What are the different types of assessments?


  • Used to assessment the level of student understanding prior to a course or it could also be administrated during the course at regular intervals. Diagnostic assessments help staff with assessing the level of support needed in teaching the students and at the same time provide a guide/structure of how learning should happen (targeted areas of learning). Diagnostic assessments do not enhance learning in any way unless there is a feedback mechanism for students.

Formative (assessment for learning)

  • Formative assessments are designed to enhance learning, as feedback is the core element in this type of assessment. The feedback provided is not necessarily limited to the teacher. It could be peers in class and other external agents. (For more information, refer to)

Summative (assessment of learning)

  • Summative assessments may or maybe not have the feedback element in it. The main difference when compared to formative assessment is that summative assessments are ‘measurement driven’. Summative assessment is an attempt by the teacher of the course to measure the student’s learning against the course requirements (learning outcomes). A summative assessment could be administrated during the course or when the course curriculum has been achieved. (For more information, refer to)

So what type of assessment is the best for my course?

Well there is no correct answer. Knowing the subtle differences between the two main assessment types, it could be argued that both are equally important. A course that only has summative assessment is perhaps not effective teaching/assessment. And a course with only formative assessment raises a number of issues, mainly how do you know when a student has achieved the required level of understanding in the course to be awarded the credit or certification?

Boud (2006) states that assessment activities should be a mix of both formative and summative assessment techniques. The assessment activities ‘have to encompass formative assessment for learning and summative for certification’ (Boud, 2006, p. 160).

Boud (2006) further proposes that the key factor driving the assessment process should be the purpose (Refer to this Article for more info) – what are you assessing your student for? If it is to enhance the learning, formative assessment is appreciate, if the aim is to measure the student’s learning, a summative assessment is perhaps appropriate.

Understanding Assessment

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