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What Is Student Assessment?

What Is Student Assessment

A decade or two ago, an assessment was generally synonymous with a test. Today, it is no longer true. 

Now, the idea of student assessment comprises a much wider range of learning activities and focuses on reducing the overall burden on teachers while ensuring that the highest outcome is achieved with less time and effort.

It is arguably the most important and the most challenging element of imparting high-quality learning. 

Understanding student assessment as a concept would require you to learn its meaning and other elements like the types, methods, importance, and more. To help you with it, we’ve covered most of the elements in this article.

Let’s quickly begin by understanding its meaning. 

What is a Student Assessment?

Student assessment is the bridge that connects teaching with learning. It is the process of gathering and evaluating the gaps between knowledge rendered and knowledge retained.

It may sound fairly straightforward, but in reality, student assessment is a detailed process with many facets. There are different kinds of assessments depending on what needs to be assessed.

What Are the Different Types of Student Assessment

Let’s look at what these types are and the variety of activities that make up assessments in each of these categories.

✓ Diagnostic

Diagnostic assessment refers to a set of questions that aim to assess a learner’s current knowledge base or knowledge about a topic before and after it is taught to them

Post-topic assessments are compared with pre-topic assessments to show students’ potential improvement in certain areas. These assessments allow the teachers to adjust their curriculum according to the needs of current and future students.

Diagnostic assessments are used: 

  • To identify students’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • To identify and correct misconceptions.
  • To prove how classroom instruction has been adapted to meet the needs of the students.

✓ Formative

Formative assessment is used in the first attempt of developing instruction. This assessment is carried out before the learning is provided to assess the level of existing knowledge based on which the learning to be provided takes shape

The goal is to monitor student performance to provide feedback.

They are often referred to as “low-stakes assessments.” These are activities designed to measure learning during the learning process. 

As such, their goal is not to assign a grade. It is mainly to identify- 

  • students who are struggling and 
  • areas where those struggles are occurring. 

Teachers can use the results of formative assessments to focus and improve their teaching, while students can use the results to focus and improve their learning.

There are many types of formative assessments. Here is a brief review of the most common ones:

  • In-class activities: Responding to writing prompts, completing worksheets, and answering oral questions.
  • Homework: Problem sets or vocabulary lists that students work on at home and turn in to receive feedback.
  • Pop quizzes and polls or surveys: To assess student understanding and/or opinions about course topics.
  • Pop quizzes and polls or surveysSelf-assessments: Students are given rubrics (holistic and analytical tools) to assess their progress and understanding.
  • Peer assessments: Students use scoring guides to assess one another’s work.
  • Multi-part projects: Research projects in which students turn in pieces (a proposal, introduction, methods, etc.) at various points throughout the course and receive feedback before completing the final project.
  • Pretests: To provide baselines to measure student progress.
  • Unit and chapter tests: To assess student learning at the end of a set of learning activities and guide future learning activities.

As you can see, formative assessments can take a variety of forms. The key aspect of formative assessments is that they guide instruction and learning going forward rather than presenting an overall picture of student achievement.

✓ Summative 

A summative assessment aims to assess the extent to which the most important outcomes at the end of the learning have been reached. It is carried out after the learning has been provided. It measures the following: 

  • Effectiveness of learning
  • Reactions to the learning provided
  • Long-term learning benefits

Summative assessments are used to measure how well students have achieved the desired learning objectives and outcomes after the learning is supposed to have occurred. 

Summative assessments frequently evaluate student performance based on a particular benchmark or achievement expectation.

For example, the standardized tests mandated in many states are summative assessments. Because there is so much riding on the results (from a final grade in a single course to one’s chance at getting into a particular college), summative assessments are often referred to as “high-stakes assessments.”

The range of summative assessments isn’t quite as large as that for formative assessments:

  • Standardized tests – Common Core Assessments and the SAT
  • Mid-term and final exams – These often make up a large part of a student’s grade in a course.
  • Final papers and projects – These may have a formative component (see above)
  • Senior theses, dissertations, and oral examinations aim to evaluate a student’s cumulative learning throughout studying.

