating learning. The “W” stands for multiple questions; “where are we going?” and “what is

    expected?” The “H” represents “how will the students become engaged?” “E” refers to the

    students expected performance. “R” is refers to rethinking or revise. The second “E” represents

    “self-evaluation and reflection of learning.” “T” is for accommodations of learning styles,

    interests and needs, and “O” is the organization of the assessment and learning (Sickel & Witzig,

    2017, p. 84).

  • Performance Assessments:

    Literature Review:

    The educational study of student performance assessments is complex and multi-faceted,

    and a significant amount of research and study has been conducted in order to determine what

    strategies within these areas best meet the needs of students. In particular, creating effective

    mathematics and science assessments has been a challenge for secondary education instructors.

    As a result, an immense amount of literature has been written on these topics, which can be used

    to inform some possible best practices for teachers.

    The National Academy of Sciences has conducted research in the area of student

    performance assessments within the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and

    mathematics (STEM). One such endeavor included a meta-analysis of 225 related studies that

    compared how students perform in STEM courses taught under traditional instructional methods

    with how they perform in STEM courses taught using active learning methods. Active learning

    methods, as defined by the study, include constructivist teaching that allows the students to

    discover the knowledge themselves through performance. This approach is examined in contrast

    to traditional teaching methods, which consist predominately of academic lectures and paper and

    pencil tests (Freeman et al., 2014).

    The null hypothesis for the study stated that traditional methods maximizes learning

    performances for students in STEM courses, and the alternative hypothesis supposed the

    opposite, that active learning methods were more beneficial. The analysis completed within the

    study supported the alternative hypothesis and therefore the researchers’ theory that increasing

    the number of students receiving active learning instruction in STEM could lead to a correlated

    increase in student performance. Strategies such as group problem-solving, authentic

  • worksheets, and tutorials resulted in better results than lectures on average (Freeman et al.,


    The results from the meta-analysis included findings which indicate that active learning

    can lead to an increase in examination performance and raise students’ average grades to a

    statistically significant degree. Additionally, failure rates under traditional lecturing methods

    were found to be 55% higher than rates observed under active learning. Based on this

    information and previous literature within the subject area, the researchers at the National

    Academy of Sciences concluded that an increase in STEM instruction could lead to an increase

    in overall student academic performance, catalyzed by active learnin


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