What is a performance reference test?

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A product of Glaser's 1962 extensive research, performance reference tests are also known as criterion-reference tests. Other names for it are domain-reference, authentic test, and mastery tests among others.

As its name implies, a performance reference test aims to determine the level of knowledge of a student within the parameters of specific content. These tests contrast dramatically with a norm-reference tests, which merely attempt to obtain data on student performance parting from a what a "norm group" scores as a whole. Hence, the performance is not necessarily analyzed but compared to how "the others" have performed. Hence, the performance reference test focuses on how much the student really knows about a concept while the norm-based testing merely compares the testers and their scores. In other words, one cannot use performance reference tests to create mode, medians, and variables in quantifiable data.

Examples of criterion or performance reference tests are daily check-ups and  spiral reviews where the teacher can see the day-to-day performance of students. This way, the teacher can better assess whether there has been progress in learning.

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