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The Assessment Toolbox. Linda Suskie Middle States Commission on Higher Education AB Tech February 2005. Today. What is assessment? The assessment toolbox Rubrics (scoring guides) Prompts (assignments) Multiple-choice tests Reflective writing

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The Assessment Toolbox

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The Assessment Toolbox

Linda Suskie

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

AB Tech

February 2005


  • What is assessment?

  • The assessment toolbox

    • Rubrics (scoring guides)

    • Prompts (assignments)

    • Multiple-choice tests

    • Reflective writing

  • Using assessment results to improve teaching

What is Assessment?

  • Deciding what we want our students to learn

  • Making sure they learn it!

    --Jane Wolfson, Director, Environmental Science & Studies Program, Towson University

The Teaching-Learning-Assessment Cycle

Learning Goals

Using Results

Learning Opportunities


1. Learning Goals

  • What is a good learning goal?

    • Outcomes – what students should be able to do AFTER they pass the course

    • Observable – action words

    • Clear – no fuzzy terms

    • Skills – thinking, performance

    • Important - meet student/employer needs

2. Aligning Assignments with Goals

3. The Assessment Toolbox


  • A list of things you’re looking forwhen you’re grading tests, papers, or projects

  • Often with guidelines or standardsfor evaluating them

Rating Scale Rubrics

  • A scale showing the degree to which the things you’re looking for are present.

Descriptive Rubrics

  • More detailed descriptions of each possible rating.

Holistic Scoring Guides

  • A single score that reflects an overall impression of performance

  • Scores are defined by

    • descriptions or

    • model answers

Write a Rubric!

Prompts: Creating Effective Assignments

Creating Effective Multiple Choice Tests

Start with a test blueprint.


  • Objective test

  • Stem

  • Alternatives/ responses/ options



Fast and easy to score

Options can diagnose difficulties


Hard to write

Often requires reading skills


Can’t measure some thinking skills

Multiple Choice

Use Multiple Choice Items for...

  • Conceptual understanding

  • Application

    • Identify correct application or example

  • Analysis

    • Identify correct cause, effect, or element

    • Identify why something occurs or is best

Interpretive Exercise

= context-dependent item

= enhanced multiple choice item

One new stimulus (paragraph, chart)

that students must read or examine

to be able to answer all

the objective items that follow

Reading passage they haven’t seen

Description of lab experiment

Material from historical period (letter, document)

Description of patient’s symptoms

Chart, diagram, drawing

Any scenario (“You are...”)

Examples of Interpretive Material

Use Interpretive Exercises to...

  • Apply knowledge and understanding to new material or novel situations.

  • Identify correct generalization, inference, or conclusion.

  • Use problem-solving and analysis skills.

  • Prepare for standardized tests.

Writing Good Multiple Choice Items

More Ways to Make Multiple Choice Tests Effective

  • Open-book, open-note

  • Throw out items that half your students get wrong.

  • Review only items that many students got wrong.

    • Ask them WHY they got them wrong.

Reflective Writing

4. Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching





Look at your learning goals.

  • Do you have too many goals?

  • Do your goals need to be clarified?

  • Are your goals inappropriate or overly ambitious?

Look at your curriculum.

  • Including placement and developmental education.

  • Does the curriculum adequately address each learning goal?

  • Look at your teaching methods.

    • How do students learn best?

    Look at your assessments.

    • Are they poorly written and misinterpreted?

    • Do they match your key learning goals?

    • Are they too difficult for most responsible students?

    Isn’t Poor Performance the Student’s Fault?

    • Sometimes, but usually a minority

    • Suskie’s “50% rule”

    Time to Reflect!

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