BOX 8–1 Summary of the Assessment Triangle

The process of reasoning from evidence can be portrayed as a triangle referred to throughout this report as the assessment triangle. As shown below, the corners of the triangle represent three key elements that underlie any assessment: (1) a model of student cognition and learning in the domain, (2) a set of beliefs about the kinds of observations that will provide evidence of students’ competencies, and (3) an interpretation process for making sense of the evidence.

These three elements form the foundations on which every assessment rests. The three elements are represented as corners of a triangle because each is connected to and dependent on the others. To have an effective assessment, all three should be explicitly coordinated as part of the design. A major tenet of this report is that most assessments in current use are based on outmoded conceptions of cognition and learning and on impoverished observation and interpretation methods, as compared with what could be the case given modern scientific knowledge of cognition and measurement.

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