Traditional and alternative assessments share some key elements, yet differ as well. All assessments, whether given as a test after a unit or alternative, should be measurable and be reliable and valid by having clear criteria to measure the learning targets. Traditional and alternative assessments generally differ in timing, feedback, student's involvement, and how the teacher uses the information though.
The time in which traditional assessments such as after the unit tests are designed to provide feedback is at the end of a unit only. There is also generally a time limit to complete this type of assessment as well. These are not true of alternative assessments. A KWL or pre-test can provide feedback before a lesson or unit. Nearly all alternative assessments can also provide ongoing feedback during the lesson or unit as well as after it is completed. Also, many alternative assessments do not have a time constraint to demonstrate understanding of content.
The feedback given from a traditional assessment is a letter or percentage grade, which does not tell the content that the student knows, only a measure of quantity of knowledge from a scale of nothing to everything. This feedback is used to tell the teacher and/or school whether or not to promote the student and how they fall in comparison to the other students. With alternative assessments the feedback can be used by all parties (teacher, student, parent, and school) to know how the student is doing with the content at a given time. If a student is not doing well this can be used as a learning opportunity rather than a brand of failure. Since there will usually be a variety of methods used when doing alternative assessments, there is also a wealth of different types of feedback available about the students' progress throughout the unit.
With traditional assessments, there is no student involvement in the process other than to take the test. With...