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Assessment Design: A Matrix To Assess Your Assessments

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vancouverfilmschool-grit-in-the-classroomAssessment Design: A Matrix To Assess Your Assessments

by Grant WigginsAuthentic Education

On Rigor, Language, & Verbs

Rigor is not established by the unthinking use of Webb or Bloom or other verbs. Here, for example, is a widely-findable chart I found on the NJ Dept of Education website, in which Webb’s rubrics have been turned into a leveled chart of supposedly-appropriate verbs:


A moment’s thought after looking over these verbs should make you say: Huh? How can the verb, itself, determine the rigor? Couldn’t the rigor of so-called high-level verbs be compromised by a simplistic task and scoring system? Vice versa: can’t we imagine some of the low-level verbs occurring in highly-challenging and rigorous assessments? (e.g. Who, what, when, and why in a complex journalism case would be rigorous work.)

Take “predict” for example. It is viewed as relatively low-level – Level 2. But what if I ask you to predict the effects on plants of using special soil, food, and artificial lights, and I score you against industry-level standards? Vice versa: suppose I ask you to critique a drawing against the criterion “pretty.” Pretty low level stuff.

In summary, just throwing some verbs around as starters for “rigorous” tasks is not enough to address the first bullet concerning the challenge of the task. Rigorous tasks are a function of cognitive demand and situational complexity, not just the verb used. Self-assess against our audit matrix to test your tests, therefore:


Assessment Design: A Matrix To Assess Your Assessments; This article was excerpted from a post that first appeared on Grant’s personal blog; Grant can be found on twitter here; image attribution flickr user vancouverfilmschool

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Agreed, the DOK wheel is terrible. I like to use our version that has the wheel crossed out, to discourage further replication. http://bit.ly/1sL8KsA Norman Webb’s views on the wheel can be found here: http://bit.ly/1pleYyf


If someone is looking at the verbs to determine DOK, then they have not understood it. The “verbs” are illustrative only and are descriptions of tasks, not predicates within test items. If there are questions about a task, always fall back to the inner circle.