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Tool: Developing performance assessments

A teacher teacher can proceed by "backward design*," first taking standards and working backward through assessments to instructional activities. Or a teacher can proceed in a more conventional manner from possible activities to assessments. In either case, standards must be carefully related to activities by way of assessments of learning. This tool aims to help a teacher do that:

Beginning from standards

For your class?

What standard(s) should my students attain? What should they learn? If they do learn, what would be the qualities of the work they do?

  • Select curriculum standards
  • Write lesson objectives


By what performance or product could students demonstrate that they have learned what they are intended to learn?  


Choosing performance tasks
Choosing performance criteria
Choosing a type of rubric
Constructing indicators of quality    


What could I ask students to do that would help them to learn? What opportunities to learn are provided by activities I choose?

  • Generate alternative activities
  • Compare their relative merits


*Adapted from McTighe, J., & Thomas, R. (2003). Backward Design for Forward Action. Educational Leadership, V. 60, N. 5, 52-55 and Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.