Planning for Objective Assessment

Question: First, considering the standard of both the goal-based design model and the Design-Down, Deliver-Up model, how does each philosophy resonate with curriculum alignment? Second, imagine you have total control over curriculum development and are creating a yearly planning guide – how do you plan to align assessments with learning objectives? How often and in what forms do you plan to assess students?

Response: In responding to this question I first want to explain both of these models. I will then share how I incorporate elements of both into my curriculum design process. Then I will explain how I use this process to plan assessing for learning objectives.

The goal-based design model revolves around aligning curriculum to the broader mission and vision of the school district. It requires the teacher to answer these four questions:

  • What is the mission of my school?
  • What should students be learning?
  • What role does activity-based learning play in the curriculum?
  • What technology strategies and tools can be used to achieve the curricular objective?

The answers to these questions guide the development or design of the curriculum. The curriculum is overall grounded in the mission and vision of the school itself and then each curricular unit objective branches off this vision. This is vision-driven learning at its most fundamental level.

The Design-Down, Deliver-Up model is similar but has significant differences. Rather than starting with the school vision as the foundation of the curricular process, it starts with the desired learner exit outcomes and then builds from there. It follows the following modeling:

  • Design Down
    • Learner Exit Outcomes
    • Program Goals
    • Program Objectives
    • Learning Outcomes
    • Authentic Tasks
  • Deliver Up
    • Authentic Tasks
    • Learning Outcomes
    • Program Objectives
    • Program Goals
    • Learner Exit Outcomes

The designing process is very similar to the goal-based design model with a slightly different starting process. This process then focuses on teaching the curriculum in reverse order of the design phase.

I use a hybrid of these models in my planning of curriculum. I believe in vision-driven education, therefore I start with the school district vision and mission when building curriculum. I then focus on student outcomes of a particular unit and how it relates to the vision or mission. Then I move through building backward to an essential question. This question then drives the inquiry process of the delivery of the lesson culminating, in theory, in the desired learner exit outcomes. I create the various activities and plan for strategies and tools to benefit the students as they move from the question to the desired exit outcome. Overall I start at the same place as the goal-based design model and use more of the language of this model as I design the curriculum, then as I deliver the curriculum my process is much like the second half of the Design-Down, Deliver-Up model.

When it comes to planning assessments of the desired learner exit outcomes or the vision-aligned objectives, which in my process are the same, my guiding principle is to do shorter more frequent authentic assessments designed to give the learners confidence before they take a summative assessment. I believe these authentic style assessments can happen as the culmination of each lesson or unit and can take creative forms. As a history teacher, I believe in allowing students to use their creativity in showing me their level of understanding the learner exit outcomes/vision-aligned objectives. I want to allow space for them to use critical thinking and cross-curricular skills as they show me the answer to the essention question that has driven their learning journey through the curriculum. This affords me the opportunity to give provide meaningful feedback to my students and to deliberately plan for adequate reteaching where necessary.

Overall, I find value in both the goal-based design model and the Design-Down, Deliver-Up model. I think elements of each model can be used to better guide the process of designing curriculum so that improved student exit outcomes are closely aligned with the school district’s vision and mission.