6 Types of Assessment (and How to Use Them) (2023)

How do you use the differenttypes of assessmentin your classroom to promote student learning?

School closures and remote or hybrid learning environments have posed some challenges for educators, but motivating students to learn and grow remains a constant goal.

Some students have lost a portion of their academic progress. Assessing students in meaningful ways can help motivate and empower them to grow as they become agents of their own learning.

But testing can contribute tomath anxietyfor many students. Assessments can be difficult to structure properly and time-consuming to grade. And as a teacher, you know that student progress isn't just a number on a report card.

There’s so much more to assessments than delivering an end-of-unit exam or prepping for a standardized test. Assessments help shape the learning process at all points, and give you insights into student learning. As John Hattie, a professor of education and the director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia puts it:

The major purpose of assessment in schools should be to provide interpretative information to teachers and school leaders about their impact on students, so that these educators have the best information possible about what steps to take with instruction and how they need to change and adapt. So often we use assessment in schools to inform students of their progress and attainment. Of course this is important, but it is more critical to use this information to inform teachers about their impact on students. Using assessments as feedback for teachers is powerful. And this power is truly maximized when the assessments are timely, informative, and related to what teachers are actually teaching.

Six types of assessments are:

  • Diagnostic assessments
  • Formative assessments
  • Summative assessments
  • Ipsative assessments
  • Norm-referenced assessments
  • Criterion-referenced assessments

Use Prodigy to deliver fun, engaging assessments when you sign up for your free teacher account today!

Let’s find out how assessments can analyze, support and further learning.

What's the purpose of different types of assessment?

6 Types of Assessment (and How to Use Them) (1)6 Types of Assessment (and How to Use Them) (2)

Different types of assessments can help you understand student progress in various ways. This understanding can inform the teaching strategies you use, and may lead to different adaptations.

In your classroom, assessments generally have one of three purposes:

  1. Assessmentoflearning
  2. Assessmentforlearning
  3. Assessmentaslearning

Assessment of learning

You can use assessments to help identify if students are meeting grade-level standards.

Assessments of learning are usuallygrade-based, and can include:

  • Exams
  • Portfolios
  • Final projects
  • Standardized tests

They often have a concrete grade attached to them that communicates student achievement to teachers, parents, students, school-level administrators and district leaders.

Common types of assessment of learning include:

  • Summative assessments
  • Norm-referenced assessments
  • Criterion-referenced assessments

Assessment for learning

Assessments for learning provide you with a clear snapshot of student learning and understandingas you teach-- allowing you to adjust everything from yourclassroom management strategiesto your lesson plans as you go.

Assessments for learning should always beongoing and actionable. When you’re creating assessments, keep these key questions in mind:

  • What do students still need to know?
  • What did students take away from the lesson?
  • Did students find this lesson too easy? Too difficult?
  • Did my teaching strategies reach students effectively?
  • What are students most commonly misunderstanding?
  • What did I most want students to learn from this lesson? Did I succeed?

There are lots of ways you can deliver assessments for learning, even in a busy classroom.We’ll cover some of them soon!

For now, just remember these assessments aren’t only for students -- they’re to provide you with actionable feedback to improve your instruction.

Common types of assessment for learning include formative assessments and diagnostic assessments.

Assessment as learning

Assessment as learningactively involves studentsin the learning process. It teaches critical thinking skills, problem-solving and encourages students to set achievable goals for themselves and objectively measure their progress.

They can help engage students in the learning process, too! One study "showed that in most cases the students pointed out the target knowledge as the reason for a task to be interesting and engaging, followed by the way the content was dealt with in the classroom."

Another found:

“Students develop an interest in mathematical tasks that they understand, see as relevant to their own concerns, and can manage.Recent studies of students’ emotional responses to mathematics suggest that both their positive and their negative responses diminish as tasks become familiar and increase when tasks are novel”

Douglas B. McLeod

Some examples of assessment as learning include ipsative assessments, self-assessments and peer assessments.

