The value of any assessment is in the decisions it enables educators to make – it is always intended to be a tool for enhancing teaching and, ultimately, learning. Assessment is a process of obtaining specific and relevant information for making a particular educational decision. When educators assess student performance they collect information to help them decide the degree to which a student or set of students has achieved particular learning targets. This is true for summative, interim and formative assessments.
Here are six basic building blocks of how a high-quality assessment is made:
1. Determine the purpose of the test. The first step in building a meaningful assessment is to clarify its intended purpose. What question(s) do the assessment data need to be able to answer? What decisions will I use the assessment data to enable me to make? Clarifying the test’s purpose enables test developers to begin determining the specific parameters of the test design.
2. Design data and reporting. Once the purpose of the test is determined, assessment developers then consider the data and reporting that will enable the intended decision making.
3. Clarify the intended learning targets. The foundation of every high-quality assessment is a crystal clear articulation of the knowledge, skills, and performances the assessment will be built to evaluate.
4. Identify the assessment techniques matched to learning targets. Clarifying the learning targets enables test developers to begin the work of creating test items directly aligned to each of the relevant learning targets, for test takers to demonstrate proficiency on those learning targets. Assessment developers consider which techniques would provide test takers with the best, most relevant opportunities for demonstrating whether and to what extent they have achieved the relevant learning targets. The best assessments leverage several different assessment modalities (i.e., multiple choice, true/false, essay questions) to provide a more robust picture of student achievement. Once it’s clear what types of items are best for the particular assessment, the test’s item pool is then developed by selecting and/or creating high-quality, aligned items.
5. Develop the test design. Once the test purpose is determined and it’s clear what data are needed and how they’ll be used, and which learning targets the test will assess, the test design or blueprint is developed. The test blueprint is like the fingerprint of the test – it includes all the content, technical, and psychometric information and parameters necessary to actually build the test.
6. Build the test. After the above steps are completed, the test is now built and packaged for use!
The building of any test is a combination of rigorous psychometric theory combined with deep content knowledge in the areas of standards. High-quality assessment construction ensures that an assessment is useful and aligned to standards, while quickly providing student-learning data so educators can maximize the success of teaching and learning process throughout the school year.
If you’re a visually-minded person, be sure to check out our Infographic on how assessments are made. As always we’d love to hear your thoughts on building tests so drop a comment below.