Assessment and instruction are interconnected. When designing a framework for quality assessment, it is important to build on a foundation that focuses on the learning process and provides multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning. Quality assessment consists of both formative and summative assessment.

Students gathered around in a relaxing study area

The primary purpose of formative assessment is to promote learning; the primary purpose of summative assessment is to evaluate learning at a point in time.


Elements of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment places teachers and students in the position of gathering and acting on evidence of student learning in a timely manner. Formative assessment includes:

  • teachers developing students’ ability to reflect and set goals in order to take ownership for their learning (Shared Ownership: Student and Teacher);
  • teachers clarifying and students knowing what they are to learn (Learning Intentions);
  • teachers establishing and/or co-creating clear criteria and students knowing what success looks like (Criteria);
  • teachers and students asking and exploring meaningful questions to determine and deepen learning (Questions);
  • teachers and students acting on ongoing descriptive feedback to improve teaching and learning (Descriptive Feedback); and,
  • students engaging in self and peer-assessment based on clearly established criteria (Self and Peer-Assessment).


Formative assessment is built into instructional design so that students are able to answer the following questions:

  • What am I learning?
  • Where am I in my learning?
  • Is there anything hindering my learning?
  • What goals have I set for my learning?
  • How am I going to move forward in my learning?

Summative assessment measures student learning. It is reserved for those occasions when a snapshot of student performance/achievement is required or necessary. The evidence gathered is used to communicate student learning and provide evaluative feedback.

Effective summative assessment involves developing well-constructed performance-based tasks that ask students to demonstrate curricular competencies and content learning in a variety of ways and determining levels of performance through the use of rubrics or performance scales that outline important aspects of the performance and different levels of achievement.

In summary, learning thrives when there is intentional, ongoing formative assessment and periodic summative assessment.