The term "assessment" often elicits thoughts of high-stakes tasks such as final exams and essays.  It is true that assessments enable instructors to measure students’ proficiency in the course objectives and assign an appropriate final grade. However, from a broader perspective, assessments provide evidence of students acquiring the knowledge and skills that you hope they gain from lectures or readings. if you keep in mind that “assessment” relates to a current picture of learners’ progress, the value of purposeful assessment throughout the course becomes apparent.

For students, continuous assessment helps establish clear expectations.  The students grow familiar with the objectives and goals of the course, as well as the instructor's grading style. In addition, students are more able to gauge their own progress in the course.  For example, if a particular week's assessments are returned with less-than-satisfactory marks, the student can review the material or seek assistance to get back on track.

Furthermore, the data received from continuous assessment helps instructors make real-time decisions regarding instructional delivery.  If a significant number of students submitted unsatisfactory work on a particular assessment, it might signal the instructor to reevaluate certain elements of the course.  For example, the grading criteria could have caused confusion, the learning materials could have been unclear, or the pace of the course could have been too fast.  If there is an issue with the course, the instructor can make the proper adjustments before it recurs.

[note about importance of assessment in relation to course objectives]

This week, we will focus on two types of assessments:  Summative  and Formative  


Examples of Formative and Summative Assessment:

Formative assessments measure what students are learning.

  • They measure students’ progress towards the course objectives as the course is happening.
  • They allow students to refine and articulate their understanding of course objectives prior to summative assessments.
  • They can focus on weekly goals, course objectives, or a combination thereof.
  • Formative assessments benefit students and teachers alike.

Formative assessment results  make both the students and instructors aware of their grasp of the course material. As a student, your results can inform you that you are on the path to success in the course. On the other hand, it could inform you that you need to take correct action in order to succeed.  As an instructor, results provide checkpoints for the effectiveness of your own instruction.  If many students fail to achieve satisfactory results on the first weeks’ formative assessments, you might reconsider your approach.

Important: Each Course Objective will ultimately be assessed by a summative assessment. In this sense, formative assessments are practice for the summative assessments