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Checklist for Evaluating Your Teaching Methods
Step-by-Step Guide to Assessment, Evaluation, and Curriculum Redesign

Step-by-Step Guide to Assessment, Evaluation, and Curriculum Redesign

In the "Exploration" section of this course, you examined performance criteria based on work by middle-school students.

The Demonstration section used student examples drawn from a writing class. Teachers in other fields should collect samples of work from their disciplines. High-school science teachers, for example, might collect a sample of students' lab reports to examine. English teachers might collect film scripts; elementary language-arts teachers might collect story boards. Foreign-language teachers or music educators may wish to work from student-submitted cassettes. A team including teachers from history and computer sciences may use work created by students in the form of PowerPoint slideshows or HyperStudio multimedia stacks.

Now you can use examples from your own students' work to identify other skills or content knowledge you think would be valuable to assess.

Important for setting criteria:

  • the assessment sample should be large enough to allow you to establish a range, and
  • the work sampled should all be a response to the same on-demand performance assessment.
  • In other words, the students should all have been attempting to demonstrate the same skill in their work.

A lab report might be aimed at observation, measurement, data analysis, and/or hypothesis building. A foreign-language tape might be intended as a way to assess recall, intonation, pronunciation, and mastery of idioms in conversation. You get the idea. Use one or two of these targets or traits to analyze the samples. More complex assessment criteria will involve the evaluation of a larger number of traits. But to make the task manageable at first, start modestly.

Look at each piece of work and sort by your selected trait. Then sort them into three piles, rating each work by how strongly, moderately, or weakly the target trait is being expressed.

Write down your reasons for placing the work in the different skill stacks. Be sure to record the impressions your inner critic is producing and any adjectives that might appropriately describe the piece. Write copiously. Record your reasons as completely as possible. This will aid you in the next step: evaluating the criteria you are developing.

You might use a chart like this to help organize your thoughts.

Next, rate the samples by number.

  • Go through this process and sort and list the samples for each of the traits for which you are devising assessment criteria. Remember to keep taking notes!

Now examine the lists you generated for each category.

Group together related words or phrases. Clusters of similar concepts should begin to define the various dimensions of performance. You can write out these definitions in a grid form, which should help you to define the parameters of your assessment guidelines.

When you have accumulated enough information, write definitions for each of the assessment criteria.

A science teacher might write: "Observation is about how well the student notes details relevant to scientific method."

A music teacher might write: "Tempo is where we determine how well the student captures the rhythm and timing of the piece being performed."

Be sure the definition is descriptive of the whole criterion and allows for a range of performance-based judgments.


You can print out and use this chart to organize your work.


Performance assessment:

State Standards:

National Standards:

1. Start by stating the terms you will use in your performance assessment. This means clearly defining what you want your students to produce.

An art teacher may define her goal as a commercial logo to be created for a particular company. A middle-school language-arts teacher may want his students to write and perform original plays. Performance assessment can also be more "traditional" -- requiring students to recall historical facts from readings on the Civil War, or having them analyze the role of the president using Abraham Lincoln in a written essay.
2. Now check your goals against your state and national standards. A listing of these standards can be found on the Resources page.
You may have to search to find the standards that address your performance assessment. But when you find them, record them on the worksheet you printed out above. To keep track of your sources, include the numbered outline code provided on the standards document. Or, you can provide the actual address of the Web link.

3. We've emphasized that it is important to involve students in the construction of the assessment tools. It is also important to always communicate CLEAR EXPECTATIONS!
Even after involving students in developing assessment measurements, you must make sure all your students understand them clearly. Providing examples for each of the evaluation criteria is a good way to do this: you can show examples of great work, middling work, and even work that scores low on an evaluation. Afterwards, all of your students should know what a top-notch paper or project should look like. If you use student papers to illustrate low scores, be sensitive and don't discourage or shame them.


Step 1: The Performance Assessment
Print out a copy of this assessment rubric outline and write a title or brief description for your performance assessment.


Step 2: Evaluative Terms

  • Choose terms, letter grades, or numbers and write them into the spaces provided on the rubric.
  • Try to use an even number of criteria. We have provided four spaces. You may want more, but remember to avoid odd numbers.
  • Decide whether the assessment will be summed up in one grade. If not, will a "97" in "Mechanics" be as important as a "97" in "Presentation"?
  • Before you use this rubric, be sure to discuss the system with your students.

Step 3: Criteria for Assessment
  • Develop criteria for each specific aspect, target trait, or quality you want to focus upon.
  • Choose criteria appropriate to the stage of the project.
  • If criteria address a range of intelligences (see the Multiple Intelligences workshop), be careful not to go overboard. Before your students begin work on the task, be sure to review what the criteria mean and how specific criteria can be met.
  • Add the names of your criteria in the appropriate boxes.

Step 4: Indicators
  • Use descriptive and nonjudgmental terms.
  • Describe what performance looks like for each criterion.
  • Account for multiple methods of meeting the performance here or with separate rubrics.
  • Write your indicators in the appropriate spaces on the grid.


Choose a student sample to illustrate each gradation of each criterion. Every anonymous piece should exemplify the rating and provide a clarifying model for judges. These anchor papers (also known as "anchor performances," "benchmarks," "models," or "exemplar papers") should be available to students as they work on their performance assessments. Sample works serve as standards against which other papers or performances are compared.

Using the assessment criteria you have developed in this workshop, you should find many opportunities to apply and develop them further. Students learn how to achieve quality as they come to understand and meet more and more of the criteria for evaluation.


After you have completed these five steps, you might want to post your work and get feedback from your colleagues. If you want to post your work on the Internet, you can start or join a discussion thread of people around the country who are interested in drawing up similar models and plans. You will no doubt be interested to see what your colleagues who teach the same subjects and grade levels have posted.

It may also be valuable to look at plans drawn up by other teachers who are working at the same grade level but are teaching different subjects. Or you might like to see the work of colleagues who teach the same subject but at a different level. Heidi Hayes-Jacobs' work in curriculum mapping facilitates these sorts of comparisons. Computer-based curriculum mapping tools can help speed communication, and help teachers use meeting time to get to the heart of curriculum issues.

  • Different subject, same level
    When planning team teaching or interdisciplinary efforts, teachers are often surprised at the expectations their colleagues have for students. Mathematics teachers incorporating writing into their performance assessments can learn much from studying the writing criteria language-arts teachers have for similarly aged students, and vice versa.

  • Same subject, different level
    Elementary-school language-arts teachers are sometimes surprised to see middle-school teachers repeating assessments appropriate for developmentally younger students. Similarly, high-school English teachers asking for reports may see report writing figuring heavily in sixth-grade performance assessment.

Keep in mind that curriculum alignment is most successful when undertaken systematically by all staff members in a particular school.

This guide is designed to help you to move through the process of examining your teaching methods and finding new ways to engage your students. Remember, if you begin your curriculum planning by thinking clearly about the form of assessments you intend to use, you will be able to design more effective classes. This can be a lengthy and time consuming process, but it should result in improved outcomes for your students, and more satisfying teaching experiences for you and your colleagues.

Workshop: Assessment, Evaluation, and Curriculum Redesign
Explanation | Demonstration | Exploration | Implementation

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