6 Types of assessment to use in your classroom

There’s a time and place for every type of assessment. Keep reading to find creative ways of delivering assessments and understanding your students’ learning process!

1. Diagnostic assessment

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Let’s say you’re starting a lesson on two-digitmultiplication. To make sure the unit goes smoothly, you want to know if your students have mastered fact families,place valueand one-digit multiplication before you move on to more complicated questions.

When you structurediagnostic assessmentsaround your lesson,you’ll get the information you need to understand student knowledge and engage your whole classroom.

Some examples to try include:

  • Short quizzes
  • Journal entries
  • Student interviews
  • Student reflections
  • Classroom discussions
  • Graphic organizers (e.g., mind maps, flow charts, KWL charts)

Diagnostic assessments can also help benchmark student progress. Consider giving the same assessment at the end of the unit so students can see how far they’ve come!

Using Prodigy for diagnostic assessments

One unique way of delivering diagnostic assessments is to use a game-based learning platform that engages your students.

Prodigy’s assessments toolhelps you align the math questions your students see in-game with the lessons you want to cover.

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To set up a diagnostic assessment, use your assessments tool to create aPlanthat guides students through a skill. This adaptive assessment will support students with pre-requisites when they need additional guidance.

Create my free teacher account now

Want to give your students a sneak peek at the upcoming lesson?Learn how Prodigy helps you pre-teach important lessons.

2. Formative assessment

Just because students made it to the end-of-unit test, doesn’t mean they’vemastered the topics in the unit.Formative assessmentshelp teachers understand student learning while they teach, and provide them with information to adjust their teaching strategies accordingly.

Meaningful learning involves processing new facts, adjusting assumptions and drawing nuanced conclusions. As researchersThomas Romberg and Thomas Carpenterdescribe it:

“Current research indicates that acquired knowledge is not simply a collection of concepts and procedural skills filed in long-term memory. Rather, the knowledge is structured by individuals in meaningful ways, which grow and change over time.”

In other words, meaningful learning is like a puzzle —having the pieces is one thing, but knowing how to put it together becomes an engaging process that helps solidify learning.

Formative assessments help you track how student knowledge is growing and changing in your classroom in real-time.While it requires a bit of a time investment — especially at first — the gains are more than worth it.

A March 2020 study found that providing formal formative assessment evidence such as written feedback and quizzes within or between instructional units helped enhance the effectiveness of formative assessments.

Some examples of formative assessments include:

  • Portfolios
  • Group projects
  • Progress reports
  • Class discussions
  • Entry and exit tickets
  • Short, regular quizzes
  • Virtual classroom tools likeSocrativeorKahoot!

When running formative assessments in your classroom, it’s best to keep themshort, easy to grade and consistent. Introducing students to formative assessments in a low-stakes way can help you benchmark their progress and reduce math anxiety.

Find more engaging formative assessment ideas here!

How Prodigy helps you deliver formative assessments

Prodigy makes it easy to create, deliver and grade formative assessments that help keep your students engaged with the learning process and provide you with actionable data to adjust your lesson plans.

Use your Prodigy teacher dashboard to create anAssignmentand make formative assessments easy!

Assignmentsassess your students on a particular skill with a set number of questions and can be differentiated for individual students or groups of students.

Create my free teacher account now

For more ideas on using Prodigy for formative assessments, read:

  • How to use Prodigy for spiral review
  • How to use Prodigy as an entry or exit ticket
  • How to use Prodigy for formative assessments

3. Summative assessment

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Summative assessmentsmeasure student progress as an assessment of learning. Standardized tests are a type of summative assessment andprovide data for you, school leaders and district leaders.

They can assist with communicating student progress, but they don’t always give clear feedback on the learning process and can foster a “teach to the test” mindset if you’re not careful.

Plus, they’re stressful for teachers. OneHarvard surveyfound 60% of teachers said “preparing students to pass mandated standardized tests” “dictates most of” or “substantially affects” their teaching.

Sound familiar?

