Aligning Assessment with Instruction

How can I ensure my assessment and instruction are aligned?

One important part of making an assessment plan is ensuring that your assessments and instruction are aligned. Click on the boxes below to learn more about ways that you can check for this type of alignment.

Use backward design

Through the process of backward design, you first identify your student learning outcomes and next determine the assessment practices that will evaluate progress towards and achievement of these outcomes. Once these have been laid out, you plan lessons and instructional activities that allow students to perform and prepare to demonstrate these outcomes. Backward design encourages intentionality when designing your lessons, units, and courses and makes it easier to develop assessments and instructional activities that are aligned and grounded in learning outcomes.

Consider impact and washback

Think about the possible and actual effects of assessments that you see in your course, including washback, or the positive or negative effects that these assessments have on teaching and learning. When implementing your assessment plan, you may notice some unwanted effects during instruction. For example, your students may start focusing too much on one particular skill, or using rehearsed versus spontaneous speech in the classroom, which may suggest that you should adjust the design or scoring of your assessments to better align with your instructional goals.

Use performance-based tasks

Performance tasks are authentic activities in which learners communicate with the language to accomplish a goal. You can prepare students to succeed on summative performance assessments by providing opportunities for practice throughout the course. In a proficiency-based approach, what is taught in the classroom parallels what is measured during assessments because both are based around how students will use language in the real world. This is an example of good alignment and washback, not “teaching to the test”! More information on performance-based tasks can be found in later pages in this section.

Actively involve students in their learning

You can build students’ understanding of proficiency, performance, and the purposes of assessment by setting and sharing clear expectations; providing meaningful, descriptive feedback on a consistent and frequent basis; and facilitating self- and peer-assessment, review, and reflection. These practices can help to create a culture of learning in the classroom, including when administering assessments. It can be helpful to detail these expectations in the course syllabus and make sure they are aligned with course management systems and forms used to provide feedback and reflections.

Check on your assessment plan

Check back on how your assessment plan is working.

  • Is it working for you? Do you have the time and resources to administer, score, and provide feedback on the assessments as planned?
  • Is it working for your students? Do students understand what is expected of them on each assessment? Are they performing at the target levels of proficiency and able to show what they can do?

If not, you can change your assessment plan or your instruction to address mismatches. This could involve updating the instructions you give for your assessments or how you talk about them with students; revising rubrics used for scoring; or adjusting your instructional tasks and providing students with additional opportunities to practice and perform with the language.