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Decoding Informal Assessments: Definition, Examples & Benefits


When we hear “informal,” we often think of something simple, relaxed, and friendly. This idea also applies to informal assessments in education and training.

Informal assessments are like casual observations. They can be incredibly valuable for understanding how students or employees are learning. 

They are quick, give immediate feedback, need minimal planning, and help you get a better, fuller picture of learner progress.

If you’ve only used formal assessments so far, you’ve been missing out on a great teaching resource.

But don’t worry, it’s easy to start.

In this article, we’ll dive into everything about informal assessments: what they are, some examples, their main benefits, and how you can create your own.

Keep reading to learn more!

What Is Informal Assessment?

An informal assessment is a type of formative assessment that doesn’t follow any standard or benchmark and carries no grade. Instructors evaluate learners using methods such as observations and asking open-ended questions during the learning process.

Generally, teachers and instructors rely on these vital clues to develop formal assessments.

For example, at the end of a typical class, teachers can ask their students to describe how the class was, what they learned, and the areas they found hard to comprehend and solicit suggestions for improved learning. 

Based on the information gathered on each student’s learning style, the teachers can plan their next class activities and assessments to ensure better learning experiences.

Examples of Informal Assessment

Observational Assessments

Observational assessments involve educators directly watching and noting students’ behaviors, skills, and academic performance in real-time classroom settings or during specific tasks. 

This method allows teachers to gather data on students’ social interactions, work habits, and engagement levels. 

For example, a teacher might note how often students participate in class discussions, their ability to work collaboratively in groups, or their problem-solving strategies during hands-on activities. These observations can provide valuable insights into a student’s strengths and areas for improvement, informing personalized instruction and support strategies.

Why it is Recommended: Observational assessments are recommended because they offer real-time, contextual insights into student behavior and performance that other methods may miss. This approach enables teachers to understand the dynamics of learning as they unfold naturally, allowing for immediate and precise support tailored to each student’s needs.

Conversational Assessments

Conversational assessments are informal discussions between teachers and students focused on understanding the student’s grasp of a subject. Through these dialogues, educators can assess comprehension, critical thinking, and the ability to articulate understanding.

For example, a teacher asks open-ended questions during a lesson to gauge students’ interpretations of a concept or their ability to connect it to prior knowledge. This method fosters a relaxed environment where students can express their thoughts and misconceptions, allowing teachers to address misunderstandings directly.

Why it is Recommended: Conversational assessments are recommended for their ability to foster open communication between teachers and students, promoting a learning environment where students feel valued and understood. This method encourages students to articulate their thoughts and reasoning, deepening their learning and critical thinking skills. 

Student Self-Assessments

This approach involves students reflecting on and evaluating their own learning and performance. By using checklists, journals, or rubrics, students can identify their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth. 

For instance, after completing a project, students might rate their research skills and presentation effectiveness, setting goals for future improvements. 

Self-assessments encourage students to take responsibility for their learning, develop metacognitive skills, and become active participants in the educational process.

Why it is Recommended: Student self-assessments are recommended because they empower students to take an active role in their learning process. This method promotes self-reflection and responsibility, helping students to become more autonomous learners.

Quick Quizzes and Polls

Quick quizzes and polls are short, informal methods used to assess students’ understanding of recently taught concepts. They can be administered in various formats, such as multiple-choice questions, true/false statements, or short-answer responses, often using technology platforms for instant feedback. 

For example, a teacher might use a digital polling tool to quickly gauge student opinions or comprehension at the beginning or end of a class. This method provides immediate insights into student learning and can help guide instructional decisions.

Why it is Recommended: Quick quizzes and polls are recommended for their efficiency in providing immediate feedback on student understanding. This approach allows educators to quickly identify areas where students struggle and adjust their teaching methods accordingly. 

Portfolio Assessment Methods

Portfolio assessments involve students collecting and organizing work over time, showcasing their learning progress, achievements, and reflections. Portfolios can include a range of materials, such as written assignments, projects, art, and self-assessments. 