But just because it’s a summative assessment, doesn’t mean it can’t be engaging for students and useful for your teaching. Try creating assessments that deviate from the standard multiple-choice test, like:

  • Recording a podcast
  • Writing a script for a short play
  • Producing an independent study project

No matter what type of summative assessment you give your students, keep some best practices in mind:

  • Keep it real-world relevant where you can
  • Make questions clear and instructions easy to follow
  • Give a rubric so students know what’s expected of them
  • Create your final test after, not before, teaching the lesson
  • Try blind grading: don’t look at the name on the assignment before you mark it

Use these summative assessment examples to make them effective and fun for your students!

Preparing students for summative assessments with Prodigy

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Did you know you can use Prodigy to prepare your students for summative assessments — and deliver them in-game?

UseAssignmentsto differentiate math practice for each student or send an end-of-unit test to the whole class.

Or use ourTest Preptool to understand student progress and help them prepare for standardized tests in an easy, fun way!

See how you can benchmark student progress and prepare for standardized tests with Prodigy.

Create my free teacher account now

4. Ipsative assessments

How many of your students get a bad grade on a test and get so discouraged they stop trying?

Ipsative assessmentsare one of the types of assessmentaslearning thatcompares previous results with a second try, motivating students to set goals and improve their skills.

When a student hands in a piece of creative writing, it’s just the first draft. They practice athletic skills and musical talents to improve, but don’t always get the same chance when it comes to other subjects like math.

A two-stage assessment framework helps students learn from their mistakes and motivates them to do better. Plus, it removes the instant gratification of goals and teaches students learning is a process.

You can incorporate ipsative assessments into your classroom with:

  • Portfolios
  • A two-stage testing process
  • Project-based learningactivities

One study on ipsative learning techniquesfound that when it was used with higher education distance learners, it helped motivate students and encouraged them to act on feedback to improve their grades.

In Gwyneth Hughes' book, Ipsative Assessment: Motivation Through Marking Progress, she writes: "Not all learners can be top performers, but all learners can potentially make progress and achieve a personal best. Putting the focus onto learning rather than meeting standards and criteria can also be resource efficient."

While educators might use this type of assessment during pre- and post-test results, they can also use it in reading instruction. Depending on your school's policy, for example, you can record a student reading a book and discussing its contents. Then, at another point in the year, repeat this process. Next, listen to the recordings together and discuss their reading improvements.

What could it look like in your classroom?

5. Norm-referenced assessments

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Norm-referenced assessmentsare tests designed to compare an individual to a group of their peers, usually based on national standards and occasionally adjusted for age, ethnicity or other demographics.

Unlike ipsative assessments, where the student is only competing against themselves, norm-referenced assessmentsdraw from a wide range of data points to make conclusions about student achievement.

Types of norm-referenced assessments include:

  • IQ tests
  • Physical assessments
  • Standardized college admissions tests like the SAT and GRE

Proponents of norm-referenced assessments point out that they accentuate differences among test-takers and make it easy to analyze large-scale trends. Critics argue they don’t encourage complex thinking and can inadvertently discriminate against low-income students and minorities.

Norm-referenced assessments are most useful when measuring student achievement to determine:

  • Language ability
  • Grade readiness
  • Physical development
  • College admission decisions
  • Need for additional learning support

While they’re not usually the type of assessment you deliver in your classroom, chances are you have access to data from past tests that can give you valuable insights into student performance.

6. Criterion-referenced assessments

Criterion-referenced assessmentscompare the score of an individual student to a learning standard and performance level,independent of other students around them.

In the classroom, this means measuring student performance against grade-level standards and can include end-of-unit or final tests to assess student understanding.

Outside of the classroom, criterion-referenced assessments appear in professional licensing exams, high school exit exams and citizenship tests, where the student must answer a certain percentage of questions correctly to pass.

Criterion-referenced assessments are most often compared with norm-referenced assessments. While they’re both considered types of assessments of learning, criterion-referenced assessments don’t measure students against their peers. Instead, each student is graded to provide insight into their strengths and areas for improvement.

