Blog Post

TALECS: Writing Your Own Performance Assessment Items


Lessons Learned from the TALECS Initiative: Part Five


Woman typing on a computer


In our last post, we explored the use of portfolios as a way to capture richer details about students' growth. In our final post in the TALECS blog series, we dive into creating performance assessment items.


Formative Assessment: Writing Your Own Performance Assessment Items
Many CS teachers want to find out in greater depth what their students are learning. They want to know how their students are learning in addition to measuring how much they are learning. Like many ECS teachers, you may have used performance assessments items (available at 

What Makes a Good Item for Formative Assessment?
Not all items are good for formative assessment purposes. You’ll want to create items and rubrics that give students feedback on what they have learned—and need to learn. Plus, they should inform your choices about what to teach next.

How to Create a Good Assessment Item

  1. Pick a learning goal. This can be one from the curriculum you are teaching. 
  2. Develop assessment goals for the learning goal. An assessment goal gives you ideas about what students’ performances will be evidence of the learning goal.
  3. Specify a scenario for the task. This is where you write the actual item. What’s the context? What information are you providing to students.
  4. Develop a set of questions related to the assessment goal(s). What prompts will you give to uncover student learning in the context of the scenario? How will you ask then to use the data provided?
  5. Develop a rubric. The rubric should characterize what makes a high-quality response. It should cover the span of possible types of responses. The rubric should also provide useful feedback to students and teachers.
  6. Review and Refine. Does your assessment goal really relate to your learning goal? Will the context be sufficiently detailed so students will understand it? Will it be familiar to all your students? Or equally strange to all? Do your questions really get at that assessment goal you made?

See an example of the design of a new assessment item here. 

What Teachers Say
"I am actually good with writing assessments. I have even mastered when to use a rubric to get the most out of students. I like using a variety of resources we have worked on during these sessions.”

Try it Out!
Try out your item with students! See what they do. If you keep this year’s performances, you may want to revise your item based on them next year. 

To see an example of the development of an assessment item, go here. 


Logos for TALECS, SRI Education, and CS for All Teachers


NOTE: SRI Education, in partnership with the American Institutes for Research and our CS for All Teachers community, implemented the TALECS virtual professional development (PD) project from 2017-19 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) under contract number CNS-1640237. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.