Determining Assessment: Step 2 of the Backwards Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012)

According to the well-known Backward Design approach (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012), there are three other steps that instructors should move through as they create a learning experience:

  • Identify desired results: what students can do at the end of the lesson, module, unit, etc.
  • Determine assessment evidence: how students will demonstrate what they have learned.
  • Plan learning experiences and instruction: What learning materials and activities support students in their learning?

Best practices in developing assessment

Choosing the right assessment approach depends on your aims and what would best convey students’ mastery of skills and knowledge developed during the course. Remember, assessment is an ongoing process: it happens before (diagnostic), during (formative), and after (summative) the learning.

Click each title to learn more about them.

Apply to your course: Resources & Tools 

Whether your reason for assessing is diagnostic, formative, or summative, Bloom’s Taxonomy can help you determine which type of assessment approach and tool you should use—especially if you first use the taxonomy to develop your learning objectives. By first identifying which skills you hope students will achieve through a learning unit, you can choose the most appropriate assessment.

The chart below matches various assessment methods and tools with the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. As the chart moves from lower to higher order skills, the assessments also develop in sophistication and complexity. For example, if a learning objective is for students to be able to state or list basic facts about the subject matter, then a multiple-choice quiz is appropriate. However, if a learning objective is for students to formulate arguments/ideas and support those with evidence, then projects, presentations, and essays are more appropriate. Ideally, learners will be given several opportunities to develop higher order thinking skills, as well as a variety of assessment methods to demonstrate their mastery of their new skills and knowledge. 

Bloom's Taxonomy Levels

Online Assessment Methods


Produce new or original work: Design, assemble, construct, conjecture, develop, formulate, author, investigate

Presentations, projects, videos, portfolios, virtual labs, performances


Justify a stand or decision: Appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, value, critique

Presentations (e.g. slides, video, speeches, podcast, etc.), projects, essays


Draw connections among ideas Differentiate, organize, relate, compare, contrast, distinguish, examine, question, test

Essays, presentations, projects, open-answer quizzes, case-studies


Use information in new situations Execute, implement, solve, use, demonstrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch

Low-stakes projects, discussion, short-answer quizzes, case studies, problem sets


Explain ideas or concepts Classify, describe, discuss, explain, identity, locate, recognize, report, select, translate

Discussion boards, short answer quizzes, journals, blogs


Recall facts and basic concepts Define, duplicate, list, memorize, repeat, state

Quizzes (multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blanks); surveys


Armstrong, P. (n.d.). “Bloom’s Taxonomy.” Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.

Bloom, B. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Vol. 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay, 20, 24.

O'Keefe, L., Rafferty, J., Gunder, A., & Vignare, K. (2020). Delivering High-Quality Instruction Online in Response to COVID-19: Faculty Playbook. Online Learning Consortium.

Theall, M. and Franklin J.L. (2010). Assessing Teaching Practices and Effectiveness for Formative Purposes. In: A Guide to Faculty Development. KJ Gillespie and DL Robertson (Eds). Jossey Bass: San Francisco, CA.

Trumbull, E., & Lash, A. (2013). Understanding formative assessment: Insights from learning theory and measurement theory. San Francisco: WestEd.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

How to cite this page:

UMass Amherst IDEAS Team. (2024, March). Approaches to Assessment Onlin.