Overall, summative assessments provide a snapshot of everything a student has learned at the culmination of that learning, whether it be the end of:

  • a course 
  • a grade level
  • a degree program

Summative Assessment

✓ Norm-referenced

Norm-referenced assessments refer to assessments that compare students’ performance to a course median. These assessments report whether the students performed better or worse than an average student by comparing their scores against the results of a selected group of students (of the same age and level of grade) who’ve already taken the assessments. 

For instance, a student’s assessment score could be compared to scores of students who took the same course in previous years. 

Norm-referenced assessments are used for:

  • Evaluating learners’ basic reading, writing, and math skills. 
  • Making program-eligibility or college-admissions decisions like scores on SAT or ACT. 
  • Determining children’s readiness for preschool or kindergarten. 
  • Identifying specific learning disabilities, such as autism, dyslexia, or nonverbal learning disability.

✓ Criterion-referenced

Criterion-referenced assessments follow the process of evaluating (and grading) students’ learning against a set of predetermined learning standards or descriptions of what the students are expected to know. 

The pre-specified criteria are what students have to do during an assessment to demonstrate that they have achieved the learning outcomes. Unlike norm-referenced assessments that measure students against their peers, criterion-referenced assessments grade students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Criterion-referenced assessments are used for:

  • Measuring the academic achievement of students.
  • Determining whether students have gained expected knowledge and skills. 
  • Identifying any learning gaps or academic deficits that need to be addressed. 
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of a course, academic program, or learning experience. 
  • Measuring progress toward the goals and objectives described in the criteria.


What is the Purpose of Student Assessment?

The basic purpose of student assessment can be summed up in the following points:

  • To gather relevant information about student progress
  • To identify learning abilities
  • To evaluate the reading, writing, and listening skills
  • To prepare the next set of instructions based on the assessment results 

Teachers use the outcome of student assessment to reflect on each student’s level of achievement and learning and then use this information to set the next course of action. The next section highlights the importance of student assessment for teachers.

Why is Student Assessment Important?

Student assessment is unarguably an important part of the educational landscape for both teachers and students alike. The points below highlight the importance of student assessment for both teachers and students: 

✓ Provides Diagnostic Feedback to Students

Assessment is only effective when it also offers diagnostic feedback to students about their learning. It is the teacher’s response to students’ learning. Students must know why their answers were incorrect or where they’re lacking

When the assessment results are accompanied by constructive feedback, it forms a learning loop for students to go back to learn what they got wrong in the first place and take the assessment again to see if they’ve fully understood the topic. 

✓  Helps Teachers Set Learning Standards

An assessment at the right stage of learning can help teachers know the student’s knowledge base and help establish an understanding of their current performance. Student assessments are equally important for teachers as they are for students. 

Conducting frequent assessments allows teachers to measure the effectiveness of their teaching. It also helps teachers set learning standards. For instance, they can set standards for different types of performances and figure out- 

  • What performance demonstrates understanding?
  • What performance demonstrates knowledge?
  • What performance demonstrates mastery?

Regular assessments also help teachers ensure that students learn what they need to meet the learning goals. 

✓ Helps Evaluate Progress

The ultimate goal of student assessment is to evaluate students’ progress towards learning goals and modify their teaching practices to meet those goals. Student assessments’ detailed reports provide the evidence needed to document and validate that meaningful learning has occurred in the classroom. 

The results of assessments also measure how far the student has come in terms of learning. They help identify the learning styles most appropriate for them and help identify students’ strong & weak areas, which can help teachers realize what needs to be taught so they can set their curriculum accordingly.

Hence, it becomes important for instructors to strategically evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching by measuring the extent to which students in the classroom are learning the course material. 

In the next section, we’ve talked about some of the most common and popular methods that can be used for student assessment. 

Methods Used for Student Assessment

There exist two types of methods in student assessments- direct & indirect. Let’s take a look at both:

✓ Direct methods

Direct methods of assessment are suitable when students demonstrate that they have achieved a learning outcome or objective.

