Assessment Design Toolkit

CSAI has collaborated with the Reform Support Network to share this Assessment Design Toolkit. The Toolkit includes v​ideos and supplemental materials to help teachers write and select well-designed assessments. Although the primary audience is teachers and principals, district and State leaders can use the Toolkit to design professional development opportunities.


Scope of the Toolkit

The Toolkit includes 13 “modules” divided into four parts: (1) key concepts, (2) five elements of assessment design, (3) writing and selecting assessments and (4) reflecting on assessment design. The modules address how to plan, write and select well-designed assessments. The modules do not cover how to use assessments to measure student growth.


Why the RSN Developed the Toolkit 

The RSN developed the Assessment Design Toolkit to respond to State requests for help to improve assessment literacy among the teacher corps. Assessment literacy is important for all teachers, especially for those teachers of non-tested grades and subjects who do not have State assessments to help them measure student growth.


After you have viewed the modules, repurpose the Toolkit




Orientation: How to Navigate the Modules

The modules are designed to empower educators, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, to become master assessment designers so they can do an even better job of helping their students learn the course content throughout the school year. Each module includes a summary, a video, and supplemental materials. You can view the videos alone, in teams or with entire faculties.

The run time of the videos is shorter than the time we suggest you take to learn the videos’ content. You can pause the videos whenever you need an extra moment to think about what you have learned, and you can rewind them to revisit key concepts.

This module will orient you to how the modules work.




Part I: Key Concepts

Measuring what students know and can do is an essential part of teaching, and, like much of teaching, designing assessments that measure what we want them to measure is sophisticated work. The first three modules provide an introduction to classroom assessment design, focusing on key concepts such as the five elements of assessment design, validity, reliability, purposes of assessment, and assessment items. By completing all of the modules, you will be able to plan, write and select assessments in which you are confident and that give you a clear sense of what your students are learning.


1. Introduction to Assessment Design

2. Purposes of Assessment

3. Types of Assessment Items

Part II: Five Elements of Assessment Design

In the introductory module, we introduced the concept of five elements of assessment design—alignment, rigor, precision, bias and scoring—and suggested that if the assessments you write or find elsewhere address these five elements effectively, those assessments stand a great chance of having an appropriate level of validity and reliability for use in your classroom. In this and the next four modules, you will learn how to recognize the effective use of these five elements and be well on your way to writing or selecting well-designed assessments for your students.


4. Alignment

5. Rigor

6. Precision

7. Bias

8. Scoring



Part III: Writing & Selecting Assessments

Since you started your career as a teacher, you’ve been designing and administering assessments. You’ve probably written multiple-choice questions, asked students to fill in the blanks with correct answers, requested short responses to prompts or designed performance tasks, such as essays, or, if you are a physical education teacher, perhaps dance routines, or, if a science teacher, perhaps experiments.

The next series of modules focuses on the types of items and assessments you can write or select: selected-response items, constructed-response items, performance tasks and portfolio assessments. For some of you, this will be a review. For others, we might be covering new ground. Whether you are a novice or experienced assessment developer, we believe there’s enough helpful information here to help you make even more informed decisions about when to use specific types of items and assessments and how to improve the assessments you’ve already been designing so that the results of your assessments truly reflect all that your students are learning.


9. Selected-Response Items

10. Constructed-Response Items

11. Performance Tasks

12. Portfolio Assessments

Part IV: Reflecting on Assessment Design

The final module focuses on the act of reflecting on assessment design. It provides a checklist that you can use to determine if an assessment appropriately addresses the five elements of assessment design.   


13. Reflecting on Assessment Design



How can educators use the toolkit?

The Toolkit is designed so that educators can repurpose its module(s). For example, the modules can be part of a robust professional development plan. State and district leaders can post the modules to online learning platforms for teachers to access independently to fit their schedules. Teams of teachers, Professional Learning Communities and school departments can use the modules to improve assessment literacy together in groups.


Read Vignettes of How to Use the Toolkit

State, district, and school-level educators will use the modules in different ways. To learn about how the Toolkit might bolster professional development at each of these levels, you can read three vignettes that describe how a State, district and school leader might use the modules. You can also read a list of ideas for how to use the Toolkit developed by State, district and school leaders who attended a convening about assessment design in May 2015.



How Can Educators Repurpose the Toolkit?

Repost Hyperlinks and Videos

We encourage educators to repost the link to the Toolkit and any links within the Toolkit to public forums, websites, or online communities. For example, a district leader leading an in-person professional development session on assessments might include a link the Toolkit in his or her training resources so that educators can follow up with independent study.

Educators can also embed any one individual video or a subset of videos on a different Web page. To embed a video on a blog or webpage:

Hover over the video you wish to embed
Right click (for PCs) or CTRL + click (for Macs)
Select "Get embed code"
Copy the code
Paste the code into the new Web page

*For supplemental Rigor materials that use Webb’s Depth of Knowledge levels as the primary tool to determine rigor, please see the Rigor module, and download the alternative materials under the header “Alternative Rigor Module: Webb’s DOK Levels.”

An earlier version of this document was developed under the auspices of the Reform Support Network, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education under contract #GS-23F-8182H. This publication features information from public and private organizations and links to additional information created by those organizations. Inclusion of this information does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any products or services offered or views expressed, nor does the Department of Education control its accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness.