What are the different types of assessment of learning techniques?

When teaching students, it’s important to assess what they’ve learned at regular intervals. As well as telling the student how well they’re performing, assessment results provide teachers with essential information.

Assessments are only effective, however, if you are able to use the subsequent data for a positive purpose. If an assessment highlights areas in which students are struggling to grasp key concepts, for example, the teacher can revisit these topics to ensure pupils understand them.

If assessments don’t have a clearly defined purpose or won’t be used to base future strategies on, they can cause unnecessary worry for students and take up valuable teaching time. When you’re considering how and when to assess students, it’s important to determine how the assessment results will be used. It’s also important if it will provide valuable data.

Assessment of learning: 6 types

There are various different types of assessments and each can be used to obtain different types of information.

If you can identify what you want to use the assessment results for, it’s easy to determine which type of assessment will be most useful. Assessments may be used to:
  • Assess existing knowledge
  • Check your students’ understanding
  • Predict future attainment
  • Create a grade curve

With this in mind, teachers may wish to incorporate the following types of assessment throughout the school year.

1. Benchmark (interim) assessment

Interim assessments are often carried out at numerous intervals throughout the school year and provide on-going data regarding a student’s performance. By carrying out regular assessments, teachers can monitor a student’s performance and pick up on any issues as they arise.

Although an interim assessment gives an indication of how a student’s summative assessment will go at the end of the year, it also ensures that issues can be addressed and resolved prior to the end of the term or school year.

2. Diagnostic pre-assessment

These type of assessments may be carried out when a child enters a new grade or before a class moves on to a particular topic. A diagnostic assessment focuses on what the student already knows, where their strengths and weakness lie and what skills they already possess.

When teachers have this information, they can determine where the student is starting from and what their existing baseline is. With this data, teachers can set realistic goals for individual students and classes a whole.

3. Formative assessment

Formative assessments take place during a task and allow the teacher to confirm that the student has understood the instructions and is working appropriately. These assessments are often carried out informally and may occur numerous times during a specific task.

4. Criterion-referenced Assessment

When carrying out a criterion-referenced assessment, teachers will evaluate a group of students in relation to one specific goal or objective. This allows teachers to see how many students from a class or grade are reaching the expected goal and, if necessary, to take steps to increase attainment.

5. Norm-referenced assessment

This type of assessment involves comparing students to another group. A student’s grades may be compared against the national average, for example, or against their peers in school. Whilst this can be helpful to determine how a child is performing, norm-referenced assessments do have their limitations.

If a disability prevents a child from performing at the expected norm-referenced assessment level,  this should not detract from his or her achievements in relation to their expected attainment levels. If norm-referenced assessments are used, teachers should take steps to ensure students are not demotivated by a relatively poor grade or disappointing performance.

6. Summative assessment

When teachers carry out a summative assessment they examine the student’s performance after a task or project has been completed. This ensures teachers can evaluate the student’s performance as a whole and determine whether the pupil has achieved the expected results.

When used in conjunction with formative assessments, teachers can identify points at which the student went off task or failed to understand instructions. The teacher can then address these issues in future classes.

Assessment of learning for students

Assessing students is a necessary and valuable element of their learning experience but teachers must be sure that pupils aren’t under undue stress at school or at home. If too many assessments are carried out or if too much weight is given to them, students may become anxious, demotivated and stressed.

Instead of continually reinforcing the importance of assessments, teachers can carry out varying types of assessments in an informal way. In addition to summative assessments presented at a parent-teacher conference, for example, formative assessments can be carried out in class without the students being expressly aware of it. Similarly, norm and criterion-referenced assessments can be undertaken using the students’ assignment results and used for the teacher’s benefit but not released to students, for example.

Providing assessments are carried out with sensitivity, the can be valuable to students, teachers and parents. As well as giving caregivers and teachers an insight into how a pupil is performing. Assessment results can help students to identify areas which may require additional study and may encourage students to revisit certain topics in order to improve their overall grade and performance.