  • Visual or audio presentations: Evaluate students’ presentations using a rubric. Ask them to demonstrate acquired skills and their ability to work collaboratively in groups. Include recordings of subsequent performances and document improvements. 
  • Written work: Use written work that demonstrates students’ knowledge, shows their analytical capabilities, displays writing skills, and reflects their overall learning patterns. 
  • Portfolios of student work: Evaluate students’ portfolios to determine student learning over time and encourage student self-assessment. 
  • In-class tests: Evaluate students’ performance in class tests assuming they are valid, reliable, and objective.

✓ Indirect methods

Indirect methods of assessment are suitable when students report perceptions about having achieved an outcome or objective.

  • Curriculum & Syllabus Analysis: Bring in a faculty or student group to analyze the curriculum and syllabus.
  • Surveys: Include surveys to learn about your students’ attitudes & take opinions on different subject matters. 
  • Course Evaluations: Create course evaluations with entrance/exit tickets to gather specific information from students. 
  • External Reviewers: Get some colleagues or industry professionals to review the learning from assessments.

With so many options available, it can get a little confusing. In the next section, learn how to avoid this confusion and choose the best assessment method. 

How to Choose the Best Assessment Method?

The Michigan State University’s Learning Design & Technology division has created a list of questions that can help instructors select the best assessment tools to use for each teaching course and each element within a course. 

Here is an abbreviated list adapted from MSU:

  • What do you want your students to learn? What do they already know?
  • Will the assessment be formative or summative? High stakes or low stakes (i.e., how much will they count toward the final grade?)
  • How many students do you have? How much time will you have to spend grading? Do you have grading support?
  • Will the students receive feedback? How will that feedback be used (i.e., as a learning tool)?

Answering these questions will help you decide how many and what types of assessment tools to select, as well as how to deliver them. 

For example, let’s say your goal is to discover quickly whether your students are doing their assigned readings or not. Then your best bet would be a short quiz delivered via an online assessment tool that automatically grades and delivers feedback along with performance reports.

On the other hand, if your goal is to see how well students can apply theoretical knowledge to a new situation, then a problem-based assessment, such as a case study, would be more appropriate. 

The key is to spend some time upfront clearly defining what your students need to learn and moving forward.

But, What Are You Assessing? 

Before you create an assessment, it is important to figure out what exactly you are assessing. 

To develop this, student learning assessment is generally broken down into aspects:

  • Assessment for learning (Formative and Diagnostic assessments)
  • Assessment of learning (Summative, Norm-referenced and Criterion-referenced assessments)

✓ Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning is determining the level of knowledge students have before assigning them a course.

It is the process used by teachers to find out the students’ level of knowledge, what they need to improve, and how to improve.

In the assessment for learning, the aim is to create self-regulated learners who are confident and able to continue learning throughout their lives. 

Based on the results of these assessments, teachers prepare the next set of instructions. Using different tools for learning assessment, teachers can create online assessments that can be taken by students anytime, anywhere. 

✓ Assessment of Learning

According to the definition of assessment of learning, it is a process of carrying out assessments by teachers to measure the effectiveness of their teaching. It is a summative approach to assessing at the end of instruction to rank students’ knowledge against a predefined standard. 

Look at these assessments of learning examples that’ll help you understand it better. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Creating an Assessment for Students

Before you set out to create an assessment, you need to ask yourself some questions to come up with the right assessment for your learners.

1. Do I want to create an assessment for learning or an assessment of learning? 

Depending on your decision, choose a suitable method from the list given above.

2. What type of assessment will it be? 

For example, you’ll assign an interim assessment having different question types if you want the learners to show their knowledge depths. If it’s a formative assessment, then the way the questions are posed and the answers reviewed will matter.

3. How will students use the assessment to check their progress?

To ensure this, you can create learning paths and make use of online student assessments that will help you gamify the process by awarding them scores, certificates or social media sharing opportunities to earn bragging rights.

4. Will the assessment pay off in terms of time and effort spent?

Once you choose an efficient method that gives you a variety of options to choose from to create assessments for different learning styles, this aspect can be taken care of. You should get hold of the required data from the assessments to know the gaps and achievements accurately.

