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Using the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives to Create Effective Assessments
Contrary to popular belief, assessments are valuable for far more than a simple measure of students' acquired level of knowledge. Assessments serve a variety of functions including directing attention/focus, highlighting conceptual errors, motivating students' interaction with course material, and, finally, determining students' grades. The importance of assessments is often overshadowed by the time and energy invested into classroom activities; but, as discussed by McKeachie, "what students learn depends as much on your tests as your teaching" (1999, p. 85). Ideally, an effective assessment will reflect the educational goals in relationship to the content areas of a designated course.
As highlighted in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Bloom, 1956), learning goals vary according to the level of understanding and/or skill desired. Consequently, learning begins at the bottom of the hierarchy (with simple knowledge) and cumulatively builds toward a deep understanding (as evident through the ability to evaluate information). Learning objectives include:
While many instructors have the goal of promoting higher-order cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and novel application, typical assessments are often unable to effectively measure these skills.
Research has repeatedly found that students' attention and focus are driven by the assessment measures not the educational goals of a course. Thus, if assessments focus primarily on the correct identification of factual information, students will devote their time and effort toward the shallow memorization of facts and definitions. On the other hand, if assessments require students to demonstrate a more complex understanding, students will concentrate their effort on acquiring the relevant skills. This leaves the instructor with the task of implementing measures that accurately reflect the desired educational objectives.
When designing assessments, instructors are faced with the dilemma of coordinating educational goals with an acceptable test format. While open-ended items, such as essay and fill-in-the-blank questions, often promote higher-order thinking, they are time-consuming to grade and are often not feasible for large-enrollment courses. Conversely, response-limited items, such as true-false and multiple-choice, can be easily graded but may limit the ability to assess higher-order learning. The variety of question types available allows educators to implement structured assessments that reflect their true learning goals. Key to the effective application of these various question types, is the instructional design of the questions. While learning goals and the taxonomy of learning provide an excellent structure for designing assessment items, the educational impact of any assessment still rests in the content of individual questions.
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Mandernach, B. J. (2003). insert appropriate page title. Retrieved insert date, from Park University Faculty Development Quick Tips.