/  Assessment


Illustration of a laptop with a checklist on the screen

“The outstanding teachers used assessment to help students learn, not just to rate and rank their efforts… Examinations and assignments become a way to help students understand their progress in learning, and they also help evaluate teaching.” (Bain, 2004)

Assessments are used in a variety of ways to support student learning by providing both the student and the faculty valuable information about prior knowledge, areas of growth and learning gains.

Biggs’ model of constructive alignment suggests that assessments in outcomes-based education should be aligned with course learning outcomes, and that teaching and learning activities are designed to support students to achieve those predetermined outcomes (Biggs, 2014). 

There are two types of assessments:

Formative Assessments

Purpose: to identify gaps in knowledge or skill

  • Informal
  • Not graded
  • Low stakes


  • Retrieval practice
  • Reviews for tests/exams
  • Practice tests
  • Peer-review activities
  • Diagnostic activities
  • Think, pair, share

Summative Assessments

Purpose: to evaluate the extent to which students have met the course learning outcomes

  • Formal
  • Graded
  • Low stakes or high stakes
  • Indications of students’ learning at a given point in time


  • Exams/tests
  • Capstone projects
  • Assignments
  • Presentations
  • Essays
  • Portfolios

Important Note About Grading: All summative assessments should have clear grading criteria that is shared with students at the same time as the assessment is given to the students. See Cambrian’s Grading Policy for additional information about grading criteria.


  • Bain, K. (2004). What The Best College Teachers Do. Cambridge, MA: President and Fellows of Harvard College. 
  • Biggs, J. (2014). Constructive alignment in university teaching. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 1, 5-22.