Assessing the Assessments In a Material

Having facilitated many districts’ adoption processes and listened to educators articulate what they are looking for in instructional materials, we have observed that assessments are often under assessed during an adoption/selection process. Assessments are a critical component of the instructional cycle. Therefore, as part of Learning List’s qualitative, Editorial Review of each instructional material, we evaluate the material’s assessments. Based on our review of thousands of instructional materials, we offer the following four key considerations to help you determine whether the assessments embedded in an instructional material will meet your needs.

  1. Variety in assessment purposes and types

Because students have a variety of learning needs and learning experiences, in determining whether the assessments in a material will be sufficient, look for:

  • a mix of  diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments; 
  • options for pre-assessment, checks for understanding, and chapter/unit tests; and
  • a mix of assessment types, such as objective (i.e., multiple-choice, fill-in-the- blank), constructed response (i.e., short answer, essay), and performance based.
  1. Usefulness of information provided by the assessments
Using a magnifying glass to look at information

Publishers create materials for a broad audience of students and educators. In order to inform your instructional decisions, the material’s assessments should provide timely information about whether your students learned what you intended them to learn. Are the assessments designed to measure the material’s stated learning outcomes? Do the assessments provide information specific to each student’s level of achievement on the learning outcomes?

Besides addressing the learning outcomes, will the information provided by the assessments help you  plan the pacing of instruction, differentiate instruction, structure small group instruction, and/or provide intervention?  

  1. Flexibility and customization of assessments

Because publishers create materials for a broad audience, you will likely need to customize assessments to meet your needs and the needs of your students. For example, an assessment may cover content that you are not teaching. Perhaps you need to reduce the number of answer choices or revise a prompt for a constructed response. Are you able to delete or edit questions in the assessments? Options for customization and flexibility are essential in determining how useful and effective you are likely to find the material’s assessments.

  1. Match between type of assessments and learning activities

The assessments in a material need to measure acquired skills, knowledge and understanding, and the ability of students to transfer skills and knowledge to new situations. In order to effectively measure what students know and are able to do, consider the degree to which the assessment type matches the type of learning experience. For example, if the material requires students to read a text independently with the goal of measuring reading comprehension, then a multiple-choice reading selection quiz might be sufficient. However, if the material requires students to demonstrate their understanding of math skills through hands-on, project-based activities, a multiple-choice assessment will likely not yield effective evidence of student learning.

Assessment is a necessary part of any instructional cycle. Thus, when reviewing an instructional material, it is important to also assess the assessments. Does the material include a variety of assessments? Do the assessments address the material’s and your learning objectives? Will the assessments provide the type of information you need to inform your instructional decisions? Can you customize the assessments? And finally, are the assessments well suited to the material’s content? These criteria, which are addressed in Learning List’s Editorial Reviews, are important to keep in mind when you are purchasing new materials.