In education and training, using the right assessment type can be the difference between a student ‘just getting by’ and truly mastering a subject. When done correctly, assessments not only measure academic progress, but also improve student learning.
In the workplace, the types of assessment are just as important. Choosing the most suitable type of assessment is crucial to understanding an employee’s skill set, identifying skill gaps, determining if a training program is effective, or making informed decisions about promotions or hiring.
Formative assessment (also known as assessment for learning) is performed during the learning process and aims to provide continuous feedback on student performance. The primary purpose of formative assessments is to gather information on the strengths and weaknesses of students and adjust teaching strategies as needed.
- Guide both the educator/trainer and the student in helping to achieve the best learning outcome
- Correct mistakes and wrong assumptions about the subject early on in the learning process
- Support students in testing their knowledge without the fear of negatively affecting their final grade
For workplace training, formative assessments might include tasks or exercises designed to gauge understanding of a new software or protocol. Examples of other formative assessment strategies are practice quizzes, discussions, and observations.
Summative assessment (also known as assessment of learning) is performed at the end of a learning period such as a unit, course, or training program. Summative assessments evaluate overall student knowledge and mastery of a subject. These assessments are high stakes and have high point value. In other words, they are a major factor in deciding student grades.
- Measure student achievement of learning outcomes
- Inform teachers on the effectiveness of training programs
- Provide justification for advancement or remedial action
In the workplace, a summative assessment might be an end-of-training evaluation or performance review. Meanwhile, in education, examples of summative assessments include final exams, culminating projects, and standardised tests.
Diagnostic assessment (also known as pre assessment) is performed before the start of a new learning activity to identify the prior knowledge and skills of students. The purpose of diagnostic assessments is to gather information on individual students’ strengths and weaknesses.
- Guide instructional planning to accommodate the individual needs of students
- Catch fundamental misconceptions that could hinder student progress later on
- Help educators/trainers create lesson plans that address gaps in learning
Workplaces might use these assessments to evaluate an employee’s existing knowledge about a new software application or their skills in the performance of a task. Other examples of diagnostic assessments include pre tests, checklists, and interviews.
Criterion-referenced assessment simply means that the assessment is based on a standard or a predetermined set of criteria. Criterion-referenced assessments measure student performance solely on whether they meet, exceed, or fail to reach the standard.
- Establish clear guidelines for students regarding the expected competency level
- Motivate students to focus on the complete mastery of the standard or criteria
- Provide data for educators/trainers to deliver targeted feedback and instruction
A lot of the assessments used in education, such as a standardised test and a final test, are examples of criterion-referenced assessment and of summative assessment. In a business setting, criterion-referenced assessments might include checking if an employee is hitting their sales target or if a worker is following safety protocols correctly.
Norm-referenced assessment simply means that the assessment is based on the performance of the norm group. The norm group consists of other students who have been given the same assessment as the student being currently assessed.
- Determine a student’s relative standing or rank within the norm group
- Assist school leaders in admission and educational placement decisions
- Identify overachievers as well as students who need additional support
In the workplace, norm-referenced assessments might be used to define company standards and serve as the basis for employee recognition such as awards and bonuses. Other examples of norm-referenced assessments are the GRE, IQ tests, and the SAT.
Ipsative assessment is focused on a student’s own progress and individual journey instead of external standards. Ipsative assessments generally involve comparing the student’s performance to their previous results and achievements. Research led by Dr. Gwyneth Hughes, a Reader in Higher Education at University College London (UCL), found that ipsative assessments had a motivating effect on students and encouraged tutors to give more detailed developmental feedback.
- Emphasise personal growth and development
- Provide a comprehensive view of student progress
- Track changes in performance over time
Ipsative assessment can be used as a tool for career development by helping employees identify their strengths, areas of improvement, and future goals. In a classroom setting, self assessments (such as self-reflection, self-evaluation, and journal entries) are examples of ipsative assessments.
Confirmative assessment (also known as confirmative evaluation) is performed long after a learning or training program is completed. Confirmative assessments can be considered as an extensive form or version of summative assessments. Both types of assessment can be used to validate the sustainability of learning outcomes.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of learning and training programs
- Ensure that knowledge is retained and correctly applied
- Encourage students to regularly review learning materials
In the workplace, confirmative assessments might be used to check if employees continue to apply safety practices several months after training. Other examples of confirmative assessment may include spot checks, pop quizzes, and refresher tests.