By reviewing portfolios, teachers can assess students’ growth, strengths, and areas for improvement in a comprehensive manner. 

For example, a student’s writing portfolio might demonstrate improvements in writing skills, creativity, and ability to articulate thoughts clearly over the course of a school year.

Why it is Recommended: Portfolio assessment methods are recommended because they provide a comprehensive view of a student’s learning journey over time. This approach celebrates individual progress and achievement, encouraging students to take pride in their work.

Peer Reviews

Peer reviews involve students evaluating each other’s work, providing feedback on performance, and suggesting improvements. This method encourages collaborative learning, critical thinking, and the development of evaluative skills. 

For instance, in a writing class, students might exchange drafts and provide constructive feedback on each other’s essays. Peer reviews can enhance understanding of criteria for quality work and foster a supportive learning community.

Why it is Recommended: Peer reviews are recommended for their ability to facilitate collaborative learning and critical thinking. This method encourages students to engage with each other’s work critically and constructively, fostering a supportive learning community. 

Anecdotal Notes

Anecdotal notes are brief, written observations made by teachers to document specific incidents, behaviors, or student achievements in the classroom. These notes can capture significant moments, such as a student’s innovative problem-solving approach or a notable improvement in participation. 

Teachers use these notes to track progress, identify patterns in student behavior or performance, and inform instructional planning. 

For example, anecdotal notes might reveal a student’s growing interest in a subject area or highlight areas needing additional support.

Why it is Recommended: Anecdotal notes are recommended because they capture the nuances of student learning and behavior that structured assessments often overlook. This method allows educators to document and reflect on specific instances of student achievement or challenge, providing a rich basis for personalized feedback and instruction. 

Watch: How to Create an Assessment Online

Difference Between Formal and Informal Assessments

Here are the major differences between formal and informal assessments to help you get a better idea about them. 

Parameter Formal Assessments Informal Assessments
Purpose Formal assessments are designed to evaluate a student’s performance against standardized criteria or benchmarks. Informal assessments aim to monitor a student’s learning progress and provide immediate, formative feedback.
Structure These assessments are highly structured, with predetermined questions and formats. These assessments are flexible, allowing for varied formats and approaches tailored to the learning situation.
Setting Formal assessments take place in controlled environments, typically at predetermined times. Informal assessments can occur in any learning setting, often integrated into daily classroom activities.
Scoring They use standardized scoring guides or rubrics, resulting in quantitative scores. They often employ qualitative measures, such as descriptive feedback or observations, rather than scores.
Feedback Feedback from formal assessments is generally provided after analysis and may not be immediate. Feedback from informal assessments is immediate or near real-time, facilitating quick adjustments in learning.
Examples Examples include standardized tests, final exams, and mid-term exams with specific right or wrong answers. Examples include observational notes, discussions, self-assessments, and peer reviews without fixed answers.
Role of the Teacher In formal assessments, the teacher acts primarily as an evaluator who administers and scores the assessments. In informal assessments, the teacher serves as a facilitator, guiding learning through feedback and support.
Impact on Instruction The results of formal assessments are often used for summative purposes, influencing future instruction. The results of informal assessments directly inform and adjust instruction continuously.

Advantages of Informal Assessment

One of the biggest questions related to informal assessments is: If they don’t follow any standard criteria for evaluation, why do teachers and instructors still rely on them?

Well, these assessments play a vital role in final evaluations. Such observations and note-taking of students’ behaviors and skills can help you make ongoing adjustments to your teaching approach and students’ learning styles for better outcomes.

With that in mind, let’s look at the main advantages of informal assessments.

1. Holistic View of Students

As a run-up to the final examination, informal assessments can provide a more comprehensive understanding of your students. Sometimes, many brilliant students turn in a subpar performance in annual assessments for some reason.

So, the final semester exam cannot always be a litmus test for a student’s ability. Informal assessments at regular intervals let you observe students’ progress from one stage to another and in different learning situations. This provides a holistic view for impartial grading instead of a conclusive one-off exam.

