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Assessment and Evaluation

Assessment of Learning 

To assess learning, as well as to confirm the effectiveness of our teaching, assessment is a necessary, critical topic. Here are some definitions of terms frequently used in assessment: 

Diagnostic Assessment: Primarily used to guide lesson and curriculum planning, diagnostic assessment provides a starting point to identify learners’ individual strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills (Queen's University, n.d.). Examples include pre-class or pre-unit quizzes and more informal surveys of knowledge and skills. 

Formative AssessmentFormative assessments generally focus on low-stakes (no/low-point value) feedback, providing immediate, ongoing information on learning in a unit (Queen's University, n.d.). Classroom Assessment Techniques or CATs is a term that refers to specific, quick formative assessment strategies like exit tickets and think-pair-share (Vanderbilt, n.d.). 

Summative Assessment: Summative assessments are typically high-stakes (point-based) and evaluate learning at the end of a unit (Queen's University, n.d.). Both forms of assessment are important to instructional planning and the learning process.

Authentic Assessment: An authentic assessment focuses on real-world, relevant situations, requiring efficient and effective application of learned skills and judgment (Indiana University, 2018). Some examples include simulations, project-based learning, or the construction of portfolios that may aid future career opportunities. This term is used in contrast with objective assessments that may feel "throw-away" or without value that transcends a course experience to learners. 

Objective Assessment: Generally falling into three categories: true/false, multiple choice, and extended matching types, objective assessment refers to assignments or tests that have clear right or wrong answers (University of South Australia, 2001).

Evaluation of Learning Intervention Impact

In addition to assessing the learning of individuals or groups, we also must evaluate or reflect upon the efficacy of our learning interventions at a larger level, which sometimes intersects with program-level assessment plans. The Kirkpatrick Model (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 1994) is a popular option for experience evaluation, aiding us in considering four levels of impact: 

  1. participant satisfaction/reaction to learning events, 
  2. participant learning from learning events, 
  3. participant behavioral change from learning events, 
  4. and organizational/programmatic results across time with ongoing reinforcement. 

The Popular Learning Evaluation Models Infographic provides a quick reference to other popular models of evaluation (E-Learning Infographics, 2015).  

Additional resources

Classroom Assessment Techniques, or CATs, can aid you with formative assessment in class.  To learn more, visit Vanderbilt's page on CATs.

How can you make use of the results of assessment to inform your teaching?  Harvard Graduate School of Education offers several related notes.  

It may be helpful to think about how your assessment plan ties to your grading method to ensure consistency. Check out our grading methods resource page to see a variety of methods for grading.

Rubrics are often used to guide and assess summative learner work. Check out our page on rubrics and view our rubric repository for samples.

If you need to consider assessing/evaluating learning and impact at a program level, Central Michigan University offers this guide called: Assessment: A guide for developing a program assessment plan


E-Learning Infographics. (2015, April). Popular learning evaluation models [infographic].  Retrieved from

Indiana University (2018). Authentic assessment. Retrieved from

Kirkpatrick, D.L., & Kirkpatrick, J.D. (1994). Evaluating Training Programs, Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 

Queen's University. (n.d.). Assessment types: Diagnostic, formative, and summative. Retrieved from

University of South Australia. (2001). Assessment: Using objective assessment. Retrieved from

Vanderbilt University (n.d). Classroom assessment techniques (CATs). Retrieved from