formative assessments

8 steps to effective K-12 assessments

By taking these steps for effective assessments, teachers can effectively give students ownership over their learning.

Developing quality assessments can be challenging for a number of reasons. And, because assessments are essential in so many student-focused decisions, it’s important to get them right. Here are eight steps that teachers and curriculum directors can use to create high quality, effective assessments:

1. Use assessments to uncover good decision-making evidence. Assessment should be considered integral to the instructional process, and the development of assessments with lesson-planning improves learning outcomes. When done right, planning assessment while planning lessons not only gives instructors the evidence they need to make sound decisions, but it also ensures that curriculum, instruction, and assessment form a cohesive program around which informed decisions can be made.

2. Align learning targets with assessment methods. Mismatches between the target and the assessment method will lead us to making incorrect decisions about a student’s position on the learning continuum. For example, knowledge learning targets are efficiently assessed using traditional selected-response type questions. However, learning targets requiring demonstration of a skill or the creation of products will require more innovative item types in order ensure the learning target is being assessed accurately.

3. Don’t mistake rigor with difficulty. Rigor relates to the extent to which students must transform knowledge (i.e., cognitive demand) in order to display proficiency. Think of it in terms of the thought processes occurring for students: demand connected to interacting with the question affects difficulty, while demand connected to forming a response affects rigor.

4. Leverage blueprinting to build out consistent instructional programs. By ensuring coverage of standards and accurately gauging mastery of specific knowledge and skills, blueprinting helps teachers pinpoint which learning targets need to be assessed and build out a consistent instructional program. For example, by focusing only on those learning targets that have an enduring nature, blueprinting pulls out the most important elements of learning. This, in turn, helps teachers make the best decisions related to student progress.

(Next page: 4 more steps to effective assessments)

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