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6 Steps to Quality Assessment Design

Written by
May 2nd, 2019

Whether we are using a quick informal assessment or developing a district-wide summative test, the design of an assessment directly impacts how valuable or usable its results are.

Think of building a house. The design and build of the house directly impacts how usable it is when we’re done. The order in which we proceed through the building process matters, and each step needs to correctly align to the next.

First, we need a solid home foundation. After that, everything else needs to align to the foundation we’ve set. For example, the framing and walls need to go all the way around the perimeter (not just halfway around). We’ll need the right number—of the right size—of windows to fit into their frames. There needs to be a means of entry. And, to make sure all of this goes according to plan, we need a plan—or, a blueprint.

The elements of effective assessment design are similar. The order in which we proceed through the building process—and the alignment of one step to another—matters. The quality of the assessment’s design determines the quality of its results, and ultimately, whether those results are suited to help drive decisions.

There are six steps to the assessment design process:

  1. Determine the outcome of the assessment: The purpose of the assessment directly determines everything else about it. Is it an end of course assessment measuring mastery of an Algebra I course? Is it a simple exit ticket to check if a teacher can move on to the next lesson?
  2. Determine the learning target(s) of the assessment: Targets spell out exactly what we are measuring with specificity and clarity. The learning targets should align to the purpose of the assessment.
  3. Evaluate the level of rigor of the learning target(s) being measured: Doing this not only ensures students are taught the right content at the right level of rigor prior to taking the assessment, but also ensures that the rigor of the assessment is aligned to that of the learning target.
  4. Match the assessment method to the learning target(s): Different types of assessments are best suited to different types of targets, and aligning the two is important to ensure the validity of your assessment. It’s important to use the right tool for the job.
  5. Create the assessment blueprint: Develop a map of your entire assessment, so you know exactly how to build it. It connects the dots between learning targets, DOK, assessment methods, and items.
  6. Generate or select the test items and/or tasks: Use your blueprint to select or create the right items for your assessment.

To unpack the assessment design and development process step-by-step, check out our most recent eBook: The Essential Guide to Assessment Design & Item Creation. Download it here:

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