How to create effective assessments

You don’t want to use a norm-referenced assessment to figure out where learning gaps in your classroom are, and ipsative assessments aren’t the best for giving your principal a high-level overview of student achievement in your classroom.

When it comes to your teaching, here are some best practices to help you identify which type of assessment will work and how to structure it, so you and your students get the information you need.

Make a rubric

Students do their best work when they know what’s expected of them and how they’ll be marked. Whether you’re assigning acooperative learningproject or an independent study unit, a rubriccommunicates clear success criteria to students and helps teachers maintain consistent grading.

Ideally, your rubric should have a detailed breakdown of all the project’s individual parts, what’s required of each group member and an explanation of what different levels of achievement look like.

A well-crafted rubric lets multiple teachers grade the same assignment and arrive at the same score. It’s an important part of assessments for learning and assessments of learning, and teaches students to take responsibility for the quality of their work.

There are plenty ofonline rubric toolsto help you get started -- try one today!

Ask yourselfwhyyou're giving the assessment

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While student grades provide a useful picture of achievement and help you communicate progress to school leaders and parents, the ultimate goal of assessments is to improve student learning.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s my plan for the results?
  • Who’s going to use the results, besides me?
  • What do I want to learn from this assessment?
  • What’s the best way to present the assessment to my students, given what I know about their progress and learning styles?

This helps you effectively prepare students and create an assessment that moves learning forward.

Don't stick with the same types of assessment — mix it up!

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End-of-unit assessments are a tried and tested (pun intended) staple in any classroom. But why stop there?

Let’s say you’re teaching a unit onmultiplying fractions. To help you plan your lessons, deliver a diagnostic assessment to find out what students remember from last year. Once you’re sure they understand all the prerequisites, you can start teaching your lessons more effectively.

After each math class, deliver short exit tickets to find out what students understand and where they still have questions. If you see students struggling, you can re-teach or deliver intervention in small groups duringstation rotations.

When you feel students are prepared, an assessment of learning can be given to them. If students do not meet the success criteria, additional support and scaffolding can be provided to help them improve their understanding of the topic. You can foster a growth mindset by reminding students that mistakes are an important part of learning!

Now your students are masters at multiplying fractions! And when standardized testing season rolls around, you know which of your students need additional support — and where.

Build your review based on the data you’ve collected through diagnostic, formative, summative and ipsative assessments so they perform well on their standardized tests.

Final thoughts about different types of assessment

Remember: learning extends well beyond a single score or assessment!

It’s an ongoing process, with plenty of opportunities for students to build agrowth mindsetand develop new skills.

Prodigy is a fun, digital game-based learning platform used by over 100 million students and 2.5 million teachers. Join today to make delivering assessments and differentiating math learning easy with a free teacher account!

Sign up now!


6 Types of Assessment (and How to Use Them)? ›

Formative Assessment is the most powerful type of assessment for improving student understanding and performance.

What different types of assessment will you use and why? ›

There are three main types of assessment and they relate to how the assessment is used.
  • Diagnostic. Diagnostic assessment is used to identify student strengths and weaknesses. ...
  • Formative. Formative assessment is used to monitor student progress during a teaching and learning cycle. ...
  • Summative.

What are the 6 principles of assessment? ›

Principles of Assessment
  • Assessment will be valid. ...
  • Assessment will be reliable. ...
  • Assessment will be equitable. ...
  • Assessment will be explicit and transparent. ...
  • Assessment will support the student learning process. ...
  • Assessment will be efficient.
Oct 19, 2022

What are the six 6 steps in the assessment process? ›

  • Step 1: Develop SLOs/POs. • A statement.
  • Step 2: Identify methods and measures learning. • We are already and always assessing how we are doing and/or. ...
  • Step 3: Determine criteria for success.
  • Step 4: Collect and analyze data.
  • Step 5: Plan and execute improvement actions. ...
  • Step 6: Document assessment activities.
Sep 20, 2017

What is formative and summative assessment examples? ›

Formative assessment refers to tools that identify misconceptions, struggles, and learning gaps along the way and assess how to close those gaps.
Examples of Formative and Summative Assessments.
Weekly quizzesFinal essays
1-minute reflection writing assignmentsFinal presentations
5 more rows

What is the best assessment to be use? ›

Formative Assessment is the most powerful type of assessment for improving student understanding and performance.

