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Design, Development and Analysis

Assessment — when properly designed, implemented and interpreted — plays an important role in documenting and verifying what learners know and can do. It also can help determine where they may need additional support to reach their educational and career goals.

Assessment is increasingly valued as a necessary component in acquiring knowledge, skills and competencies. This is true for personalized, self-directed learning; educator-led learning; and hybrid models.

Innovation can help to realize the full potential of assessment. Continued advances in educational technology, analysis and measurement practices, and learning sciences can serve to enable better understanding of where learners are in their educational journey and what they need in order to progress.

Current Assessment Expertise

ETS’s Research & Development (R&D) division is committed to advancing innovation, fairness, equity and measurement quality in assessment and learning materials. The following are just some of the assessment needs that ETS R&D serves:

  • formative, benchmark and summative research and applications in grades K–12
  • administration of Advanced Placement® exams (for the College Board®)
  • admissions in higher education
  • licensure for K–12 educators
  • English-language proficiency for higher education (both U.S.-based and international) and the global workplace

Assessment Design and Development

On a broad level, design and development work includes:

  • creating test questions and tasks
  • assembling them into final tests
  • conducting the psychometric and statistical analyses needed to produce scores on scales that help to make them meaningful and comparable across time

ETS R&D has long driven the state of the art in educational measurement, applying the latest research to meet needs such as:

  • designing and developing questions, tasks, simulations and scenarios that are aligned to the intended goals of the assessment
  • improving or extending the psychometric methods used to support current assessments — for example, differential item functioning, equating, item-response theory models, and statistical forensics used to detect fraudulent test-taking behavior
  • improving or extending statistical procedures used more generally in social science and policy-related research — for example, value-added models and statistical causal modeling
  • investigating how process and timing data can be used to enhance the analysis and reporting of assessment results
  • developing and improving methods for scoring, scaling and reporting complex assessments, including those with interactive or simulation-based digital tasks

Analysis of Assessments and Learning Materials

R&D also collaborates with other units at ETS to develop innovative, technology-enhanced assessment content including:

  • questions
  • tasks
  • interactive scenarios
  • simulations
  • related learning materials to meet user needs and intended goals

Our design, development and analysis practices aim to make sure that assessments and their related materials are:

  • effective measures of constructs of interest, such as collaborative problem-solving, teamwork and persistence
  • meaningful and engaging for test takers
  • comparable over time and across different testing sessions and settings (e.g., at home or test centers)
  • valid for the uses of their results
  • fair and accessible to all learners or test takers who encounter them
  • reliable and secure