Teaching and Learning Assessment Overview

Assessment methods are designed to measure selected learning outcomes to see whether or not the objectives have been met for the course. Assessment involves the use of empirical data on student learning to refine programs and improve student learning (Assessing Academic Programs in Higher Education by Allen 2004). As you design an assessment plan, be sure to align it to your student-learning objectives and outcomes for the course.

The appropriate assessment method depends on numerous variables, including the learning objective to be measured, the intent of the assessment, the timing of the assessment, and the classroom setting.

A Typology of Assessments

Type Description
Formative Assessments that occur while student learning is taking place with the intent to make immediate modifications in teaching and learning; assessments are not graded or used for accountability
Summative Assessments that occur at the end of a unit, course, or program with the intent of documenting student learning for grades, transcripts, or other audiences
Direct Assessments that provide evidence of student learning which is tangible, visible, and self-explanatory; assessment prompts students to demonstrate their learning or produce work so that observers can assess how well students are meeting intended learning outcomesExamples of direct assessment techniques
Indirect Assessments that provide signs that students are probably learning, but evidence of exactly what they are learning is less clear or convincing; assessment captures student, alumni, or employer perceptions of learning and of the educational environmentExamples of indirect assessment techniques
Norm-referenced Assessment that compares the student’s performance to a norm or average of performances by other, similar students
Criterion-referenced Assessment that evaluates the student’s level of proficiency in or mastery of some skill or set of skills
Objective Assessment that needs no professional judgment to score correctly; examples include multiple-choice and true-false exams
Subjective Assessment that yields many possible answers of varying quality and require professional judgment to score
Traditional Assessments that ask students to select a response to a contrived question
Authentic Assessments that ask students to demonstrate their skills through the use of real-life tasks
Local Assessments created by faculty internal to the institution
Published Assessments published by an organization external to the institution and used by several institutions
Quantitative Assessments that use structured, predetermined response options that can be summarized into meaningful numbers and analyzed statistically
Qualitative Assessments that provides verbal descriptions of what was discovered via observation methods; analyzed by looking for recurring patterns and themes

(Assessing Student Learning: A common sense guide by Suskie 2004 and Assessing for Learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution by Maki 2004)

Angelo and Cross developed a list of 50 classroom assessment techniques (CAT) that you might consider but not every CAT is appropriate for every situation so faculty should weigh the pro's and con's.pdf and choose the right assessment tool.pdf.


  • Assess at the start of the course. By knowing the students’ level of knowledge prior to the course or unit, you can tailor your teaching to better meet their needs.
  • Assess student learning often. Rather than only assessing learning at the end of units, assess how well the students are learning at intermediate points as well.
  • Multiple choice exams allow for easy testing of large groups of students but are often not the best choice. In situations where multiple choice is the best option, please see these tips for designing multiple choice questions.


Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: a handbook for college teachers (2nd ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Barkley, E.F., Major, C.H., & Cross, K.P. (2014). Classroom assessment techniques (2nd ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bull, B. (2014) 10 Assessment Design Tips for Increasing Online Student Retention, Satisfaction and Learning (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/10-assessment-design-tips-increasing-retention-satisfaction-student-learning-online-courses/?campaign=FF140203article#sthash.GAYkXAMH.dpuf)

Maki, P. L. "Beginning with dialogue about teaching and learning." Maki, PL, Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution, Sterling, VA: Stylus/AAHE (2004): 31-57. Suskie, Linda. "Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. Bolton, MA." (2004).

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For more information, or for a consultation about your course, please contact Faculty Development at CETL. We can help you identify assessment tools that align with your course objectives, and help you determine how best to combine assessments using a variety of approaches across in-person, remote, synchronous, and asynchronous modes. Email us at cetl@uconn.edu and we will get back to you as soon as possible.