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Assessment Strategies

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Streamer Class for Immigrant Children, Boston, 1909, Lewis Hine
Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. "Steamer Glass i.e. class" in Hancock School, Boston. Immigrant children.Location: Boston, Massachusetts. Boston Boston. Massachusetts United States, 1909. October. Photograph.


Measuring what students know and are able to do is vital.

On this page, we feature strategies that enable educators to gauge learning throughout a lesson, and to differentiate instruction and assessment to meet the needs of diverse learners, including students with disabilities.

Assessment FOR Learning & Stages of Assessment

Educators have increasingly emphasized that assessment should be viewed as a tool for improving and enhancing learning, rather than a static outcome measure. Gathering information about what students know should take place at the beginning of a unit or lesson (pre-assessment), at intervals throughout the unit or lesson (formative assessments), as well as at the end (summative assessment). A valuable presentation of the fundamental principles of assessment that is geared to teaching learners with diverse learning styles is presented in an instructional guide for the Department of Youth Services in Massachusetts (Chapter 9: Assessment, pages 267-280 in U.S. History II: Teaching Social Studies in Massachusetts Department of Youth Services Schools, 2011 Edition).


Backward Design

Backward Design
Bowen, Ryan S., (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved from





Principles Guiding Assessment

diagram showing Worth being familiar with (big circle), Important to know and do (subset), and Enduring Understanding (core subset, smallest circle) From Bowen, Ryan S., (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.

Standards (Skills and Main Content Ideas)

  • Literacy Assessments – Aligning to literacy standards. 
  • Skills Assessments – Aligning to inquiry practice standards.
  • Content Assessments – Aligning to content standards


Authentic assessment

“as close as possible to real-world applications”


Assessment Tools


  • Fist to five – quick check in
  • Matching activity for knowledge and vocabulary
  • Quick Write / Write into the Day
    • Complete sentence stems about the topic and/or key vocabulary
  • Google Forms
  • Complete a graphic organizer to show extent of prior knowledge
    • What we think we know about:


Formative Assessment  

Formative assessments provide a snapshot of how well students have understood the material.  

  • Fist to five – quick check in
  • Quick Write / Write into the Day
  • 3-2-1 Formative
  • Exit Tickets
  • GoFormative
  • Kahoot
  • PollEverywhere
  • Google Forms
  • Creating a cartoon


Summative Assessment

  • DBQs – One common strategy for summative assessment is for students to demonstrate knowledge and skills of analysis through a Document Based Question (DBQ) assessment. Students analyze a given set of primary and secondary sources and craft an answer (in writing or other format) to a teacher-generated question. 
    • DBQs play a central role in Advanced Placement (AP) tests.
    • Historical Lab activities can prepare students for a summative DBQ assessment and provide teachers snapshots into student learning.
    • Boston Massacre model
    • Civil Rights model
    • Water Quality Study
    • A limitation of the DBQ assessment is that it does not develop students’ skills in developing their own questions. 
  • Alternate Assessment Products:
  • Unit Capstone Projects – A class project can allow for differentiation in how students express what they have learned, and can harness the added engagement that comes from connecting learning to action. An example of a capstone project that combines arts integration, emotional investment, choice, and differentiation is the Monument Making project described in the linked Facing History video (4:36 minutes). Students completed a study unit on the Holocaust by designing and constructing a memorial sculpture that was made of cement casts of their own clasped hands.


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