Assessment modes and practices

The practice of assessment, or gathering of evidence, can be in various modes and discourses, depending upon the learning outcomes of the course and what needs to be achieved. Assessment can be diagnostic, formative and summative, as well as formal or informal. Federation University Australia's Guiding Principles on Assessment encourages the use of a range of assessment practices or modes designed to accommodate the diversity of learners."

Diagnostic assessment

  • Often undertaken at the beginning of a unit of study to assess the skills, abilities, interests, experiences, levels of achievement or difficulties of an individual student or a whole class. 
  • Involves formal measurements (e.g. IQ/aptitude tests, fitness tests) that are used to establish a starting point or baseline OR informal measurements (e.g. observation, discussions, questioning). 
  • Informs programming and planning, and learning and teaching methods used, as well as assessment choices. 

Formative assessment

Formative assessment is assessment that happens throughout the course. The primary focus of this kind of assessment is on providing immediate and meaningful feedback to the students on their progress; enabling them to reflect on where they may be going wrong, and allowing them to improve. It is critical that students are provided with formative feedback throughout the course to give them these opportunities.

One of the Guiding Principles on assessment supports the inclusion of formative assessment in a course stating that courses should: "incorporate feedback that supports student learning and is prompt, informative and, where appropriate, provided throughout, not just at the end of, the learning process."

Formative assessment can also be:

  • Non-graded self-assessment, such as revision quizzes, provided sufficient feedback is built in.
  • Seen as the practice of building a cumulative record of student achievement.
  • Informal taking place during day-to-day learning experiences involving ongoing, informal observations throughout the course or unit of study.
  • Assist teachers in modifying or extending their programmes or adapting their learning and teaching methods.
  • Be useful during early group work processes.

Formative assessment is also referred to as 'Assessment for learning'.

Summative assessment

Summative assessment is generally at the end of a course or unit, such as a final exam or major essay. This kind of assessment is used to make judgements and formally measure student achievement against learning outcomes. It can also be used to judge programme/course/unit and teaching effectiveness (that is as a form of evaluation). 

Providing timely and meaningful feedback to students is still important. However as students will receive this feedback at the end of the course, this will not help them improve for this course. 

Summative assessment is also referred to as 'Assessment of learning'.

Informal assessment

This involves:

  • Systematically observing and monitoring students during in class learning and teaching experiences 
  • Interacting with students to gain a deeper knowledge of what they know, understand and can do 
  • Circulating the classroom and posing questions, guiding investigations, motivating and quizzing students 
  • Provides opportunities for students to present or report upon their learning and teaching experiences
  • Collecting, analysing, and providing feedback on in and out of class work samples (e.g. how their group work projects are progressing).

Formal assessment

This involves:

  • Use of specific assessment strategies to determine the degree to which students have achieved the learning outcomes 
  • Assessment strategies including: essays, exams, reports, projects, presentations, performances, laboratories or workshops, resource development, artwork, creative design tasks, quizzes and tests, journal writing, portfolio 
  • Individual and/or collaborative tasks that usually attract a mark (group work may include both an individual and group component).

University policy and resources

View more information about Assessment Policies and Procedures

Where can I get support?

Each faculty has their own embedded course design contacts and/or Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching who can provide advice and assistance in determining the right assessment types for your course.  Alternatively, CLIPP staff can provide help.