2. Realistic Presentation

Informal assessments evaluate students in their natural state or ordinary environment. Learners act freely without the pressure, inhibitions, or fear of a formal exam setting. This presents a more realistic, undiluted, and unskewed picture of students to assessors.

3. Removes the Guesswork

Informal assessments, in combination with formal assessments, can give you a broader understanding of your learners’ accomplishments, challenges, and aspirations.

Informal tests spread over an entire academic year will help you sum up the progress and performance of each student better in the final examination. You can eliminate any chances of guesswork in the intervening period by not limiting yourself to just one student assessment type.

4. Sharpens Teachers’ Assessment Skills

Another significant benefit of assessing students informally is improved assessment skills in teachers.

Over time, your ability to evaluate them at random moments can enhance your skills for result analysis, learning progress measurement, grade assignments, interpretation, and explanation of assessment results to students and parents.

These skills are invaluable and add to your teaching experience.

5. Less Planning & Resources

Unlike formal assessments such as end-of-term exams, aptitude tests, and admission tests, informal assessments require less preparation planning, resources, and class time. You can simply observe students in the class or ask them to share a presentation on a topic.

6. Unlimited Room for Effort & Improvement

With informal assessments, students get multiple opportunities to improve their learning and apply knowledge to practical situations.

This is because mostly there’s no grading system, and it’s more about some informal activities to get to know your learners better.

Also, learners get instant feedback in informal assessments.

7. Comprehensive & Authentic Reports

Informally assessing your learners over a period of time gives you a fair idea of their learning capacity, strengths, weaknesses, improvement areas, and personality traits.

When you develop a deeper understanding of your students, your ability to write comprehensive and authentic reports also grows.

Pro Tip: Adopt a SaaS quiz-making tool that generates AI-powered reports and analytics on individuals and groups. These smart solutions provide aggregate data on all quiz attempts, dates, quiz takers’ names, scores, time taken, and final results.

When to Use Informal Assessments

You can use informal formative assessments at any of the learning stages before the formal assessment. In this sense, it’s a sort of preparation for the final evaluation. You can use it throughout a school year to understand your learners better and guide them on to the next stage of learning.

By conducting random informal tests at different points of a learning process, you can gather immediate feedback on what your students have learned so far. This way, you can identify gaps, challenges, retention, recall, and application.

How to Create & Deploy an Informal Assessment Using Quizzes

Here are the steps you can follow to build and administer a quiz-based informal assessment.

Choose the Best Online Quiz Software

Conducting informal assessments successfully is only possible with a robust tool, so choosing the best quiz-making tool is a sensible way to get off on the right foot. Ideally, the software application should have the following characteristics:

In addition, the quiz software you choose should provide advanced reports and statistics on quiz results. This will enable you to make informed decisions on progress, performance, and the next course of action.

Add the Right Questions

Using the right questions in your assessment quizzes is important. By asking the right type of questions, you’ll fetch the right answers from respondents.

If you’re worried about what questions to ask in your informal quizzes, the solution is just around the corner.

Most cloud-based assessment tools provide a library of questions arranged under different categories. You can use these questions as-is or customize them based on your assessment needs.

Share Assessments With Your Students

Just like the creation part, sharing assessments with your learners should be effortless. A leading SaaS quiz software such as ProProfs Quiz Maker makes it easy to share quizzes.

You can share a quiz assessment link via email or as a direct link on your website and social media platforms.

It also lets you set up settings for notifications, tracking, and security.

Make sure the quiz software you choose is accessible across devices and platforms so that students can attempt quizzes anytime, anywhere, without time, place, and device getting in the way.

Pro Tip: Make sure you deploy a collaborative learning platform to maximize learner engagement through social peer-to-peer learning. Participants can ask questions, provide answers, share brilliant ideas, and provide ongoing support to each other during learning. Best of all, such platforms keep knowledge organized and easily searchable.

