Assessment is the practice of identifying student learning outcomes, measuring/observing the extent to which outcomes are achieved, and using that information to maintain or improve student learning.  Assessment is used by instructors at the course level, and by faculty and administrators at the program or institutional level.

There is a direct relationship between outcomes, learning activities, and assessment:

Course Outcomes    Learning Activities      Assessment

Based on the established practice of identifying outcomes for programs and courses at Red Deer College criterion referencing methods are preferred. To find out more about norm referencing vs. criterion referencing methods go to:

Formative and Summative Assessment

It is important to know the difference between formative and summative assessment to ensure that students are informed about how they are doing throughout a term/course.

Formative assessment
The purpose of formative assessment is to provide informal and ongoing feedback to the students to improve their learning. This feedback also helps instructors to improve their teaching. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • identify the strengths and weaknesses in student work and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments usually have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:

  • draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
  • submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
  • turn in an essay draft for early feedback

Summative assessment
Summative assessments formally evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark (like an outcome).
Summative assessments usually have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

  • a midterm exam
  • a final project
  • a paper or a portfolio

Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.


Rubrics benefit both instructors and students. By using a rubric:

  • Teachers have a complete analysis of every student’s work measured against a consistent scale.
  • Teachers can provide better feedback to student writers.
  • Students clearly understand what is expected of them in a particular assignment.
  • Students can clearly see the areas of their writing that need improvement.



Using Assessment to Improve Students’ Learning
Professor Terry Doyle, Ferris State University

Improve Learning through Formative Assessment
Offices of Health Sciences Education, Queen’s University

56 Examples of Formative Assessment