Basic Concepts Selected Response Constructed Response  


A. Formative vs. Summative Assessments
B. Setting Targets and Writing Objectives
C. Reliability and Validity


B. Setting Targets and Writing Objectives

Setting clear and achievable targets is the starting point for creating assessments. In other words, you need to determine what exactly your students should know or be able to do. If you do not set clear targets, you will never know if the instruction and experiences in the classroom resulted in a "bull's-eye" or if they missed the mark completely.

There are many areas and types of achievement that are targeted in schools, including knowledge, reasoning, performance, product development, and attitudes. As indicated in the following table,  there are many ways to assess each of these areas. 


Target Area
Example Target Behavior
Possible Assessments
Knowledge Spell words correctly Quizzes, essays, questioning
Reasoning Solve math problems Essays, observations
Performance Speak foreign language Observations, rubrics
Product Development Create a web page Rubrics
Attitudes Positive attitudes Surveys, observations


Using these general target areas, teachers create specific classroom objectives that are based on state/district standards and benchmarks. Well-written objectives are made up of three building blocks -- conditions, behavior, and criterion (see below). 

Figure 1. Building Blocks for Objectives.

The Conditions define the materials that will be available (or unavailable) when the objective is assessed.  It generally states what the student will be given or not given. Example conditions for objectives might include:

  • Without the use of a calculator...
  • Given a map of Europe...
  • Given twelve double-digit numbers...

The Behavior is a verb that describes an observable activity -- what the student will do. The behavior is generally stated as an action verb, such as: solve, compare, list, explain, evaluate, identify, define.

The Criterion (also referred to as Degree) is the standard that is used to measure whether or not the objective has been achieved. The criteria might be stated as a percentage (80% correct), a time limit (within five minutes), or another measure of mastery. For example, an objective might be "Given a list of twenty states (condition), the student will identify (behavior) at least fifteen of the corresponding state capitals (criteria)."

It is easy for teachers to construct appropriate assessments if they use observable and directly measurable objectives and learning outcomes.  For example, one of the benchmarks for the Florida Sunshine State Standards (grades 3-5, social studies) is: "Knows significant people and their contributions in the field of communication and technology."  To target this benchmark, the following objectives could be developed:

  1. Given the names of six inventors, students will be able to correctly match them to a specific contribution in communication and technology".
  2. Students will be able to compare the contributions of Thomas Edison with those of Bill Gates, listing at least two similarities and two differences.

After the objectives are written, it is relatively easy to create a corresponding assessment item.  For example, the first objective could be assessed with a matching exercise; the second with a short response essay question.



Try This

  1. Read Writing Objectives.
  2. Take the Behavior, Conditions, and Degree Practice Exercises

Continue to Section C
| Basic Concepts | Selected Response | Constructed Response

This course was developed in partnership between the Pinellas School
and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at USF.

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