What is one of the most commonly used assessment methods? ›

The most widely used traditional assessment tools are multiple-choice tests, true/false tests, short answers, and essays. True/false tests: True/false items require students to make a decision and find out which of two potential responses is true.

Why is it important to use different assessment methods? ›

Different assessment methods allow you to assess different aspects of student learning. Having the right mix of methods means that a number of different skills can be assessed. This section enables you to explore some possible assessment methods by examining their advantages, challenges, validity and rigour.

What are the 5 types of assessment? ›

Understanding the 5 assessment types
  • Summative assessment (knowing what you know) ...
  • Formative assessment (knowing what you don't know) ...
  • Diagnostic assessment (knowing if there's a gap) ...
  • Benchmarking assessment (knowing how you compare) ...
  • Continual assessment (knowing how you're tracking)
Sep 29, 2021

What is the example of formative assessment? ›

Examples of formative assessments include asking students to: draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic. submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture. turn in a research proposal for early feedback.

What are the six purposes of assessment? ›

What are 6 purposes of assessment? Screening, determine diagnosis/differential diagnosis, determine eligibility for services, establish baseline, develop intervention targets, track and document progress.

What are the 4 assessment methods? ›

A Guide to Types of Assessment: Diagnostic, Formative, Interim, and Summative.

What are the principles and types of assessment? ›

The Principles of Assessment
  • Assessment should be an integral part of teaching and learning.
  • Assessment should be educative.
  • Assessment should be fair.
  • Assessments should be designed to meet their specific purposes.
  • Assessment should lead to informative reporting.
  • Assessment should lead to school-wide evaluation processes.

What are the examples of summative assessment? ›

Summative assessment examples:
  • End-of-term or midterm exams.
  • Cumulative work over an extended period such as a final project or creative portfolio.
  • End-of-unit or chapter tests.
  • Standardised tests that demonstrate school accountability are used for pupil admissions; SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels.

What is formative and objective assessment? ›

Formative assessment is given throughout the learning process. The main objectives are to measure students' progress through learning objectives or course topics and provide feedback to students. Formative assessment can be used to inform, adjust, and focus teaching in the classroom. Summative Assessment.

What is a good assessment method? ›

An effective assessment is always appropriate to its purpose and able to be readily administered by the practitioner. In selecting an appropriate assessment, consideration is given to these characteristics: reliability, validity, inclusivity, objectivity and practicality.

What is the difference between a formative and summative assessment? ›

Formative assessments have low stakes and usually carry no grade, which in some instances may discourage the students from doing the task or fully engaging with it. The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

What is the best assessment strategy? ›

Assessment Strategy Definition

Identify the weakness of the learner. Recognize the unique learning needs of an individual learner. Track the progress of the learner. Collect feedback for the current teaching methods employed by the learner in the form of its effectiveness.

What is the most reliable form of assessment? ›

Diagnostic assessment

Diagnostic assessment is the most preferred type of assessment of learning to check a learner's current knowledge base. Most of the time, it involves a series of questions given at the start of a class or training session to identify a learner's strengths and weaknesses prior to learning.

What type of assessment is usually more accurate? ›

Direct assessment is the most effective form of assessment when you are measuring a single learning outcome, objective, or goal.

How can I make the assessment process more meaningful? ›

Here are some of the best ways to make your assessments more meaningful, human, and effective.
  1. #1 – Set clear expectations. ...
  2. #2 – Create adaptive assessment opportunities. ...
  3. #3 – Switch up assessment types. ...
  4. #4 – Give real-time feedback. ...
  5. #5 – Analyze the results.
Jun 21, 2022

What is the most important purpose of assessment? ›

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students' learning and teachers' teaching as both respond to the information it provides. Assessment for learning is an ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning.

