The BEAR Assessment System

Introduction1

The BEAR Assessment System (BAS; Wilson & Sloan, 2000) is an integrated approach to developing assessments that provide meaningful interpretations of student work relative to the cognitive and developmental goals of a curriculum. It is grounded by four key principles guiding assessment development and includes four building blocks (each associated with one of the principles; Wilson, 2004) that are tools for constructing meaningful assessments aligned with curricular goals and instructional activities. These principles are:

  1. Assessment should be based on a developmental perspective of student learning.
  2. What is taught and what is assessed must be clearly aligned.
  3. Teachers are the managers and users of assessment data.
  4. Classroom assessment must uphold sound standards of validity and reliability.

These four principles also relate to the Assessment Triangle developed by the National Research Council Committee on the Foundations of Assessment and published in their report, Knowing What Students Know (NRC, 2001). The Assessment Triangle, shown in Figure 1, is a model of the essential connections and dependencies present in a coherent and useful assessment system. In this triangle, assessment activities (the observation vertex) must be aligned with the knowledge and cognitive processes (the cognition vertex) one wishes to affect through the instructional process, and the scoring and interpretation of student work (the interpretation vertex) must reflect measures of the same knowledge and cognitive processes. Meaningful connections among the three vertices, cognition, observation, and interpretation, are deemed essential for assessment to have a positive impact on learning. We refer to this whole process as construct modeling.

The Four Building Blocks 2

Building Block 1 - Construct Maps: Construct maps (Wilson, 2004) embody this first of the four principles: that of a developmental perspective on assessment of student achievement and growth. A construct map is a well thought out and researched ordering of qualitatively different levels of performance focusing on one characteristic. Thus, a construct map defines what is to be measured or assessed in terms general enough to be interpretable within a curriculum and potentially across curricula, but specific enough to guide the development of the other components. When instructional practices are linked to the construct map, then the construct map also indicates the aims of the teaching.

Building Block 2 - The Items Design: The items design governs the match between classroom instruction and the various types of assessment. The critical element to ensure this in the BAS is that each assessment task and typical student responses are matched to certain levels within at least one construct map.

Building Block 3 - The Outcome Space: The outcome space is the set of categorical outcomes into which student performances are categorized for all the items associated with a particular progress variable. In practice, these are presented as scoring guides for student responses to assessment tasks. This is the primary means by which the essential element of teacher professional judgment is implemented in the BAS. These are supplemented by ‘‘exemplars’’: examples of student work at every scoring level for every task and variable combination, and ‘‘blueprints,’’ which provide the teachers with a layout showing opportune times in the curriculum to assess the students on the different variables.

Building Block 4 - Wright Maps: Wright maps represent this principle of evidence of high quality. Wright maps are graphical and empirical representations of a construct map, showing how it unfolds or evolves in terms of increasingly sophisticated student performances.

SEPUP introductory video to BAS

This is an introductory video to the use of scoring guides by the BEAR Assessment System.