Assessment, or the evaluation of learner progress, can be formative or summative. Formative assessments take place throughout the learning process and contribute to student learning. Summative assessments indicate the learning students have achieved at the end of a course or program. Institutions are obligated to record summative evaluations.


Program Evaluation Standards

Whether formative or summative, good evaluation should:

  1. Be simple
  2. Be fair
  3. Be purposeful
  4. Be related to the curriculum
  5. Assess skills and strategies
  6. Set priorities
  7. Use multiple methods
  8. Go from general to specific
  9. Analyse errors
  10. Substantiate findings
  11. Record and report
  12. Improve continuously

(The Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Chair, from Program Evaluation Standards, 1994)

The Art of Evaluation

Effective, appropriate and useful assessment can be difficult for a number of reasons, some of which include:

  • People have fragile egos (Stephen Brookfield)
  • Complexity of the materials that need to be measured
  • Assessment involves inevitable choices about what will be assessed and what will be omitted
  • Unmeasurable influences affect learner achievement
  • Serendipitous learning adds magic to learning and is difficult to assess
  • Learners learn at different levels, yet assessment needs to reflect learning at the same level at which instruction took place

(Adapted from The Art of Evaluation by Tara Fenwick and Jim Parsons)

G.L.O.A.T. - 5 Principles for Effective Assessment

To assist instructors in their assessment activities, it could be useful to keep in mind five principles for effective assessment that instructors can "G.L.O.A.T." about:

  1. Growth: assessment goes beyond outcomes, it measures growth as well as outcomes (Pat Hutchings, "Behind Outcomes: Contexts and Questions for Assessment)
  2. Learn: the assessment provides students with opportunities to continue to learn
  3. Outcomes: the assessment relates directly to learning outcomes at the same hierarchical level
  4. Authentic: the assessment is authentic in that it resembles real-life applications
  5. Triangulation: the assessment combines several sources e.g. self/faculty/peer

(Developed by Estelle Paget, 2001)

Four Common Pitfalls to Avoid

As noted by Tara Fenwick and Jim Parsons in Four Traps, in the assessment process, there are four common pitfalls that instructors should try to avoid:

  • Measuring what's easy (instead of what is most important)
  • Underestimating the learning embedded in evaluation (evaluation is a learning opportunity i.e. "evaluation shapes knowledge")
  • Unexamined power
  • Reductionism (teaching to the exam)
  • While writing effective assessment criteria may seem a daunting process, there are many tools that instructors can use to gauge their assessment tools.

Using these tools will ensure that instructors are confident in both the quality and usefulness of their assessment criteria.

Explore examples of different tools that are being used for assessment.
Authentic learning activities and assessment techniques involve the use of real-world tasks.
Do you sometimes struggle with grading learner participation or grading learner presentations?
Team assignments provide an important learning experience for students.
Use this tool to evaluate assignments and guide revisions and redesign.