What Is Domain-Specific Assessment
The term "domain-specific" comes from cognitive science research that distinguishes between
general reasoning skills and reasoning that depends on knowledge specific to a domain. Such
research characterizes and theorizes the cognitive structure of expert knowledge and the
processes experts use to navigate this structure to arrive at optimal solutions to problems.
Domain-specific assessment seeks to measure student progress in learning to reason in optimal
ways about a variety of problems unique to a specific domain of study or work. Our initial
domains are biology and economics, fields chosen for their appeal to large numbers of
undergraduates and contrasting qualities as domains.
What Are Big Ideas In A Domain?
How Do Evidence-Centered Design And Principled Assessment Design Support Domain-Specific Assessment?
A fundamental step in our work involves identifying those ideas from the domains of biology
and economics that fundamentally change reasoning. These ideas are nonintuitive and
hard-won through generations of study and refinement.
Using the principles of evidence-centered design and the online design system developed in
the PADI project, we can more effectively create assessment tasks that focus on the outcomes
we seek to measure. First, we analyze the structure of knowledge in a domain. Second, we model
the knowledge and reasoning skills that are unique to the domain and reasonable for college
sophomores to have learned. Third, we develop templates for the assessment tasks.
Domain-Specific Assessment brings together research expertise from several outstanding