Designing Assessment Tools

Choose the right tool for the task

Assess what matters. Promote learning. Grow equity.

"Rules" for tools:

  • Select, adapt, and/or develop tools that align with the purpose of the assignment.
  • Explain to students how the tool will support their learning as well as provide you feedback about their mastery of one or more of the learning outcomes for the course.
  • Ensure the tools you use to assess student learning are equitable.

Plan backward. Teach forward.

Wiggins and McTighe (2005) describe a course or curriculum design process which begins with the desired end. The principle of backward design “calls for us to make our goals or standards specific and concrete, in terms of assessment evidence, as we begin to plan” (p. 19).

  1. Begin by identifying your goals for student learning. What is the purpose of the assignment? What do you want students to learn as a result of completing the assignment
  2. Define the evidence of learning you need. What evidence do you need to degree to which students are progressing toward mastery of one or more of the course learning outcomes.

“Courses designed this way put learning first, often transcend the traditional skill set boundaries of their discipline, and usually aim to achieve more ambitious cognitive development than do classes that begin—and often end—with content mastery as the primary focus” (Burkholder, 2016, para. 4). 


Designing Selected-Response Tests