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What Is Educational Assessment?

Different Types of Educational Assessment

With the role of standardized tests and competency-based education increasing, one of the main topics of conversation in education circles is educational assessment. Many equate the concept of assessment with educational quizzes, and while this is certainly a valid starting point, it doesn’t paint a full picture.

When we think of ‘educational assessments’, the first image to float in our minds is of students writing exams. Well, the real picture is quite different.

What Exactly Is An Education Assessment and What’s the Role of Assessments in Education?

Educational assessments are not necessarily exams or tests. They have a much wider concept.

The concept of a test in education stands poles apart from the concept of assessment in education.

An educational test or an exam is used to examine someone’s knowledge of something to determine what they know or have learned. The goal of testing is to measure the level of skill or knowledge that has been acquired.

But, an assessment is a process of documenting knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs, usually in measurable terms. The purpose of conducting an assessment in education is to improve the current teaching method for teachers and the learning process for students to derive better results.

Definition of Assessment in Education

The term assessment in education can be defined in the following way:

“Educational assessment is the process of gathering information about what students have learned in their educational environments.”

Educational assessment is an ongoing process, ranging from the activities that teachers undertake with students in classrooms every day to standardized testing, college theses, and instruments that measure the success of corporate training programs.

Let’s understand educational assessments by looking at its many aspects:

  • The forms of educational assessment can take
  • The need for educational assessment
  • The essentials of a good assessment
  • Types of educational assessment

Read More:- How Do We Define Educational Assessment

Now that we know what it is, let’s begin by looking at the different forms of Educational Assessment.

Education Assessment Can Take Many Forms

Almost every educational environment today uses some form of assessment. Be it end-of-chapter quizzes and final exams or large-scale standardized testing, like the Common Core, SAT, and GRE tests.

Education assessments can take any form:

  • They may involve formal tests or performance-based activities.
  • They may be administered online or using paper and pencil or other materials.
  • They may be objective (requiring a single correct answer) or subjective (there may be many possible correct answers, such as in an essay).
  • They may be formative (carried out over the course of a project) or summative (administered at the end of a project or a course).

What these types of educational assessments have in common is that they all measure learners’ performance relative to previously defined goals, which are usually stated as learning objectives or outcomes.

And, because the use of assessments is so widespread, it is vital that educators, as well as parents and students, understand what they are and why they are important.

Types of Educational Assessment

There are many types of educational assessment. Some may be mandated by the educational system, whereas others are up to the discretion of the teachers themselves.

However, all the different types of assessments, such as assessments in education, student assessments, or learning assessments broadly fall under six categories:

#1. Formative Assessment

Formative assessments are used throughout the educational process, with the goal of identifying problem areas and improving teaching & learning.
They are used as a first attempt at developing the lessons further. The goal of formative assessments is to monitor students’ learning to provide feedback.

Formative assessments help in identifying the formative gaps in your instruction. Based on this feedback, you’ll know what to focus on for further expansion of your lessons.

Read More:- Types of Student Assessment

#2. Summative Assessment

Summative assessments are used at the end of a learning block as a final test of students’ knowledge.

Summative assessments are aimed at assessing the extent to which the most important outcomes at the end of the lesson have been reached.

Not just that, they also measure the effectiveness of learning, reactions to the instruction, and the benefits on a long-term basis.

#3. Standardized Assessments

Standardized assessments, also known as standardized tests, are assessments that are given and scored in a consistent manner, usually across large groups of students.

They provide a path to discover why a child might be struggling, succeeding, or accelerating on specific elements of their grade-level standards.
The results derive help with the formation of the next step in students’ assessment for learning.

Example: Grade-level tests (i.e., those that are given to all students at a particular grade level) and the SAT are types of standardized assessments.

In general, these tests are objective, which means that they use question types, such as multiple-choice and true-or-false, which have a single correct answer.

But, some standardized tests also incorporate subjective items, like short-answer and essay questions. Standardized assessments can be given in-person using pencil and paper or online.

#4. Performance-based Assessments

Performance-based assessments require students to perform a particular task, such as completing a writing assignment or giving a presentation.
They measure students’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit or units of study.

This type of assessment is becoming more common as competency-based education is emerging as an alternative to more traditional formats. Performance-based assessments are less likely to be given online, but not in every situation.

Example: Students taking a web development or graphic design course may demonstrate their knowledge using online tools to produce a digital project.

#5. Norm- Versus Criterion-Referenced Assessments

Referenced assessments are given for the purpose of comparing students’ results to a particular standard.

For norm-referenced tests, that standard is based on a large sample of students, whose score is referred to as the norm.

Example: Imagine all students in Grade 9 take the same norm-referenced test. If a particular student scores in the 91st percentile, that means he or she did better than 90% of the sample serving as the norm.

Criterion-referenced tests also compare individual students’ results to a standard, but this time the standard is based on the curriculum and is often designed as a cutoff for demonstrating proficiency.

Example: Students in a class may be required to score 80% or higher on a particular test before moving on to the next concept.

#6. Alternative Assessments

In addition to standardized and referenced assessments, there are a variety of alternative assessments that can provide valuable insights into what students are learning. These types of teaching assessments are used to determine what students can or can not do, with respect to what they already know. An alternative assessment could be:

  • Observations
  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Performance tasks
  • Exhibitions and demonstrations
  • Portfolios
  • Journals
  • Teacher-created tests
  • Project work
  • Self- and peer-evaluation

When choosing and developing assessments, the most important factor is that the types of assessments in education you use should be something that will enable you to understand what students know and can do, as well as improve the teaching and learning process going forward.

Read More:- What is an Assessment Tool

Why Do We Need Educational Assessment?

Ideally, educational assessments are more than just tests. When done well, they are powerful learning tools for students as well as evaluation tools for educators.

Here are some of the benefits of a good educational assessment:

  • It helps educators track students’ progress so they can identify anyone who is struggling and provide remediation.
  • It provides feedback to students about their own performance, which they can use to improve their knowledge and skills further.
  • It motivates students, as they know they will be evaluated at the end of each module or course.
  • It helps educators set learning objectives and outcomes and determine the best ways to help students reach their goals.
  • It can be used to improve the curriculum.
  • It can be used to evaluate teachers’ and school systems’ performance, as well as the effectiveness of different teaching practices.

These are the benefits of “good” educational assessment, but what exactly makes assessments good?

What Makes an Educational Assessment “Good”?

Here are two basic principles of quality educational assessment:

1. Assessments must be based on defined objectives and outcomes: Before assessments can be used as a valid measuring tool for knowledge and skills, the desired knowledge and skills must first be clearly articulated.

2. Assessments must be valid: Validity refers to the extent to which an assessment actually measures the knowledge or skills it is supposed to. The reason there are so many types of assessments is that there is no one type that can validly measure all kinds of learning.

For example, while it may be possible to assess students’ knowledge of historical facts using a multiple-choice test, this would not be a valid way to evaluate their typing skills.

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Create Your Own Assessment Online

If you’re someone whose job requires them to create different types of test assessments on a regular basis, then this section is for you. So far, you’ve learned how different types of assessments work in different cases and how testing and assessment in education are poles apart.

But, did you know that you can create your own assessment with an assessment tool or a student assessment software? Search online and you’ll find a number of assessment tools in education. Using these tools, you can easily create online educational assessments in no time.

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About the author


Priyanshi has more than four years of experience in the eLearning industry. She is an ardent follower of new trends emerging in the learning & training sphere and loves to create interesting articles on the same. She has a passion for listicles too. In her free time, you’ll probably find her reading or exploring bizarre content on the web.