When we think about assessment we typically think of summative student assessment as we consider the following questions:

How will students make progress on objectives you have chosen for your course? What activities will promote development of those skills, concepts, experiences? How will you and your students check their progress on objectives? What assessments will provide that feedback?

The following definitions from Carneige Mellon differentiate between two types of student assessment: formative and summative:

Formative Assessment

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

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

Formative assessments are generally low stakes, which means that they 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 a research proposal for early feedback

Summative Assessment

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

Summative assessments are often high stakes, which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

  • a midterm exam
  • a final project
  • a paper
  • a senior recital

Mid-term Feedback

Midterm break offers an opportunity to gather student feedback and make minor course corrections before the end of the semester. This short survey is one way to gather information about teaching effectiveness and to help to make timely adjustments in courses during the semester. 

The key text about classroom assessment is Angelo, T.A. and K.P. Cross. 1993 Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. This text has detailed descriptions of 50 different CATs including instructions on how to implement them and examples of use in various courses. The text categorizes CATs by the type of goal the CAT helps you assess. Additionally this text contains a self-scorable Teaching Goals Inventory. Available from the Center for Faculty Development Library.

  • A partial list of Classroom Assesment Techniques from Iowa State.
  • From the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State University—an article introducing Classroom Assessment and discussing several techniques “An Introduction to Classroom Assessment Techniques” by Diane M. Enerson, Kathryn M. Plank, and R. Neill Johnson.
  • The FLAG (Field-tested Learning Assessment Guide) site, created by the National Institute for Science Education housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides extensive descriptions of several CATs, including the Minute Paper and Concept Mapping.
  • From the Teaching Effectiveness Program at the University of Oregon: This site gives short descriptions of such CATs as the One-Sentence Summary; Word Journal; Directed Paraphrasing; Application Cards. 

“A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.” From the web site of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon.

The Carnegie Mellon site on rubrics, which includes a number of examples, can be found at:

This article by Barbara Moskal of the Colorado School of Mines [published in Moskal, Barbara M. (2003). "Recommendations for developing classroom performance assessments and scoring rubrics." Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 8(14). Retrieved August 11, 2010 from] provides a list of the characteristics a good rubric should have.

This page from the Writing@CSU web site at Colorado State University provides discussion of many aspects of rubrics, including how to design one.

Blackboard has several rubrics available for download that can be imported into the interactive rubric tool.

Stephen Brookfield's article on developing a rubric to grade classroom participation can be used in a variety of ways. This PDF rubric document ‎highlights three ways in which Brookfield's rubric can be used in either a paper and pencil format or in the new Blackboard interative rubric tool.

Giving feedback, from Flinders University, Australia:

Grading writing, from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan:

The IDEA Notes on Learning Objectives papers discuss ways to assess students' progress on each of the 13 IDEA objectives. IDEA Notes on Instruction include strategies that faculty can use to assess the efficacy of teaching methods that correlate with the IDEA learning objectives.