Goodbye Exams: Alternative Assessment Methods


The exams have been, are and will be a key instrument to evaluate the contents learned and how these have been assimilated by the students. Making its importance clear, there are other perfectly valid evaluation instruments that allow evaluation without having to resort to the “dreadful” exams.

The current laws in education are based on the acquisition of competencies, and these competencies collide in most cases with traditional evaluations.

For this reason, and practically at any educational stage, methodologies and types of assessment are being implemented (co-assessment, hetero-assessment, self-assessment) that allow the addition of more assessment instruments.

These assessment methodologies and types either skip the exam or give exams a lower percentage in the final evaluation grade than they used to. These percentages have progressively decreased, reaching a value between 30% and 40% in the stages of higher education.

These new methodologies, although not so new, incorporate active and dynamic learning models with a holistic component, which integrates students in their own learning. They are methods that prioritize participation and practicality, while introducing the contents to learn.

We are talking about methodologies such as project-based learning , gamification or cooperative learning .

These methodologies allow collaboration, problem solving, the use of game techniques and dynamics to learn.

They increase the interest and motivation of students, and create shared spaces for collaborative learning.

Other ways to evaluate

The methodologies described have a series of tools , activities and resources that allow analyzing whether students assimilate the subject without having to resort to exams.

The portfolios (set of works or activities) include various application or competence activities that are capable of evaluating the assimilation of content while integrating said content in the classroom.

Among these practical activities we can highlight case studies, problem solving, critical debate, SWOT analysis, text comments, graphs and tables, infographics, concept maps, etc.

Digital evaluation

There are also different digital resources that allow for proper evaluation. The webquests , for example, allow the search for information to expand content seen in class.

They consist of searching for information using web resources to carry out a final project that can be evaluated, with an oral presentation, which can be both individual and collective, and can generate a debate.

Applications such as Kahoot , Hot potatoes , Wordwall , among others, allow you to carry out an infinite number of evaluable exercises from a specific unit and, in addition, serve as a review of the subject.

The importance of the rubric

Virtually all activities have an evaluation rubric with criteria and indicators of achievement or evaluable learning standards. The rubric establishes a table with the aspects that are evaluated in a given task or skill and the levels of compliance.

By using these tables, the evaluation process is simplified and, in addition, it is explained what characteristics the student’s work must meet in order to be assigned that level and the corresponding score or numerical value. The transparency of the evaluation process makes students better understand what is expected of them and why they have obtained a certain grade.

Future teachers prefer the portfolio

In a survey of 139 students on a master’s degree in Secondary and Baccalaureate teacher training, 47.48% of the students surveyed did not want to take the final exam for the subject and preferred the portfolio.

Those who prefer exams consider that a challenge is established, a purpose, and an effort is made. However, establishing guided deliveries with their corresponding continuous or final evaluation also makes it possible to highlight both the effort of the student and the teacher.

New educational times

Times change quickly, also in the educational field, where from the master class that introduced the contents we have moved on to active methodologies with a change in the role of the teacher.

The teacher becomes a guide who accompanies the students in the teaching and learning process, and becomes a curator, selector, of content.

The master class does not have to disappear, since it is essential to teach and introduce the contents of the subjects. But it is increasingly joined by methodologies that use more practical than theoretical content.

In this way, among other skills, learning to learn is encouraged.

In the words of the Chinese philosopher Confucius :

“They explained it to me and I forgot.

I saw and understood.

I did it and I learned it.”

Learning by doing and, therefore, evaluating what is being done is essential to be able to overcome the teaching and learning process of students.

For this, the old-fashioned exams are not essential; they can be a complement to the whole evaluation, but we can forget their role as an end in itself towards which to guide teaching.

Author Bio: Francisco Jose Redondo Sanz is Professor of Teaching Innovation and Geography at the International University of Valencia