Defining Assessment Items from Learning Goals

by John Laskaris

Assessments are truly the end-result of the course. Without assessments both the course and the learning promise are incomplete. Assessments are evidence that learning did take place, that learners have achieved the learning goals and are now ready to perform it in the work-context.

Assessments are drivers towards acquiring professional credentials that enable us to work in our respective fields. Would you ever visit a doctor who has questionable credentials? What about the pilot who says he loves to fly and learned flying through “lots of practice!”?

Without an aviation license, you wouldn’t want to board that plane! This is no different from handing your car to your teenager who is still on the Learner’s Permit.

Assessments establish learning by linking performance to learning goals. This is an important link that many e-learning developers fail to strengthen and reinforce.

Assessment items are directly inherited from learning goals. Many course designers focus on developing assessments as a last step. That’s another common design anomaly. Assessment items are developed as soon as a learning goal is finalized.

They can be developed using several strategies available in an online learning environment. Before choosing any strategy, bear in mind the learner, their competency level and their learning preference.

  • Multiple Choice
  • True/False
  • Matching
  • Ordering
  • Sorting
  • Fill in the Blanks
  • Text filling
  • Uploading multimedia
  • Simulation
  • Live performance
  • Project-based assessment
  • Group assessment

With so many choices available, how do you determine the best fit for a learning goal? Let’s revisit the learning goal from the previous article:

After completing the equipment demonstration section, learners should be able to construct a new model, with 100% accuracy. 

Let’s break down this learning goal:

  • Precondition: After completing the equipment demonstration section
  • Action: learners should be able to construct a new model
  • Criteria: with 100% accuracy

Examine the “Criteria” part of this learning goal. This is the part that will help develop assessment items. Here are some good examples to measure learning using Bloom’s Taxonomy. Notice how an assessment strategy is applied to illicit the desired action.

  1. Knowledge: State all steps from start to finish to create a new model. “Describe” is the key verb here. This assessment can be conducted using the ordering strategy, in which the learner has to order all steps in a logical form.
  2. Comprehension: Choose the correct steps from this list that will help build the new model. “Choose” is the key verb here. This assessment can be conducted using Sorting strategy in which the learner separates the correct steps from the incorrect ones.
  3. Application: Modify the current construction process to correct it and build the new model. “Modify” is the key verb here. This assessment can be conducted using Simulation in which the learner works with the software to deconstruct and re-construct the items to build a new model.
  4. Analysis: Analyze the errors in the current model and prescribe corrections. “Analyze” is the key verb here. This assessment can be conducted using Simulation in which the learner works with the software to walk-through each step and identify errors. Each rationale can be recorded using a Text filling assessment strategy.
  5. Synthesis: Given all materials, construct the new model. “Construct” is the key verb here. This assessment can be conducted in a live environment.
  6. Evaluation: Collaborate as a team to deconstruct and create a new model. “Collaborate” is the key verb here. This assessment can be conducted using a project-based learning approach, in which learner collaboration and evaluation is observed by the examiner and points are awarded on their critical thinking and creative solutions skills.

Determining the appropriate assessment strategy for a learning situation is a challenge. The Bloom’s Taxonomy makes the process easier. The action words or verbs derived from Bloom’s Taxonomy will link learning goals with assessment items. Consider these points for help:

  • Begin by answering the question: “What evidence do I need to know that my students have met the goals for this course?” Will they write, present, recall or perform a procedure?
  • What is the primary source of evidence for learning? Course assignments or assessments? What is the grading distribution for each? How often during the course would I assess the learning?
  • Some courses require a live meeting in which practical performance is to be evaluated. Bloom’s Taxonomy’s Synthesis and Evaluation areas require for such assessments. Learning measured in these situations is the most authentic and accurate.
  • Reflect on past course evaluations submitted by learners. What were their comments on assessment strategies? Did they mention that “they learned a lot” or “their learning has increased significantly?” Refer to those successful assessment methods.
  • Connect evidence with learning goals. What is the criteria for learning? For each criteria develop an assessment item. What establishes successful and unsuccessful learning? Allocate points for each assessment item.
  • When selecting assessments consider the dynamics of your learning environment: class size, expertise of the learners, workload for trainers, learning style preferences, etc.
  • Can your learners successfully meet a learning goal through one assessment?
  • Can multiple learning goals be assessed in a single, more complex assessment?


Learning goals are the fundamental units of a course. Learning goals when aligned with assessment items, reinforce the foundation of a course. While assessment methods are plenty, choosing the one that aptly fits into a learning situation requires research, skill and experience.

A common blunder is to use Multiple Choice Questions for all modules in a course. This practice is outdated, and if anything, a complete turn-off for the modern, digital and informed learner. A more engaging assessment strategy is to create interactive assessments that involve plenty of decision making. The online learning environment provides a plethora of interaction building opportunities to create “intelligent assessments”.

This too, is accomplished through constant linking between assessments and learning goals. Use the tips provided in this article to create a satisfying learning experience in your next elearning course.

– See more at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s