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  • Writer's pictureJames Kerr

A Checklist for Designing Formative Assessments

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

Designing successful formative assessments requires thinking backwards. Backwards design is an essential strategy in "Understanding by Design" (UbD), according to Wiggins and Tighe (2005). The process must include first the goals for the assessment, or what the students should know and be able to do at the end of an assessment. Working backward from the big questions and evidence for understanding leads to the selection of curriculum supports that will be associated with the process of student learning.

One teacher comments on using the UbD approach "I know what my students know. I know what they don't know, and I know what I need to do" This quotation perhaps reveals the heart of thinking backwards in design. UbD makes it more likely that students might really understand what they have been asked to learn. Based in"Big Ideas, the UbD strategy provides a focus on intended outcomes or learning targets and performance standards. The goal of assessment is to engage students and support learning as they reach the ultimate goal, transfer, or the ability to demonstrate understanding by application of understanding in varied contexts.

Wiggins and Tighe (2005), provide sample templates that are useful to support UbD. The template is similar to the example posted here. Teachers who are interested in developing greater in-depth understanding in their students may be interested in using this template or a similar template as a helpful tool to support planning of successful formative assessments.


Wiggins,G and McTighe, J., 2005, Understanding by Design, Alexandria, VA. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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