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The Functions of Assessment

Varieties of Assessment

It's been said that in life, timing is everything. As in life, assessments performed at crucial times in the learning process can spell the difference between gathering data to evaluate students and using assessments to enhance learning. Based on timing and purpose, four functions of assessment data are:


  • Formative assessment provides diagnostic feedback to students and instructors at short-term intervals (e.g., during a class or on a weekly basis)

  • Summative assessment provides a description of students' level of attainment upon completion of an activity, module, or course

  • Evaluative assessment provides instructors with curricular feedback (e.g., the value of a field trip or oral presentation technique)

  • Educative assessment Integrated within learning activities themselves, educative assessment builds student (and faculty) insight and understandings about their own learning and teaching. In short, assessment IS a form of learning NRC, 1996 , p. 76)

  • At its most useful, educative assessment (sometimes termed active assessment) is an episode in the learning process; part of reflection and autobiographical understanding of student progress. Click on the following hotlink to learn more about assessment strategies you can use in your introductory geoscience courses, laboratories, field based activities and projects.

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