Contributors: Sam Abramovich (University at Buffalo) and Peter Wardrip (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Whether it is for a learner, an instructor, a designer of a learning setting, or any other stakeholder developing or using a learning opportunity, assessments are critical components of learning environments. Assessments provide a critical difference between knowing if, how, and what learning may occur. Learning Scientists acknowledge the role of assessment as an important component of a learning process, producing feedback to guide learning. However, as important as assessment can be, it is also as complicated as any other learning factor. First, assessment includes a range of topics that are also complicated to understand and implement, such as measurement, evaluation, testing, feedback, credentials, and efficacy. Second, assessments are created and considered around validity, reliability, consequences, and settings; meaning whether the assessment is validly constructed to assess what it is designed to do and whether it can reliably do so when used. Third, there are the intended and unintended outcomes of assessments; a particularly important factor in a world where standardized testing, which can be beneficial, may also be used as a political tool.

An understanding of assessment can begin with a definition from the Gordon Commission Report: Assessment is a process of knowledge production directed at the generation of inferences concerning developed competencies, the processes by which such competencies are developed, and the potential for their development. (Gordon & Rajagopalan, 2016) There is also a differentiation between assessment of learning (i.e., summative assessment), which represents the concept of verifying learning (e.g., testing, evaluation), and assessment for learning (i.e., formative assessment), which represent the concept of feedback that supports a learning process (e.g., teacher comments or self-reflection during learning, coaching,). Common features to many assessments are (i) rubrics, schemas and analytical frameworks that support an assessment process (e.g., grading keys, examples of evidence of learning), (ii) credentials that represent validated learning (e.g., diplomas, certificates, badges), and (iii) widely-used evaluation measurement tools (e.g., multiple choice questions, drawings, graphical representations, writing prompts, simulations). Such features are typical of assessments that are given by an instructor, a peer, an expert, self-assessment, or programmatically from a system (i.e., computer-based).

Learning Sciences research informs many aspects of assessment. There is also a great deal of research on assessment from Learning Sciences adjacent fields, such as psychometrics and both educational and cognitive psychology. But the ubiquity of assessment in our everyday lives results in an overall need for additional research on assessment, whether it is about specific learning opportunities (either in formal or informal settings) or how assessment addresses an entire community or populations (e.g., the impact of a standardized test on college admissions, how value-added model of teacher evaluation impact public school funding). In particular, the advent of educational technology has resulted in emerging research on assessment practices in online learning settings (small and massive), digital games (educational, simulations, and virtual reality), and assessment adjacent technology (online ratings, micro-credentials). There is also a growing amount of critical research and tools that studies how technology-supported methods found in educational data mining, machine learning, and neuroscience (e.g., EEG, MRI, Eye-tracking) can inform our understanding of how individuals react and benefit from different assessments.

These abstracts are living documents provided and modified by NAPLeS members. The more contributions we have towards refining the documents the more representative they will be of the community as a whole. If you would like to suggest revisions, please contact [email protected].

Syllabi and Slides

Assessment slides by Jim Pellegrino

Video Resources

Listen to the Assessment webinar


Basic Reading
  • Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education (US). (2013). To Assess, to Teach, to Learn: A Vision for the Future of Assessment: Technical Report. Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education. [Access Online]
Additional Reading
  • Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7-73.
  • Black, P., & William, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability (formerly: Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education), 21(1), 5.
  • Collins, A., Hawkins, J., & Frederiksen, J. R. (1994). Three different views of students: The role of technology in assessing student performance. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(2), 205-217.
  • Dochy, F., Segers, M., & Buehl, M. M. (1999). The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies: The case of research on prior knowledge. Review of educational research, 69(2), 145-186.
  • Mislevy, R. (2013). Four metaphors we need to understand assessment. Published by the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education. [Access Online]
  • Mislevy, R. J., Steinberg, L. S., & Almond, R. G. (2003). Focus article: On the structure of educational assessments. Measurement: Interdisciplinary research and perspectives, 1(1), 3-62.
  • Pelligrino, J. W., Chudowsky, N., & Glaser, R. (2001). Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.
  • Pellegrino, J. W. (2014). Assessment as a positive influence on 21st century teaching and learning: A systems approach to progress. Keynote address in Proceedings of the 2014 Conference of the International Association for Educational Assessment, Singapore. [Access Online]
  • Pellegrino, J. W., Chudowsky, N. & Glaser, R. (Eds.). (2001). Knowing what students know: The science and design of educational assessment. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Sadler, D. R. (1998). Formative assessment: Revisiting the territory. Assessment in education: principles, policy & practice, 5(1), 77-84.
  • Shepard, L. A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational researcher, 29(7), 4-14.
  • Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Assessment crisis: The absence of assessment for learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 758-765.

Learning Scientists who have Researched this Topic

  • Sam Abramovich
  • Yoav Bergner
  • Erin Furtak
  • Edward Gordon
  • Dan Hickey
  • Yunjeong Kim
  • Robert Mislevy
  • James Pelligrino
  • William Penuel
  • Lorrie Shepard
  • Val Shute
  • Peter Wardrip