One of the most crucial things that we do when we build assessments, and we’re thinking about assessments behind the scene, is we really think about the alignment between the standards, the assessment, and our instruction.
Many times we’ve given tests and common assessments from district-level perspectives, and to a lot of teachers, it feels like a cold test because it doesn’t match the scope and sequence of teaching. And so the data that we’re pulling from these assessments really isn’t that reliable because it’s not matching what teachers are teaching. So it’s very important that the curriculum, the instruction, and the assessment be put together.
And so what we actually do is we use a backwards plan model from Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Basically, when building an assessment, we start talking about our targets, we unpack our standards into learning targets, and we identify the rigor of those targets. Once we have the rigor of the targets, we can choose items that meet that rigor. So we’re going from target to assessment, and then back into instruction.
One of the difficulties is that teachers tend to go from targets to instruction, and then think about the assessment that may be at the end. And we tend not to get good results that way, because of the fact that a lot of times we may be teaching at one level, but we’re assessing at another level. So for example, if I have a Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Level 3 question on my assessment, my instruction has to match that. And if it doesn’t match, we’re going to get misaligned data when we’re going through our results. And so alignment is probably the most crucial thing that we do when tying assessment and instruction together.
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