Using Alternative Assessments in Vocational Education

Published in: Report no. MDS-946 (Berkeley, CA : National Center for Research in Vocational Education, July 1997)

Posted on RAND.org on July 01, 1997

by Brian M. Stecher, Mikala Rahn, Allen Ruby, Martha Alt, Abby Robyn, Brian Ward

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Student assessment has always played an important role in vocational education, and recent changes in assessment practices may hold great promise for vocational educators. A RAND study was conducted to examine alternative forms of assessment from the perspective of vocational educators. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the utility of nontraditional forms of assessment for vocational education. This issue is particularly important at the present time because both vocational education and educational assessment are undergoing significant changes. In education, enrollment in high school vocational courses is dropping, the nature of vocational students is changing, and employers are calling for applicants who possess skills different from those of the past. In assessment, new forms of constructed-response measures, including performance tasks, portfolios, and senior projects, are gaining popularity, and assessment is being used more prominently as a policy tool. The confluence of these factors makes this an opportune time to take a careful look at the potential value of alternative forms of assessment for vocational education.

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