  • Evaluate Quiz Results

This is a crucial step for conducting a quiz-based informal assessment.

Most cloud-based quiz tools auto-generate individual and group reports. You can filter these reports based on answers, scores, and time taken per question. After that, you can download and share them with your students.

The grade book report shows the total points and average scores of all participants. From this, you can get an idea of the overall performance.

A detailed evaluation of quizzes gives you a comprehensive, accurate, and objective view of the tests. You can ask for a retake if a student doesn’t complete a quiz.

  • Share Feedback

Last but not least, you need to provide feedback to students on their performance.

A superior assessment tool will let you add feedback to a quiz report itself. It can be general feedback or specifically focused on an improvement area. You can generally choose whether you want to share text, audio, or video feedback.

If you want, you can also add feedback during a quiz rather than at the end. For this, you can add feedback when creating your quiz questions. It can be:

  • single feedback for all answers
  • feedback for each answer option
  • feedback for every correct and incorrect answer option

Whether the feedback is positive or negative, learners can use it to work harder to get better results next time. It gives clear guidance on what they need to do based on their performance in the assessment.

Informal Assessment Case Studies

Let’s check out some important case studies related to informal assessments to understand how users benefitted from this evaluation system.

Who: Graves County High School, North Mayfield, KentuckyWhat Does It Do?: The school provides high-quality education focused on mastery of knowledge and skills essential for lifelong learning and becoming a responsible citizen. Its motto is: Striving for Excellence: No Exceptions, No Excuses.Learning Challenge: The school needed real-time formative and summative assessment data to identify areas students had mastered and areas of weakness.Solution It Adopted: Earlier, assessing 180 students individually was a tedious job. Exam scanning machines somewhat made the evaluation easier, but they were still an expensive proposition.It was then that the school experimented with a quiz maker to get real-time and meaningful data in an economical way.Results It Got: The tool made learning reports easily available to Graves County High School. It took the reports to professional learning community meetings to compare student success. The school benefitted from how it could sort the learning data. Sorting the quizzes and exams by date taken made recording grades an easy task.Read more about their success story here.
Who: Full Sail UniversityWhat Does It Do?: It is a private, for-profit university in Winter Park, Florida, and one of the premier media arts colleges in the world. The university has over 16,000 students, and it offers 40+ degree programs. Its courses are designed around real-world industry experience and creative problem-solving.Learning Challenge: The university needed training materials for its software certification exam. It wanted something that it could access repeatedly and on-demand, regardless of what degree program or course the students were currently enrolled in.Solution It Adopted: It deployed an online test maker to create practice tests modeled after the actual certification exam. The practice tests were super easy to build and let the university set the same parameters as the real certification test, including a question bank, time limit, and minimum passing grade.Tests built on the tool were also tied to a specific course within a degree program, which limited how students could move through the software certification process.Results It Got: The practice tests created using the test maker were hands down the best resource available to students. The university achieved a near 100% success rate, with students passing the actual certification exam.Read more about their success story here.

Also Watch: How DMS Boosted Student Scores Using ProProfs Quiz Maker | Case Study

Know Your Learners Better With Informal Assessments

Although traditional grade-based assessments remain prevalent, they often fall short of providing a holistic view of student abilities.

Integrating informal assessments into your evaluation process offers a more well-rounded perspective of a learner’s progress over time. Plus, they require minimal planning and resources for implementation.

If you have yet to embrace informal assessments in education, now is the time to do so. The benefits are numerous and can significantly enhance your learning programs.Online quizzes are the easiest and fastest way to assess your students informally. They can also be incredibly engaging and fun. All you need is the right quiz-making tool.

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About the author

Vipul Bhagia is an e-learning expert and content creator, specializing in instructional design. He excels in crafting compelling e-learning modules and designing effective employee training assessments. He is passionate about leveraging digital solutions to transform work culture and boost productivity. Vipul enjoys exploring emerging tech innovations and sharing his insights with fellow industry professionals.