Types of Assessment

"Queen's campus ivy in Fall"Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment occurs frequently and in an ongoing manner during instruction, while students are still gaining knowledge and practicing skills. Formative assessments should be used by students and instructors to identify misconceptions, learning gaps, areas of challenge, etc. so that they can be addressed as soon as possible. Examples of formative assessments that can be integrated into lectures:

  • Polling students with a question(s) relating to a key concept. This encourages students to check-in on whether they understand the concept and can apply their knowledge while also providing data to the instructor as to whether the class has grasped the concept and is ready to move on.
  • Asking questions and observing students during discussions. Do students look confused? What questions are the students asking? Observations can serve as a passive way for instructors to gain a sense of students' progress in learning and to re-orient instruction as needed.
  • Homework assignments that are not graded toward their final grade.

Diagnostic Assessment

Diagnostic Assessment is a type of formative assessment that occurs before instruction begins so teachers can determine students’ readiness to learn new knowledge and skills, as well as obtain information about their interests and learning preferences. A common example of a diagnostic assessment is an entrance card or poll.

Summative Assessment

Summative Assessment occurs at or near the end of a period of learning, and may be used to inform further instruction. Typically associated with a mark that goes toward a student's final grade. Common summative assessments include midterm exams, final projects, and papers.

Additional Resources

Growing Success, Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010

Formative and Summative Assessments, Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Formative Assessment, MIT Guidelines for Teaching


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