What are the 3 assessment techniques? ›

There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative.

What is the most common of assessment? ›

Two of the most common types of educational assessment are formative and summative assessments, explored in more detail here, which each have a very specific purpose as well as notable differences. The common tools employed by teachers when creating these assessments will differ as well.

What are the most effective ways to assess student learning? ›

Information about student learning can be assessed through both direct and indirect measures. Direct measures may include homework, quizzes, exams, reports, essays, research projects, case study analysis, and rubrics for oral and other performances.

How should you use formative assessment? ›

Using formative assessment at the end of a previous day's lesson or at the start of a new lesson will allow you to see what your students already know about the standard you have targeted to teach. Consider using an exit or entrance ticket, for example.

Why is summative assessment important? ›

Summative assessments provide cumulative snapshots to evaluate and report on student learning. Summative data can help illuminate areas of strength and gaps in curriculum and instruction, and especially for student subgroups. Reporting summative results provides information to families and the general public.

How do teachers use assessments? ›

Teachers' practice formative assessment by observing their student's progress in class and checking for understanding, and summative assessment by testing students at the end of a lesson or unit to see whether they mastered the materials or skills that were taught.

What is an example of evaluation? ›

to judge or calculate the quality, importance, amount, or value of something: Doctors evaluate the patient's condition. [ + question word ] Have they evaluated what their next step is?

What are the 5 characteristics of effective assessment? ›

Assessment designers strive to create assessments that show a high degree of fidelity to the following five traits:
  • Content Validity.
  • Reliability.
  • Fairness. Student Engagement and Motivation. Consequential Relevance.
Nov 11, 2013

What are the key elements of assessment? ›

There are three key elements of Assessment for Learning: assess, diagnose, and remediate.

What are the 5 components of an assessment tool? ›

What to Include in Assessment Tools
  • the context and conditions required for assessment.
  • the tasks to be completed by the learner.
  • a clear outline of evidence to be gathered from the learner.
  • the evidence criteria for making a judgement on competency.
  • the administration, recording and reporting requirements.
Apr 20, 2021

How many assessment techniques are there? ›

There are seven techniques that can be used, the assessment of performance, attitude assessment, written assessment, project assessment, product assessment, the use of portfolios and self-assessment. Performance appraisal is an appraisal done by observing the activities of learners in doing something.

What are the 4 components of assessment? ›

The components, or attributes, are: (1) clarify intended learning; (2) elicit evidence; (3) interpret evidence; and (4) act on evidence.

What is principle 5 of assessment? ›

Principle 5: Learning Journey

This principle emphasises the importance of assessment and feedback in developing students' self-efficacy as life-long learners are able to make judgements about themselves and the quality of their own work, for example through self- or peer-assessment and reflection.

What are the 4 major assessment? ›

A Guide to Types of Assessment: Diagnostic, Formative, Interim, and Summative.

What are the 5 methods of assessment? ›

Understanding the 5 assessment types
  • Summative assessment (knowing what you know) ...
  • Formative assessment (knowing what you don't know) ...
  • Diagnostic assessment (knowing if there's a gap) ...
  • Benchmarking assessment (knowing how you compare) ...
  • Continual assessment (knowing how you're tracking)
Sep 29, 2021

What are 4 assessment techniques? ›

WHEN YOU PERFORM a physical assessment, you'll use four techniques: inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation.

What is the best assessment method? ›

Formative Assessment is the most powerful type of assessment for improving student understanding and performance. Examples: a very interactive class discussion; a warm-up, closure, or exit slip; a on-the-spot performance; a quiz.

What are the 3 R's of assessment? ›

After students and educators have evaluated the assessment tool used, there should be the next step of identifying where information needs reinforced, reviewed, and/or rehearsed. Every student will fall into one of these three areas.


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