Assessment in the classroom

Assessment is a must for effective teaching; it is used to improve both learning and teaching. Teachers become better and students become effective learners when evidence is used to guide instruction and learning.

By understanding the different types of assessment and using them wisely, teachers will have their decisions backed up with evidence, providing a clear picture of learning and a road map to success.

People, including myself till recently, falsely think that assessment means taking a test; tests are just one type of assessment. Teachers use many ways to assess children’s understanding and skills. It’s so embedded in a teacher, that many times teachers aren’t even aware they are doing it. With the introduction of new specialist language to describe the types of assessment, people often get confused with what it is that they mean. This post aims to shed light on the types of assessment used in the classroom.


There are three main types of assessment in the classroom: diagnostic, formative and summative. I will continue trying to clarify the differences, by using a great analogy I came across, that of a journey. Think of any journey, before you go on a journey one must know where they are starting at and where they want to get to. Assessment is the mapping of this learning journey.

Our journey starts with diagnostic assessment. Diagnostic assessment shows what the child already knows and will be the starting point of the learning journey. Knowing what has been achieved to date will help with the planning. As the journey unfolds further assessment, formative assessment will indicate if plans should be amended to either reinforce or extend learning, where appropriate.

Formative assessment takes place during the  learning journey to assess progress made. When used effectively it assists teachers in planning the best route for the destination.

Summative assessment sums up what a pupil has achieved at the end of a period of time, end of  year, term, unit etc.  It corresponds to the learning aims and national standards and shows the stage the child has reached in his/her journey. If the learning journey has been planned well, it’s end will coincide with the destination envisaged at the start; that is every teacher’s goal.

Both formative and summative assessment may be recorded in a variety of ways. Different mediums can be used such as photographs, tables, videos or they can be recorded just by the lesson plans drawn up to address the next steps indicated.

It is important to remember that assessment is only part of the journey. Just like looking at a map, it is merely a snapshot of a pupil’s achievement on one particular occasion. If it becomes the main focus, then the learning journey risks becoming aimless wandering.

Till next time…

Peppi Orfanogianni


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