Assessment tasks can take all kinds of forms. Regardless of the shape they take, all assessment tasks should be designed to:
- Elicit evidence of the objectives being assessed
- Read the objectives and associated criteria carefully, and make sure that the design of the task (e.g. questions, prompts, instructions) will elicit work that matches the descriptors.
- Make sure each of the levels of achievement is accessible to students
- Look at the level descriptors for the criteria being assessed and make sure that the design of the task makes it possible for students to achieve the highest level. For example, if the level 7-8 descriptor required the application of knowledge or skills in an unfamiliar context, the task must include an unfamiliar context.
- It is also important to ensure that middle levels of achievement (level 3-4 and 5-6) are accessible to students who may not be able to reach the top level. It may be necessary to provide some scaffolding or specific prompts to ensure that students can show the full extent of their learning and skill development, even if that doesn’t reach the top level of achievement.
- Limit the influence of knowledge and skills that are not being assessed
- Requiring additional knowledge and skills in addition to those being assessed contributes to cognitive overload and makes the task less valid. For example, it is fine to assess students’ use of video editing software if that is one of the skills developed in the unit; however, if it is not central to the unit, students should be able to select a medium they are familiar with so that they can focus on demonstrating the knowledge and skills that are central to the unit.
- It is also important to consider cultural and/or linguistic biases that may affect students’ success on the task. Use simple language that is appropriate to the discipline, and provide context or cultural references that will be meaningful to all students – either familiar to all students or unfamiliar to all students.
Things to consider
Assessment design is an iterative process and there is no one way to begin. These considerations below will help you to develop and refine the design of your task:
Involving students in designing the assessment tasks goes a long way in promoting student agency. Even if there are specific concepts or criteria that must be assessed, there is still a lot of room for students to make choices about how they can demonstrate their learning.
Try completing the task yourself before assigning it to students. This takes a bit of advance planning and time, but it will help you to refine the task and the instructions. It will also yield a sample of work that can help students understand what is expected.
Some of the best reflection (and insight) happens after marking a class set of assessment tasks when you’ve seen the range of responses from students, and the strengths and challenges they demonstrated. Make a note of what worked well in the task, and what could have made it better, so that the task can be revised the next time it is used.
You may consider frameworks like GRASPS to capture the authentic, real-life context in which your students demonstrate their learning. Check out some examples of tasks designed using GRASPS in this handy resource designed by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins!