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6 Types Of Assessment Of Learning

by TeachThought Staff

If curriculum is the what of teaching and learning models are the how, assessment is the puzzled ‘Hmmmm’–as in, I assumed this and this about student learning, but after giving this assessment, well….”Hmmmmm.”

So what are the different types of assessment of learning? The next time someone says ‘assessment,’ you can say “Which type, and what are we doing with the data?”

In The Difference Between Assessment Of Learning And Assessment For Learning, we explained that “assessment for learning is commonly referred to as formative assessment–that is, assessment designed to inform instruction.” Below, we identify types of assessment of learning–very briefly, with simple ways to ‘think about’ each so that you hopefully wake up with a better grasp of each type.

6 Types Of Assessment Of Learning

1. Diagnostic Assessment (as Pre-Assessment)

One way to think about it: Assesses a student’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills prior to instruction

Another way to think about it: A baseline to work from

Tip: Done at the beginning–of the school year, beginning of a unit, beginning of a lesson, etc.

2. Formative Assessment

One way to think about it: Assesses a student’s performance during instruction, and usually occurs regularly throughout the instruction process

Another way to think about it: Like a doctor’s ‘check-up’ to provide data to revise instruction

Tip: Using digital exit ticket tools like Loop can be an easy means of checking whether students have understood lesson content, while also promoting student reflection.

3. Summative Assessment

One way to think about it: Measures a student’s achievement at the end of instruction. It’s like talking to someone about a movie after the movie is over. : )

Another way to think about it: It’s macabre, but if formative assessment is the check-up, you might think of summative assessment as the autopsy. What happened? Now that it’s all over, what went right and what went wrong?

Tip: By using measurements of student performance, summative assessments can be useful for teachers to improve units and lessons year over year because they are, in a way, as much of a reflection on the quality of the units and lessons themselves as they are the students.

4. Norm-Referenced Assessment

One way to think about it: Compares a student’s performance against other students (a national group or other ‘norm’)

Another way to think about it: Place, group or ‘demographic’ assessment. Many standardized tests are used as norm-referenced assessments.

Tip: These kinds of assessments are useful over time in student profiles or for placement in national-level programs, for example.

5. Criterion-Referenced Assessment

One way to think about it: Measures a student’s performance against a goal, specific objective, or standard

Another way to think about it: a bar to measure all students against

Tip: These can be a kind of formative assessment and should be integrated throughout your curriculum to guide the adjustment of your teaching over time. Mastery or competency-based learning would use criterion-referenced assessments.

6. Interim/Benchmark Assessment

One way to think about it: Evaluates student performance at periodic intervals, frequently at the end of a grading period. Can predict student performance on end-of-the-year summative assessments. A benchmark assessment is a type of interim assessment so it could be useful to think of them as distinct even though they function in a similar way.

Another way to think about it: Bar graph or chart growth throughout a year, often against specific ‘benchmarks’

Tip: Benchmark assessments can be useful for communicating important facts and data to parents, district officials, and others to, among other goals, inform the allotment of resources (time and money) to respond to that data.

*previously published at


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