The committee believes a synthesis of cognitive and measurement principles has particularly significant potential for the design of high-quality tools for classroom assessment that can inform and improve learning. However, teachers should not be expected to devise on their own all the assessment tasks for students or ways of interpreting responses to those tasks. Some innovative classroom assessments that have emerged from this synthesis and are having a positive impact on learning have been described in preceding chapters. A key to the effectiveness of these tools is that they must be packaged in ways that are practical for use by teachers. As described in Chapter 7, computer and telecommunications technologies offer a rich array of opportunities for providing teachers with sophisticated assessment tools that will allow them to present more complex cognitive tasks, capture and reply to students’ performances, share exemplars of competent performance, engage students in peer and self-reflection, and in the process gain critical information about student competence.

Recommendation 8: Large-scale assessments should sample the broad range of competencies and forms of student understanding that research shows are important aspects of student learning.

  • A variety of matrix sampling, curriculum-embedded, and other assessment approaches should be used to cover the breadth of cognitive competencies that are the goals of learning in a domain of the curriculum.

  • Large-scale assessment tools and supporting instructional materials should be developed so that clear learning goals and landmark performances along the way to competence are shared with teachers, students, and other education stakeholders. The knowledge and skills to be assessed and the criteria for judging the desired outcomes should be clearly specified and available to all potential examinees and other concerned individuals.

  • Assessment developers should pursue new ways of reporting assessment results that convey important differences in performance at various levels of competence in ways that are clear to different users, including educators, parents, and students.

Though further removed from day-to-day instruction than classroom assessments, large-scale assessments also have the potential to support instruction and learning if well designed and appropriately used. Deriving real benefits from the merger of cognitive and measurement theory in large-scale assessment requires finding ways to cover a broad range of competencies

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