Assessment can be defined as the systematic collection, interpretation and use of information about learning. It gives teachers a better awareness of what pupils know and understand, what their learning experiences enable them to do and what their skills and personal capabilities are.

Assessment is central to successful teaching and learning. To determine the effectiveness of a sequence of instruction, teachers need to gauge pupils’ progress in understanding what they want them to learn.

Assessment is the link between teaching and learning. It is important because without it there is no way to anticipate what pupils will actually take from their classroom experiences and this might be quite different from what was intended. Assessment helps teachers find out what has actually taken place in pupils’ developing understanding during a sequence of teaching and learning.

Teachers may use a range of strategies that can provide information about pupils’ progress, including:

  • teacher observation of pupils engaging in classroom activities;
  • teacher observation of pupils’ performances;
  • teacher checking of pupil work;
  • pupils checking each other’s work and similar forms of peer assessment;
  • questioning to check for understanding;
  • end of topic tests;
  • exams; andother tasks, projects and assignments

The five principles that underpin quality assessment practice specify it should:

  • be complementary to and supportive of learning;
  • be valid and reliable;
  • be fit for purpose and manageable;
  • support teachers’ professional judgement; and
  • support accountability

Assessment is not simply a method of grading, judging and reporting on student performance. When designed effectively, assessments can engage students and facilitate learning, provide the opportunity to develop skills and help students to reflect on, improve or build confidence in their academic ability. The table below lists the most common forms of assessment ordered by the qualities or skills you are enabling.

Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

Teaching requires assessment, i.e., the evaluation of student understanding in light of the goals of a lesson or a course. This is a broad definition, and indeed, there are many forms of assessment, and all of them involve student work. That work can be graded or ungraded. It can take a few minutes (as with the one-minute paper) or it can take weeks (as with the group project). It can ask students to demonstrate understanding or skills acquisition through writing, the creation of a product or presentation, or the ability to successfully accomplish some task. It can ask students to demonstrate their understanding as individuals or as members of a group.

Student learning outcomes articulate what a student should know or can do after completing a course or program. The assessment of student learning outcomes provides information that puts student learning at the forefront of academic planning processes. No matter their form, assessments should reflect—and be determined by—the learning goals of a lesson or a course. But linking goals to assessment can be tricky. If your goal is for students to understand a concept, do you mean that they should be able to recall facts? Summarize information? Apply information or predict consequences? Analyze or compare phenomena? Generate models? Evaluate and justify arguments? Perhaps you want your students to be able to demonstrate their understanding by doing a combination of these things. You should ask yourself whether or not your assessments are related to the goals of the lesson or the course, e.g., are the assessments measuring whether students have met the learning goals?

You might think of assessment as a multi-step process in which you:

  1. Formulate a clear and succinct learning goal (or goals) for your students.
  2. Articulate those learning goals to your students.
  3. Decide what your students should be able to do if they have met those learning goals.
  4. Develop an assessment instrument (a test, essay, project, etc.) and a scoring rubric.
  5. Administer the assessment instrument to your students.
  6. Evaluate your students’ performance on the assessment instrument.
  7. Assess your students’ mastery of the learning goals given their performance on the assessment instrument.
  8. Reflect on why students did or did not master the learning goals, and develop strategies to help them be as or more successful in the future.

Assessments can be powerful contexts for student learning. They can:

  • understanding of a topic
  • that think about their own learning
  • know or have learned in your class or in previous courses

Types od Assessments

  • Formative assessment

Formative assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. It does not contribute to the final mark given for the module; instead it contributes to learning through providing feedback. It should indicate what is good about a piece of work and why this is good; it should also indicate what is not so good and how the work could be improved. Effective formative feedback will affect what the student and the teacher does next.

  • Summative assessment

Summative assessment demonstrates the extent of a learner’s success in meeting the assessment criteria used to gauge the intended learning outcomes of a module or programme, and which contributes to the final mark given for the module. It is normally, though not always, used at the end of a unit of teaching. Summative assessment is used to quantify achievement, to reward achievement, to provide data for selection (to the next stage in education or to employment). For all these reasons the validity and reliability of summative assessment are of the greatest importance. Summative assessment can provide information that has formative/diagnostic value.

  • ‘Authentic’ or work-integrated assessment

‘Authentic’ or work-integrated assessment is an assessment where the tasks and conditions are more closely aligned to what you would experience within employment. This form of assessment is designed to develop students skills and competencies alongside academic development. There is also an online Assessment Designer available which will allow you to design an assessment using a PC or tablet device.


  • Diagnostic assessment

Like formative assessment, diagnostic assessment is intended to improve the learner’s experience and their level of achievement. However, diagnostic assessment looks backwards rather than forwards. It assesses what the learner already knows and/or the nature of difficulties that the learner might have, which, if undiagnosed, might limit their engagement in new learning. It is often used before teaching or when a problem arises.

  • Dynamic assessment

Dynamic assessment measures what the student achieves when given some teaching in an unfamiliar topic or field.  An example might be assessment of how much Swedish is learnt in a short block of teaching to students who have no prior knowledge of the language. It can be useful to assess potential for specific learning in the absence of relevant prior attainment, or to assess general learning potential for students who have a particularly disadvantaged background. It is often used in advance of the main body of teaching.

  • Synoptic assessment

Synoptic assessment encourages students to combine elements of their learning from different parts of a programme and to show their accumulated knowledge and understanding of a topic or subject area. A synoptic assessment normally enables students to show their ability to integrate and apply their skills, knowledge and understanding with breadth and depth in the subject. It can help to test a student’s capability of applying the knowledge and understanding gained in one part of a programme to increase their understanding in other parts of the programme, or across the programme as a whole [1]. Synoptic assessment can be part of other forms of assessment.

  • Criterion referenced assessment

Each student’s achievement is judged against specific criteria. In principle no account is taken of how other students have performed. In practice, normative thinking can affect judgements of whether or not a specific criterion has been met. Reliability and validity should be assured through processes such as moderation, trial marking, and the collation of exemplars.

  • Ipsative assessment

This is assessment against the student’s own previous standards. It can measure how well a particular task has been undertaken against the student’s average attainment, against their best work, or against their most recent piece of work. Ipsative assessment tends to correlate with effort, to promote effort-based attributions of success, and to enhance motivation to learn.


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