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Choosing evaluation strategies – an overview

Assessments must be created with as much care as any other part of your course. Without solid assessments, you really don’t know how much your students have learned.

Good assessments have these principles:

  • They are in line with your course goals and objectives.
  • They test the students’ knowledge and skills about your topic.
  • They don’t hinder poor test takers.
  • They don’t reward good test takers.
  • They reward students who understand the material.
  • They don’t reward students who have memorized information the night before the test hoping to pass.

Types of Assessment

There are two general types of assessment, formative and summative. 

  • Formative assessment takes place during the course and serves as a measure of student progress. Its primary goal is to tell the student and teacher how well the students are learning. Students and teachers are expected to use the formative assessment as feedback for improvement.
  • Summative assessment takes place after the course or unit of study. Since this type of assessment occurs at the conclusion of the unit of study, is it not used for feedback but rather as a marker of student learning at the conclusion of a course. 

Formative Assessment, or “Why wait until midterm to find out your student’s aren’t learning?”

Formative Assessment can help you realize your students’ level of learning before the midterm exam. There are a number of quick and easy formative assessments you can perform in your classroom.  Angelo and Cross (1993) suggest a number of techniques that can be used as formative assessment.  Find a summary of those “Classroom Assessment Techniques".

Need more information about formative assessment?

  • Angelo, T.A., and Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998b). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80 (2): 139-148. (Available online: http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kbla9810.htm)
  • Boston, Carol (2002). The concept of formative assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 8(9). Retrieved August 30, 2006 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=8&n=9.


Summative Assessment, or “I’ve finished this section, lets see how much they’ve learned.”

We are more familiar with summative assessment, because we’ve all taken midterm and final exams. If formative assessments are done well and your course objectives and teaching methods are aligned with your testing methods, student learning should increase, student anxiety should decrease, and your summative assessments should be a good marker of “terminal learning.”

Here is an example of matching your teaching methods to your assessment methods.


Teaching Methods

Student Assessment Method

Recalling, recognizing facts

Lecture with discussions

Objective tests: multiple-choice, short answer, true/false

Applying facts

Active learning techniques
Lecture with case study
Lecture with lab
Lecture with discussions

Essay questions
“Authentic” assessments**

Creating new information from old
Evaluating someone else’s information

Active learning techniques

“Authentic” assessments*

*Each of these assessment methods should have some type of standard by which they are judged.  Most instructors use a checklist or rubric.
**an authentic assessment is “a form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills”  (J. Mueller).


Want to learn more?

In the upcoming chapters, we will discuss specific techniques, including exams and quizzes, writing test questions, papers, projects, and techniques for fair grading.

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Last updated: 06/20/2013
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