Editor’s Note: Curriculum Trak will be providing a Level 2 Training (CT Certification is a recommended prerequisite) on assessment planning. Find out more here

Assessments, or our students’ performance on the assessment, can sometimes crash into our instructional plans like a meteorite – a big dose of reality that we didn’t see coming. But in the universe of instructional planning, assessments are the data link between what is happening on the ground and the bigger, broader goals and outcomes of the course. Assessments tell us where our students are living, and, when triangulated with our curriculum and lesson plans, they help us start moving in the right direction. 

To avoid the craters that assessments can cause on the instructional landscape, an instructional designer must carefully plan for these important measurements of the planned learning experiences from start to finish, leaving nothing to chance. 

Assessments –  frequent formative assessments throughout the instructional unit –  provide key data about what is going on on the ground and how it compares to the overall goals or direction of the unit. The instructor can use assessments to glean insights about mastery, pacing, and even interventions and differentiation in order to support rerouting or replanning. The assessments keep the instructor informed about what is going on in the students’ heads and provide evidence for what has captured the students’ attention, even as the map continues to provide guidance and time frames for what should happen next.

To keep your curriculum maps “grounded” in the realities of the classroom, consider using the following tools in Curriculum Trak to evaluate your assessments: 

  1. Review School-Wide Curriculum: What you assess, even in your most successful assessment experiences, is only as valuable as the role that content plays in the bigger picture. Assessing students on things they do not need to know, or things they have already mastered, or things outside of the main goals of the course could be nothing more than a waste of time – for you and for them. So, always begin with an understanding of the specific role any assessment plays in your school-wide curriculum goals. 
    1. Begin with the Scope and Sequence report. This will pull together the unit titles in any given instructional area. Ask:
      • Are our unit titles, clear, concise, and unique to each grade level?  
      • Have we captured the clearest conceptual framework for our courses we possibly can? 
      • Do our planned instructional concepts grow from grade to grade in the proper way? 
    2. Perform a Gap Analysis: Review your standards alignment for course by course and subject-wide to ensure that there are no over-instructed or missing standards. While this is largely a school-based decision – not all standards need to be (or can be) covered, or covered equally. 
      • The Benchmarks by Course report will help you zero in most effectively at the course level. 
      • The Benchmark map by Grade or by Course report will help you get a broad visual view of missing benchmarks. 
    3. Review Assessment Planning: The assessment planning data at the unit level should help provide a broader picture of what the teacher plans to assess and how s/he plans to assess it.  Using the “View Curriculum by Template Field” report to zero in on the assessment column of your maps. Ask the following questions: 
      • Are there plans for both formative and summative assessment opportunities?
      • Is the collected data focusing on what will be assessed (skills, concepts, knowledge) and how it will be assessed (strategies, methods, tools)? 
  2. Make the Lesson Plan Connection: If you are using the lesson planner (we would be happy to help you get started, if you are not), ensuring that the lessons are drawing on the unit plans is important. It will be easiest to focus first on the standards/benchmarks connection and then move to specifics of the lesson plan. 
    1. Begin with the Benchmark by Unit report. This report will show you course by course, unit by unit, how many lesson plans have been created for each benchmark. If a benchmark has zero lesson plans there are two possibilities: a) Lessons have not been created for the benchmark suggesting that the benchmark is not being instructed. b) The benchmark has not been selected in the editing view of the lesson(s) working toward that benchmark. Either way, some additional review and possibly even some coaching may be necessary. If you have multiple teachers attached to a single map, this report can be filtered by individual teachers as well. 
    2. Move to the View Content by Field report. This report allows you to zero in on specific fields in specific lesson plans in the program(s) and grades of your choosing. You can also filter these results by scheduled lessons within a specific date range. This report would, for example, allow you to focus on the assessment fields of all of the sixth grade lesson plans taught in the past week. You might use the report to ask such questions as:
      • Do the assessments match the lesson objectives? 
      • Do the assessments flow for the benchmarks? 
      • Are there both formative and summative assessments? 

Using reports to review, reflect, and even refine the quality of your assessment information will help ensure that the planning happening before class begins is connected to what the students walk away with at the end of the class period. 

Be sure to contact support if you have any questions or concerns about this information, and consider joining our upcoming Level 2: Best Assessment Practices for Unit Design training to make even more connections between your mapping efforts and student achievement.