Interim assessment (also known as benchmark assessment) is performed periodically throughout a learning period or instructional unit. Interim assessments are often given every 6 weeks, which would be the middle of a semester.
- Provide actionable data for students and educators to improve their strategies
- Enable educators/trainers to make timely adjustments to an upcoming lesson
- Allow for data-informed or data-driven decision-making and instruction
A study found that interim assessment is especially useful in improving the results of lower achievers. This makes it a great tool for ensuring that more of your students perform well, and not just those suited to summative assessment. It can also be used in the workplace for ongoing training programs. Unit assessments, checkpoints, and progress monitoring assessments are some examples of interim assessments.
Assessing students using this type of assessment involves evaluating their aptitude and abilities within a specific domain such as technical, vocational, academic, and interpersonal. A skills assessment is also an opportunity for students learning new competencies to prove their qualifications to potential employers.
- Categorise students into different levels of expertise and knowledge
- Provide a consistent and accurate measurement of an individual’s talent
- Identify the remaining work needed to reach the required skill level
This type of assessment can help professionals determine their readiness for specific job roles or career paths. Trainers and HR managers can also use it to measure the impact of training and inform recruitment and selection processes. Skills assessment examples include performance assessments, technical evaluations, and proficiency exams.
Scenario-based assessment (also known as authentic assessment or practical assessment) is based on how students react to a realistic situation and apply their knowledge in a real-world context. As opposed to traditional tests such as the many standardised tests, scenario-based assessment is a form of alternative assessment.
- Familiarise students with contexts that are relevant to their area of study
- Help students adapt to new perspectives and unique challenges quickly
- Promote out-of-the-box thinking and innovation among students
Scenario-based assessments can be used in the workplace to evaluate the problem-solving, decision-making, and critical thinking abilities of current and potential employees. Case studies, simulations, role-playing, and situational judgement tests are all examples of scenario-based assessment.
Behavioural assessment is the systematic observation of an individual’s behaviours. This type of assessment also involves functional analysis, which looks at the antecedents (i.e., triggers) and the consequences (i.e., reinforcements) of behaviour. Behavioural assessment is especially important in clinical psychology, where it is used to diagnose psychological conditions and evaluate treatment outcomes.
- Offer insights on psychological functioning, characteristics, and interaction styles
- Identify behavioural concerns that could interfere with work or academic performance
- Predict the individual’s suitability for a role based on previous behavioural patterns
In the workplace, behavioural assessments can guide team building, leadership development, and conflict resolution strategies. Examples of this type include behaviour rating scales, structured interviews, and direct observation.
Gamified assessment is a form of testing that utilises game design and features to measure cognitive abilities and retention of knowledge. Though often used interchangeably, gamified assessment and game-based assessment are slightly different. In simple terms, a game-based assessment is a game that assesses while a gamified assessment is an assessment that feels like a game.
- Promote student engagement and active learning
- Personalise learning pathways based on activity
- Provide students with immediate feedback
This type of assessment is sometimes part of recruitment strategies and can influence hiring decisions. One study found it especially effective at predicting job performance based on soft skills assessment. It can also be used to make workplace training more interactive and enjoyable. Examples of gamified assessment are interactive quizzes, augmented reality assessments, and virtual environments.
Personality assessment is a descriptive analysis of an individual’s personality, which generally consists of their thoughts, emotions, and traits. Personality tests help both the test takers and test evaluators in understanding who the individual really is and how they make sense of the world around them.
- Examine emotional styles, inclinations, and preferences
- Adopt a multidimensional approach to define personality
- Guide personal and organisational development efforts
In a workplace setting, personality assessments can be used to identify working styles and dynamics within teams or workgroups. Insights from this type of assessment can inform employee management strategies and foster more effective communication in the workplace.
Personality assessment is also important in psychology since it can aid in clinical diagnosis and inform treatment planning and interventions. Examples of this assessment type include self-report questionnaires (e.g., Myers-Briggs personality test) and projective techniques (e.g., inkblots or picture cards).
Further Assessment Reading
Now that you know about the various types of assessments, you can use this information to improve your training and development programmes. When it comes to assessments, there are also two other concepts that would be a good idea to explore next:
Check out our guides on these important concepts to take your understanding to the next level.