Matching Assessment Items to Learning Objectives

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  • 0:00 Learning Objectives &…
  • 1:41 Assessments Match Instruction
  • 2:34 Assessment Must Be Valid
  • 3:44 Assessment Must Have Depth
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explains the importance of matching assessment tools to learning objectives. The lesson defines both terms and highlights the importance of assessment validity and assessment depth.

Learning Objectives & Assessment

Like in any profession, there are effective teachers and there are not-so-effective teachers. Effective teachers continually work toward proper outcomes and assessments. In other words, they make sure they actually teach the material they are testing on. Not-so-effective teachers don't.

Effective teachers grapple with questions like:

  • What do I want my students to learn?
  • What sort of activities will help them learn?
  • How will I know when they've learned?

Not-so-effective teachers don't.

In the hopes of helping us all be counted as members of the former group and not the latter (after all, who doesn't want to be effective?), today's lesson is devoted to making sure our methods of student assessment match our learning outcomes.

Getting some housekeeping tasks out of the way, let's first define some terms. For starters, we'll define learning objectives as the expected outcomes desired after instruction, and we'll define assessment as the process of evaluating student progress toward mastering learning objectives. For example, if today's lesson was entitled 'The Art of Baking Cookies,' its overall objective might be, 'Students will master the knowledge and understanding needed to create an edible and tasty cookie.' One assessment of this outcome could be students developing then baking their own original recipe of a cookie.

With these terms under our belts, let's move on to three steps we can take to ensure our outcomes and our assessments match. Yes, there are a host of others that could take up days, but for sake of time, we'll focus on these very important three.

Assessments Match Instruction

Step 1: We need to make sure our assessments match our instruction. In other words, only test what you teach. If we mess this one up, our biggest outcome will most likely be student frustration!

For this one, I have a personal example that still annoys me to this day. In my senior year, during a unit on the politics of the 1930s, my history teacher placed a question on the unit test asking, 'What actor played Tarzan during this time period?' I had no clue! Never once had he even brought up Tarzan or the movie! When pressed by a bunch of exasperated students about what the question had to do with our understanding of 1930s politics, and why in the world he put something on the test when he didn't teach it, he simply and quite pompously answered, 'Well, 'cause you should know it!' Talk about frustrating!

Assessment Must Be Valid

Step 2: Our assessments must be valid. In order to be valid, an assessment must be a true measurement of student progress toward the learning outcome. In other words, your assessments need to actually evaluate what you set out for your students to learn.

For instance, if you are an American history teacher and your unit objective is 'Students will analyze the Constitution's role in the 21st century,' but all you do is assess them with a multiple choice/fill in the blank test full of dates and historical names, then your assessment isn't anywhere near valid. Knowing when the Constitution was written or being able to name the long-dead guys who ratified it in no way signifies understanding the document's role in the 21st century. Remember, as educators, we must make sure our assessments are valid. They must match the learning objectives we've set forth.

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