7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Giving An Assessment


Too often, we spend time trying to determine how to reshape curriculum and instructional strategies so that students will perform well on a given assessment when we should instead be asking how to make assessments work in support of student learning and teachers’ professional growth. But how do you select assessments that are accurate, standards-aligned and powerful enough to measure and support what matters? Here are seven questions to guide your thinking as you shape your classroom, school or district’s assessment toolkit.

How Will You Use The Information?

Identify why you’re assessing students and how you intend to use the information obtained from the test. Are you measuring student growth over time to inform instruction, assessing mastery of course content or determining student performance against Common Core State Standards? Use your goals to drive which assessments you use and what you do with the resulting data.

What Type Of Insight Are You Seeking?

Educators and students find it particularly valuable to get assessment data as soon as possible following a testing session to influence instructional strategies, while school and district leaders may be more interested in understanding progress and challenges on a larger scale. In either case, timely assessment data helps to inform decision-making.

Can The Assessment Measure Multiple Targets?

To be truly useful and reliable, assessments should evaluate the knowledge and skills relevant to a student’s goals, and they must do so accurately. Accurately measuring student learning, both growth and achievement, is complex. An assessment scale that has been validated and stabilized over time produces data that is credible and consistent.

Does The Assessment Meet Content & Depth Of Knowledge Standards?

Educators determine specific instructional strategies and use assessments to gauge the success of these methods. Assessments can also help identify content that will be engaging for each student and help them to master academic standards. This is particularly important in the transition to the Common Core State Standards, which emphasize both new content and cognitive strategies for students. As educators adjust instruction accordingly, they need assessments that can give them insight into student progress on all aspects of this new set of expectations.

How Do You Ensure Fair & Accurate Assessments?

High-quality assessments undergo a rigorous process to ensure items measure what they are intended to, do not introduce bias for or against particular student populations and avoid potentially sensitive or offensive content. Assessment items should be field-tested for viability, evaluated for bias and, ideally, scored relative to a norming population that is updated regularly to allow for meaningful comparison of scores between similar students, groups of students, schools and districts.

How Frequently Do You Use Assessments?

Teachers and students benefit from targeted assessments that are delivered at strategic intervals throughout the academic year. A comprehensive review of your assessment system, particularly as you consider adding a new measure, will help to streamline your approach and provide better insight into instructional strategies and results.

How Can This Assessment Engage Students?

Assessments should engage each student in their own learning and prepare them for success. Many educators find value in using assessment results as one component in a student-driven goal setting process.

Take another look at the assessments you’re using to see what measures up and what’s just not working. When assessments are selected and used thoughtfully, teachers gain instructionally useful information, students get a more personalized and engaging learning experience and leaders can make more informed decisions about resources and interventions. That’s a valuable use of everyone’s time and one that should lead to better outcomes across the board.



  1. José

    February 11, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Excellent article! In my opinion it would be a good idea for the students to know about how, why and what are they going to be assessed.

  2. Irene Paparizos

    March 5, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Your post included important questions that educators should ask themselves prior to giving an assessment. I also believe that it is important for teachers to give students different ways for which they can exhibit their knowledge. Tests and quizzes are only two of many options teachers can utilize in assessing their students. Different from the past, teachers have a plethora of technological resources that they can employ. Instead of giving students a test on how to graph linear inequalities, teachers can have students display their skill through the use of technology. For example, students can be asked to create a podcast in which they describe the steps of actually graphing an inequality. With a podcast, students can record their voice and the steps that they can take in solving this type of mathematical problem. This type of assessment would work with auditory learners and through the use of other technological tools such as wikis and blogs, students will be able to showcase their skills through an avenue that works best for them (November, 2008). In conclusion, before teachers give assessments, it is important that they consider whether or not their assessments meet their students’ individual learning styles and preferences.
    November, A. (2008). Web literacy for educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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