UW Continuum College Instructor Resources


In the design of your course, whether it is graded numerically or pass/fail, consider two important questions regarding assessment:

During the course, what reliable evidence will inform you that your students are actually learning what you are intending them to learn?

At the conclusion of the course, what will provide you with reliable evidence that your students have obtained/mastered the knowledge, skills and abilities that you envisioned at the beginning of the course?

The first question implies that assessment needs to be ongoing and not just something that takes place at the end of the course. The more we know about effective teaching and how individuals learn, we recognize that gathering evidence of learning during the course is critical. Waiting until the end of the course to give a test or evaluate learning based on a final project does not serve the students well nor does it give you the information you need to adjust your teaching.


Formative Assessment

Techniques used to gather evidence during the course are often referred to as formative assessments. While ways to collect evidence will vary across disciplines, formative assessment techniques are usually brief and focused on specific learning objectives of a particular class session. They can be informal, such as, observation of students during group work, or more formal such as a quiz at the end of the class. In most cases, formative assessments are not graded. For examples of assessment strategies that can be used as informal or formative assessments, visit the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University webpage.



Whatever strategies you use in the classroom to collect information about student learning, it is important that you give students specific and immediate feedback on their learning so they know where to focus their attention. You can learn more about the keys to successful feedback from the ASCD webpage.


Summative Assessment

Techniques used at the end of the course to determine if your students know and are able to do what you envisioned at the beginning of the course are often referred to as summative assessment techniques. A test at the end of the course, a final project and a paper are examples of summative assessments. Even in a pass/fail course, there should be some strategy for determining whether the students have met the goals of the course. In most certificate programs where the courses are sequential, mastery of the content of the previous course(s) is critical for success in subsequent courses.


Assessment Strategies for Greater Learning

For more information on assessment and examples of formative assessment, we encourage you to view Assessment Strategies for Greater Learning, a video of a workshop offered for UW PCE instructors.

UW PCE Instructor Training – Dr. David Goldstein (41 minutes)

Supplemental Resources for the Video

PowerPoint of Workshop

Prior Knowledge Assessment

Assessment Outline

Assessment Workshop Evaluation

YouTube Video Resources

A Brief History of Assessment

Classroom Assessment Technique: Muddiest Point

Formative and Summative Assessment

Effective Feedback and Formative Assessment

Rick Wormeli: Formative and Summative Assessment

Using Assessment to Improve Instruction