How True Crime Relates To Good Assessment Design

How True Crime Relates To Good Assessment Design
Summary: Good assessment design, like solving a mystery, can pinpoint training areas you’ll want to focus on in future business development.

Meet Your Desired Business Objectives With A Good Assessment Design 

It seems that all anyone can talk about these days is the latest true crime doc to come out online. We are a nation obsessed with unsolved mysteries and accounts of a colossal fraud. One case we are hearing, seeing, and reading about is the story of start-up darling Elizabeth Holmes and her biotech company Theranos. Though the company was widely hailed as a revolutionary in the medical testing industry, the miracle blood test never quite delivered as advertised, defrauding investors and thousands of patients.

Theranos’ real trouble was the efficacy of their assessments. Though we don’t know near enough biochemistry to solve the issues with Holmes’ two-drop blood test, the good news is that we are experts when it comes to assessing learner takeaways. Keep the following tips in mind as you design a training assessment that really gets to the bottom of what your learners know.

Assessment Starts With The Purpose

Companies invest in training as a means of getting closer to their business objectives. In order to meet these objectives, it’s likely that learners need to make a behavioral shift, rather than just increasing their knowledge. Remember exactly what that behavioral shift looks like while writing your final assessment to ensure that your test is a valid measure of learner development.

In coming up with a purpose, think about what you want your learners to be able to do. The assessments that give way to the best results will be rooted in real-world applications [1]. Design scenarios and questions that would really take place even if they touch on conceptual grey areas. Often, those nuanced situations will be the closest you can get to reality.

Brush Up On Assessment Writing Techniques

A good evaluation question has clear, straightforward directions. In terms of what you want your learner to do, leave no room for doubt. Should they choose the most correct answer? How many times should you use each term in a matching exercise? How long should short answers be? Giving clear instructions will ensure that you’re assessing the skills or concepts your learner is focused on.

Make Your Assessment Versatile

Use more than one type of activity to assess your learners’ progress. A variety of activities can break up the feel of the assessment, leading to a sharper focus from the learner. Think about which activities are best suited to measure your chosen skills or concepts, and start there. Longer exams are more reliable, but try to balance your learner’s valuable time with your goal for professional development.

Don’t Give Away The Answer In The Distractors

Distractors are the answer options other than the correct answer. Writing thorough distractors can make an impact as you try to separate a well-prepared learner from someone who just sped through a course to get it over with. Often times, you can give away the right answer just by parroting language from the lesson or using official sounding jargon. Try to avoid making the correct answer the longest answer even if it means occasionally making it the simplest option. Use the same degree or more scientific and official sounding language in the wrong options too.

Hand Over The Microphone

One way to cut down on prep time while maintaining quality is to use an essay or free response question. You have the opportunity to see what concepts really stuck with the learner as well as how they relate to the material in their own words. A free response option can give the learner free rein to identify interrelationships [2], authentic connections, and even areas they’d like to learn more about. While essays give the learner the chance to take the lead, keep in mind that an essay question will cover less material than the comparable number of multiple choice questions, and will definitely take longer to evaluate or report.

Don’t Leave The Opportunity For Feedback On The Table

When a learner answers a question incorrectly, use that opportunity to help them understand what you would have them do instead. More than informing the learner that their answer was wrong, imagine how their thought process might have led them to the wrong answer, and address that in the feedback response.

In conclusion, spending a little extra time on an assessment can help you see where you’re at in relation to your development goals. You’ll be able to see which parts of your professional training are the most impactful, and you’ll have a clear indication of which skill areas you want to refine. Sharpening up your assessment design techniques can keep you on track to meet your desired business objectives.


[1] 10 Assessment Design Tips for Increasing Online Student Retention, Satisfaction and Learning

[2] Constructing tests