Incorporating Alternative Assessments

Educators have used countless ways to assess their students’ knowledge and abilities. Over the last few years, CTE educators have begun using alternative assessments as an evaluation method that puts students’ knowledge to work. This method is primarily used to have students show how much they have learned by executing a task or completing a project rather than a pen-and-paper exam.

What is an Alternative Assessment?

Unlike traditional testing methods, alternative assessments encourage students to use their thinking hat to apply their knowledge to solve a problem or showcase what they have learned. This method evaluates and measures one’s level of proficiency in a particular subject area.

Alternative assessments are commonly used within CTE as so many concepts learned within courses cannot be demonstrated with a multiple-choice test. For example, it is difficult to evaluate a student's understanding of numerous animal science skills. Instead of an exam, students can use creative ways to showcase their understanding and skillset of bandaging a horse. Assessing students through skill-based assessments allow students to show they have fully grasped the concepts taught in class.

Characteristics of Alternative Assessments

• Aligned with learning goals and objectives of the course
• Alternative assessments are tailored to the specific needs and abilities of students
• Alternative assessments are adaptable
• Incorporates different learning styles and skillsets
• A chance for students to showcase their creativity, personality and interests

Examples of Alternative Assessments

Upon adopting alternative assessments, the opportunities are endless, and teachers often aren’t sure where to start. When choosing the right tool, it is important to keep in mind your classroom goals and objectives and your students’ interests, skillsets and passions. Thinking about these aspects will allow you to decide which alternative assessment is best to incorporate at this time. Below are five of the most common alternative assessments used in today’s classes.


Asking students to build portfolios is one of the most common alternative assessments used within CTE. Portfolios allow students to take ownership of their learning while showcasing their knowledge and learning all while incorporating their creativity and style. In today’s technologically driven world, teachers are moving from printed portfolios to digital portfolios. Online portfolios are easy to update and can be used when students are applying for a job or college.

Skills Test

To put knowledge to work, skill tests are effective performance tests to help educators understand students’ knowledge and skills of the content taught. A skills test has learners complete complex tasks for the instructor. This allows the educators to observe their ability to put their knowledge into action.


Ask students to summarize their learning in a report. The knowledge report can be displayed in creative ways or in paragraph form, depending on the student. A report should highlight the understanding of key concepts, application of the content and real-world examples of how the content can be used.

Project Boards

Set up a science fair within the classroom or library. Using project boards, students can display their knowledge and understanding through the board and additional props if they choose to. This is an excellent opportunity to have other members of the school get involved in your projects. Invite administrators, teachers and even parents to visit the fair to see their student’s accomplishments.

          Concept Maps

Concept maps are a visual element representing the connection between ideas and concepts. Test students’ knowledge of objectives by asking them to build a concept map. This is also a chance for students to showcase their creativity.

These five alternative assessments are just a few examples of project-based assessments commonly used in education. Each of these can be completed at a relatively low cost to both educators and students. However, there are assessment tools, including EdTech Tools, that educators can use to assess students.


Grading Alternative Assessments

Just like the assessment, grading these projects isn’t a one-size-fits-all test. As an instructor, it is important to have well-defined criteria to effectively measure students’ ability to set and arrive at a conclusion during an alternative assessment. Depending on the type of test, educators could pass out rubrics prior to the assessment day for students to understand what they are being graded on.

Alternative assessments provide opportunities for students to showcase their academic skills and knowledge in a creative way. By incorporating alternative assessments into the classroom, educators have observed increased performance, motivation and eagerness to learn among their students.

The importance and tools highlighted in this blog are not comprehensive. Students and educators both find immersive value in reaching out and using alternative means to assess knowledge rather than just relying on a pen-and-paper exam. If you have found successful alternative assessments for your classroom, make sure to share them with us!