A Path to Assessment Literacy: Designing Sound Assessment

Think back to your own days as a student and your experiences with assessments. There was probably a time when you left a test or exam thinking, “Whoa…that definitely covered things we didn’t learn!” Maybe it was during elementary school, high school or even college, but remember how you felt. Clueless? Defeated? Disengaged?

Jan Chappius, an expert in classroom assessment, reminds us that deconstructing standards to create clarity in student learning is a critical part of instruction. Designing assessments in order to measure that learning is equally important. And when accurate assessments are used thoughtfully, they can do much more than measure learning. “Used with skill, assessment can motivate the reluctant, revive the discouraged, and thereby increase, not simply measure, achievement” (Chappuis, et. al, 2012).

In an effort to extend educators’ use of formative instructional practices by deepening their classroom assessment literacy, a new series of FIP modules is being made available. This new series is exciting because it allows you to hone your skills in designing tools to gauge student learning. The FIP Designing Sound Assessment (DSA) Series consists of modules that will help you take a student-friendly approach to assessment that is deeply focused on learning. Throughout the series, you will learn how you and your students can become more efficient at measuring, monitoring, and adjusting to learning. You will be able to make wider use of assessment as a teaching and learning tool and will create and critique sound assessment items and tasks.

The entire DSA series will be completed this winter and will include modules organized into three learning clusters: Clarifying Assessment Expectations, Mastering the Methods of Assessment, and Putting the Pieces Together.

The Clarifying Assessment Expectations modules are designed to help you clarify student levels of success from novice to mastery and learn the amounts and types of evidence students must practice and produce. The modules in this cluster are:

  • Creating and Using Rubrics
  • Creating and Using PLDs (Master Rubrics)
  • Creating and Using Assessment Blueprints

Mastering the Methods of Assessment builds on what you learned about PLDs, blueprints, and rubrics. You will learn how to use the following types of assessment to gather evidence of student learning and also to foster student engagement. There are four modules in this cluster that you can take:

  • Creating and Using Written Response Assessment
  • Creating and Using Verbal Response Assessment
  • Creating and Using Performance Assessment
  • Creating and Using Selected Response Assessment

The final module in Putting the Pieces Together, focuses on how you can fit assessment components together into a meaningful and informative whole:

  • Designing and Critiquing Sound Assessment

Although there a total of eight Designing Sound Assessment modules, don’t be intimidated. The modules may be taken in a sequence, in clusters or independently. It depends on your own learning intentions. Think about the modules as chapters in a book. You might decide to start in the middle of the book because you recognize that you immediately want to master a particular method of assessment. That skill might prompt you to explore other assessment methods or to create an assessment blueprint by completing the Creating and Using Assessment Blueprints module. Or you may decide to begin by completing the first module, Creating and Using Rubrics as your first step on your assessment literacy journey.

In order to support student learning, assessment must be meaningful for both teachers and students. When assessments are poorly designed, it wastes valuable time and undermines student success. These modules aim to help you make the most of your time spent on assessments so that you can help your students move forward. This module series will help ensure that you and your students are gathering the right kinds of evidence―and the right amounts―to point you toward the appropriate next steps in learning.


Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom assessment for student learning (2nd ed.,). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.