Achieving these goals requires a strong connection between educational assessments and modern theories of cognition and learning. Without this connection, assessment results provide incomplete, and perhaps misleading, information about what has been learned and appropriate next steps for improvement. Creating better assessments should not be viewed as a luxury, but as a necessity.
Perhaps the greatest challenges to the new science and design of educational assessment relate to disciplinary boundaries and established practices. For instance, there is currently an implicit assumption that one can create good tasks or good assessments and then leave it up to technical people to figure out how to analyze and report the results. Instead, the assessment design process must be a truly multidisciplinary and collaborative activity, with educators, cognitive scientists, subject matter specialists, and psychometricians informing one another during the design process. Other obstacles to pursuing new approaches to assessment stem from existing social structures in which familiar assessment practices are now deeply embedded and thus difficult to change. Professional development and public education are needed to convey how assessment should be designed and how it can be used most effectively in the service of learning.
The investment required to improve educational assessment and further develop the knowledge base to support that effort is substantial. However, this investment in our children and their educational futures is a reasonable one given the public’s legitimate expectation that assessment should both inform and enhance student achievement.