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The linkage between assessment and curriculum is one of the most important connections in education. Two questions come to mind:

  • If the knowledge and skills that students are supposed to learn is unclear, how can it possibly be measured, with quality, by an assessment?
  • If the teachers, and more critically, the students, are unclear about the learning targets they are accountable for, how can an assessment help provide any guidance about what needs to be done to reach that targets?

These questions frame yet another key aspect of assessment literacy: the need for students and teachers to have clearly articulated learning targets.

Learning targets can be obtained from many of the curriculum documents that educators encounter. You have probably become familiar with terms like “content standards,” “grade level expectations” or “lesson objectives.” The challenge, however, is that many times the targets vary in scope, terms and complexity. Getting clarity about targets and communicating them to students in terms they understand and in advance of learning is critical to helping those students reach those targets.

So where do educators begin this work and how do they tie it back to assessment? There are many sources on how to do this, but asking the right questions will help get you off to the right start.

Clarifying Learning Targets

  • What are the pre-set standards that students are expected to learn?
  • Are the standards sequenced in learning progressions both within and across grades?
  • Can each standard be deconstructed into a scaffolding that connects it to the other standards?

Linking Targets to Assessment

  • What needs to be assessed? Are the learning targets clear to teachers and students?
  • Can we identify what types of learning targets exist and choose an assessment method that fits?
  • Do the tasks and assignments reflect targets the students have had an opportunity to learn?

For more information about the best ways to unpack standards into clear learning targets, check out the resources here. In particular, we recommend the excellent book “Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing it Right – Using it Well” by Rick Stiggins, which you can find on his site here.