The first step in creating a course assessment blueprint in higher education is to identify the standards and student learning outcomes you want to measure. Typically, accreditation requirements are broad, measuring a wide variety of skills. These broad standards are not easily measurable—until you deconstruct them into testable skills and concepts. These tips can guide you.

  1. Break out multiple skills or concepts individually.
    Often, standards and learning outcomes contain a set of related skills. For example, a standard might say “Students must demonstrate an understanding of professional, ethical, legal, security, and social issues and responsibilities.” That’s a lot to test in one item—so don’t! The first step is to break this standards into individual concepts. You would create at least one test item for each of the concepts listed, for a minimum of 10 possible items.
  2. Examine the skills and concepts for underlying, testable material.
    Using our example above, we should ask “how can I measure whether a student understands a professional issue? an ethical responsibility? a legal or security liability?” Are there underlying skills? For example, we could start by creating items to measure whether a student recognizes an ethical issue, as well as ones that measure whether a student can correctly identify an ethical response to that issue. In this case, we might also want to measure underlying critical thinking skills, such as recognizing a premise, formulating an effective argument, etc.
  3. Identify how thoroughly you want to test the skill or concept.
    Is this a foundational idea? You may want several items of varying difficulty that build on an assessment framework such as Webb’s Depth of Knowledge or Bloom’s hierarchy. Consider creating interchangeable items (items on similar topics at similar levels of difficulty) to ensure your item set stays fresh and reduce cheating.

By following these tips, you can navigate the maze of expectations identified by most higher-education standards and learning outcomes.

Check out our recorded webinar on student learning outcomes, featuring our special guest speaker Amanda Kin, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness at Jefferson State Community College in Alabama.

Want to learn more about blueprinting? Check out our webinar on assessment blueprinting.