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How to Write High-Quality Assessment Items That Produce Excellent Instructional Decisions

By: Sally l'Anson | | No Comments |

Why You Need High-Quality Items

Assessment is an aspect of the rigorous formative assessment cycle that requires precision to be effective. The items (which constitute an assessment) are the foundation upon which teachers build inferences about student understanding. 

What does that mean for your items? It means that properly-written items produce accurate data about student comprehension which guide teachers to make sound instructional decisions to sustain and improve student learning. 

Well-written assessments produce accurate data about students’ conceptual understanding, and also help teachers to determine and evaluate next action steps with regards to instruction for their students, steps that address areas of weakness or lack of comprehension based on the collected data.

Why Write Your Own Items?

Writing assessment items is a fantastic way for teachers to study and explore their grade level content area standards. The creative process produces immediate results for teachers, informing student learning and teacher instruction grounded in the tested standards. 

Creating the venue for teacher dialogue, teachers can learn from each other as they discuss the intent and nuances of the standards. Teachers develop a deeper understanding of the standards from these conversations. Writing items also allows teachers to tailor items to identify common learning gaps. 

Finally, the item writing process is complete when teachers meet to discuss the results and examine how the items functioned.

How to Improve Your Skills

Writing assessment items benefits from skill and practice. The process requires some knowledge of national, state and local standardized assessments and their item types, distractors and formatting. Additionally, knowledge of the psychology of student behavior related to assessment is very helpful when writing items. Developing a checklist to ensure common formatting and stylistic elements consistently improves the quality of items and limits student error for non-content-related errors.

To see more examples of the do’s and don’ts of writing good items, download the 15 Nuts & Bolts of Good Item Writing Infographic here.