In our previous blog, we began highlighting seven things that assessment-literate educators need to do when creating high-quality assessments. Let’s recap the first three:
1. Assessment-literate educators create and/or select assessments that balance formative and summative purposes to meet the information needs of all stakeholders, including students.
2. Assessment-literate educators establish clear learning targets that form the basis of instruction and assessment.
3. Assessment-literate educators ensure that their assignments and assessments match the learning targets that have been or will be taught.
Creating high-quality assessments for use in individual classrooms, across grades, or across schools is important for getting an accurate picture of student learning. Here are four more important things assessment-literate educators do when creating or selecting assessments:
4. Assessment-literate educators select assessment methods to match types of learning targets. Sometimes the best assessment method is a performance task, a report, performance, or demonstration. Sometimes it is a journal entry reflecting on the learning. Sometimes it is a multiple-choice test. Sometimes, it’s an in-the-moment thumbs-up or down so students can provide feedback on areas where they need support. Educators have a wide variety of assessment types available to them.
It is important to know that some assessment methods work better or provide better information with specific types of learning targets. Some assessment types work better for recall and reproduction, while others better address strategic thinking, extended thinking, or the creation of new material. Again, the assessment that is best is the one that most closely aligns with the learning targets.
5. Assessment-literate educators create and/or select assessment items, tasks, and scoring guides that meet quality standards. Quality standards help ensure content validity, alignment, and usefulness, so that the assessment can provide the kind of relevant information that makes it worthwhile to deliver.
Each assessment is only as good as the quality of each item or task that is a part of that assessment. Quality guidelines exist for building an assessment, constructing items, and creating scoring guides. While there may be variances among organizations, some characteristics are fairly standard. Clarity on the learning target being assessed is the starting point. Quality items should activate student thinking and be fair to all – free of bias and sensitivity issues. Items and tasks that best activate student thinking are contextualized in the real world, engaging, and relevant.
Scoring guides take many forms and may range from checklists to rating scales to rubrics and vary between analytic and holistic. Analytic rubrics look to give feedback on each individual trait or aspect of the task. Holistic rubrics look at the performance on the task as a whole and provide a more general, global type of feedback. Scoring guides should:
- Include a clear explanation of what is expected in a quality student response, perhaps with exemplars
- Outline the range of possible student responses and assign a value to each with explanations
- Provide enough context and support so that scoring that can be consistent, accurate and objective.
6. Assessment-literate educators sample learning appropriately when assessing it. Determining which learning to assess is important so that educators do not waste time or resources and yet get sufficient information about student learning to inform instruction and planning. It is impossible to assess on every fact, skill, and relevant concept that a student learns over the course of a day, a unit, or a class. How much is enough for a student to demonstrate proficiency, mastery, or growth?
Choosing what to assess, and how to assess it, involves understanding what is most informative. Does your assessment include a variety of item-types? Do certain concepts foundational for understanding others? What is the learning progression for the concept and skill? One tool used in planning assessments is a test blueprint, which can be useful in outlining what the sample of learning will be.
7. Assessment-literate educators control for factors which can bias results. Bias is when a group of students have an unfair advantage and this shows in the test results. Unfair advantages can come from many different sources. Bias may come from students not having had the opportunity to learn, which may be influenced by background knowledge or experience.
A fair assessment of student knowledge and skills is only possible when every student can access the information on a level playing field. Culturally biased terms and concepts must not be included.
Accessibility includes tools and accommodations so that students can either take the same test as their peers or have an equivalent assessment experience. Assessment-literate teachers are acutely aware when issues of accessibility due to linguistic, physical, cognitive, or emotional capabilities arise. All of these need to be considered in creating and/or selecting assessments.
Teachers use tests to make inferences about students’ skills, understanding, and readiness, which lead to a variety of decisions. The quality of these decisions is enhanced when teachers collaborate on creating and selecting assessments. When teachers collaborate around assessments, results inform the practice of individual teachers, provide feedback about the quality of assessments and item types selected, and increase capacity of individual teachers to benefit from the varied experiences, ideas, and perspectives of professional colleagues.