Once you’re clear on these aspects, it’ll be time to move to the creation part. In the next section, you’ll learn how to create student assessments step-by-step.

How to Create Student Assessment

Creating a student assessment is rather a process that involves a careful selection of assessment types and methods, some of which we have talked about here. 

✓ Define Learning Objectives

The first step in the process of creating an effective student assessment is to define your learning objectives. i.e., what you wish to achieve with assessments. The learning objectives you set should be brief and clear. Learners must be fully aware of what they will be able to do at the end of a lesson

For instance, with a simple lesson on renewable energy resources, the objective could be students being able to recognize the impact of different types of resources.

✓ Pick a Type

After you’ve set your learning objectives, pick a type of assessment from the assessments mentioned above. Consider your learning objectives while picking the type. i.e., if you wish to assess students’ current knowledge about the topic, go with the diagnostic assessment. 

If you’ve already taught the topic and wish to assess retention, go with a formative assessment. 

Align the type of assessment with your learning objectives. 

✓ Select a Method

The methods you choose for assessment will vary depending on the learning outcome(s) to be measured. Select a method that focuses on the overall design for assessment. i.e., encouraging, enabling, and supporting learning

Also, base your choice on the frequency with which your students must be assessed. Focus on how much attention and energy you want your students to invest in the assessments and choose accordingly. 

After you’ve taken these steps, you can effectively create a student assessment. However, what can power the entire process are a few strategies. We’ve shared some of those in the following section.

Watch: How to Create an Assessment Online

5 Simple Assessment Strategies to Improve Learning 

Learning and assessment go hand in hand. To determine whether the teaching imparted to students made any difference to their existing knowledge, teachers have to conduct a learning assessment.

Different learning style assessments like learning assessment tests, quizzes, online exams, etc., can improve student learning assessments, but following these five ways will help you improve instantly. So, read on.

✓ Match Assessments Directly to Learning Objectives and Outcomes

Student learning assessments shouldn’t be an afterthought—they should form the foundation of the curriculum. It doesn’t mean just “teaching to the test”! What it means is that assessments should be directly linked to the student learning objectives and outcomes.

The result of doing this is two-fold:

  • Firstly, the learning activities will be more aligned with the overall course objectives
  • Secondly, the assessments will be more valid measurements of the desired learning

✓ Ask Better Test Questions

Good test questions are those that assess whether students have learned what you intended. In addition to matching individual test items to learning objectives, you can improve your test questions by using verbs aimed at the different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy

You can use different question types based on the specific kind of knowledge you are trying to assess.

Read More: How to Write the Perfect Test Questions

✓ Use Performance Assessments

A 1995 study titled “Successful School Restructuring” found that effective teaching “requires students to apply academic learning to important realistic problems.”

While assessing knowledge through more traditional means, like multiple-choice tests, can be useful, performance assessments are better ways of measuring learning in many cases. 

According to the Department of Education’s Office of Technology Assessment, performance assessments include:

  • Open-ended or constructed-response items in which there are multiple possible answers to a question
  • Performance-based items or events require students to perform some sort of action, such as writing a paragraph or drawing a diagram.

✓ Implement Grading Rubrics

Grading rubrics, aka scoring guides, are useful tools for grading subjective test items and performance assessments.

Using grading rubrics is beneficial for students and teachers: they help students better understand what is expected of them. They help teachers save time and improve their grading consistency.

Many grading rubric templates for common types of assessments are available online, usually for free. You can also develop your grading rubrics—while this can be time-intensive at the beginning, it will save you countless hours down the road, especially if you reuse your assessments in different courses. 

The key to developing effective grading rubrics is to start by clearly defining the expectations for the assignment. Then, you can assign numerical values that represent how well students are meeting each expectation.

✓ Use Technology to Save Time and Provide Immediate Feedback

One of the main weak points of traditional assessment forms is the long delay between when students take the assessments and when they receive feedback on their work.

Think about the last time you gave a test—how long did it take you to grade and return it to your students?

