Creating an Effective Assessment

Lisa Ekern
Posted: September 10, 2014

An assessment — what do you mean I have to take an assessment? I graduated from school long ago; haven’t I taken enough assessments!

When I first started supporting the financial sector I was a teller. As I was learning the process, we had assessments — each and every week! I dreaded assessment time because there was so much information to recall and I really didn’t understand why we had to regurgitate so much of it!

I have learned over the years that there is indeed value in an assessment — a well-written assessment, that is! Let’s review a few tips to follow when writing an assessment.

There are a number of things you can do to create an effective assessment, most important of which is using scenario-based questions. This allows you to write to various levels of learning from basic recall to application, analysis and evaluation. Creating a robust scenario-based assessment takes time, but it’s well worth the investment! It benefits the learner because it allows him or her to apply the knowledge learned to a “real-life” situation that actually could occur on the job.

When creating a scenario-based assessment question:

  • Engage subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Use supporting tools
  • Create effective distractors

Engage a SME to provide scenarios for the learner. The scenario should be true to life on the job; this allows the learner to use and apply the knowledge learned in training while still in the safe class environment.

Use additional tools within a question, such as a screen shot, job aid or procedure. These components increase the effectiveness of a question by allowing the learner to use tools readily available on the job. You’ve might have heard the phrase, “Teach them to fish…;” using added tools in conjunction with a scenario-based question allows the learner to “fish” in class. This way, you help the learner land the Marlin of both knowledge and experience prior to entering the workaday world.

Effective distractors promote realistic scenarios that the learner may encounter on the job. Create distractors that use true statements, but which do not answer the question correctly. This gives the learner an opportunity to evaluate what he or she learned and apply it in answering the question. Obtain from your SME common errors employees make on the job. Use the common errors when making distracters, allowing the learner to differentiate between the correct and incorrect actions to execute. Last, avoid the use of “all,” “always” and “never” in the distractor, as these options can be viewed as “tricky” by the learner. Writing a good distractor takes extra time, but is well worth the effort.

When writing distractors:

  • Clearly state the answer
  • Vary the position of the correct answer
  • Place as much wording as possible in the question stem, rather than within the answer
  • Ensure distractors are worded similarly

Keep these tips in mind as you develop your assessments so that your learners are ready to exceed performance requirements in their working environment!

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