Research has shown that immediate feedback on performance is an important component in successful learning. New technologies, such as online assessment software, can help you decrease the lag time and provide immediate feedback to students.

While you will still have to grade essays and other subjective items by hand, online assessment software can automatically grade objective assessment items and give students immediate feedback on their work. It will save you both grading time and help you provide better instruction for your students.

When followed properly, these strategies will help power your student assessment process. 

In the next section, learn how to choose the best assessment tool for your student assessment process to ensure efficiency. 

How to Choose the Best Student Assessment Tool

To simplify the student assessments process, you can use online assessment tools like quiz creator software, online exam software, etc., as a part of your student assessment process. 

They’ll not only help you assess but also let you create quizzes, test homework and see how your students score all within a single assessment tool.

However, to get the best results out of student assessment, you must choose a tool that:

✓ Measures How Well Students Have Met Learning Objectives

Note the emphasis is on the word ‘meaningful.’ Learning objectives can be defined in many different ways, but they must have meaning. 

For example, what is more meaningful in a history class: whether learners know the date of a specific historical event or whether they can explain the importance of that event? 

If the event’s meaning is important, then a multiple-choice test that focuses entirely on names and dates would not be the best choice.

✓ Offers Learning

Quality assessment tools aren’t just tools for measuring students’ learning – they are learning tools themselves. This usually takes the form of feedback that instructors provide to students about their performance. 

This feedback tells students how they are doing and helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses to know where to focus their efforts going forward.

✓ Offers Easy Grading and Quick Results

If assessments are to be useful—both for measurement and to provide feedback—the results need to be straightforward and valid. 

For many types of questions, such as multiple-choice, fill in the blank, and short answers, online grading tools, like those found in online assessment creators, can automatically grade assessments and provide learners with instant feedback. 

For subjective questions, such as essays, detailed grading rubrics can help instructors easily score assessments and interpret their results.

Using assessment tools to bridge the gaps between teaching and learning is an important aspect of e-learning, which gives an edge to traditional learning models. It is good to use different types of material and varying types of student assessment tests and quizzes to engage everyone in an online class. 

Why Choose ProProfs to Create Student Assessments

Teachers are always looking for ways to improve their teaching; integrating online quizzes is a good way to diversify their assessment tools and make knowledge transfer fun for their students. 

In this regard, an online quiz maker is a blessing for teachers since it simplifies how they test their students and analyze their teaching methods. 

Here’s why you should consider giving ProProfs Quiz Maker a try: 

  • Customize as you like: You can customize the assessments you create using ProProfs to the fullest. For instance, you can add a logo, add a theme, add a background image, change fonts, etc. 
  • Build a variety of tests: With ProProfs assessment software, you get to build a variety of scored tests and assessments with the help of a wide collection of templates and an assessment library. 
  • Use 10+ question types: Using different question types in an assessment is the best way to identify different learning styles. With ProProfs, you can use a mix of 10 different question types in your assessment.
  • Use 10+ question typesAutomate grading: With assessments being in bulk, you tend to put a lot of time & effort into grading them. But with ProProfs, you can simply automate the whole grading process. Pe-assign scores to questions while adding them so they’ll be graded automatically when attempted.
  • Automate gradingShow instant feedback: As we read above, feedback is as important as the whole assessment process. ProProfs lets you provide instant feedback for all the incorrect answers in an assessment to provide instant learning.
  • Show instant feedbackDetailed reports: With ProProfs’ detailed reporting system, you can access every detail like the number of correct and incorrect answers, total time spent answering questions, types of questions skipped, etc., and building your insights to evaluate student progress. 

Detailed reports

The field of learning is constantly evolving. To keep up as a teacher, you have to use every trick in the trade to ensure that students get the most out of the learning process. 

The different types and methods of assessment mentioned in this article are the most widely recognized and widely used. Ideally, in any learning environment, multiple assessments are used to provide the best possible overall picture of what students know and can do. 

No matter which assessment you wish to create, you must always use the best online assessment software that lets you do everything we’ve discussed and more.

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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.

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