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Assessment strategies allow the teacher and learner to determine what learning is taking place and has taken place. Assessments can occur before learning, as diagnostic assessments, to determine what the learner already knows; during learning through formative assessments; and at the end of learning as a summative assessments or evaluations. 


Diagnostic Assessment

Formative Assessment

Summative Assessment

What: assessment for learning; what learners already know

When: Before learning

Why: to determine the learner’s level of understanding prior to the lesson; used to adjust instruction to meet learner needs


  • KWL Charts
  • Surveys
  • Pre-tests
  • Polls

What: assessment for and as learning; monitors learner progress throughout learning

When: During learning

Why: to provide feedback, identify gaps and adjust instruction to maximize student achievement


  • Reflections
  • One Minute Papers
  • Exit Tickets

What: assessment of learning; evaluation of learning at the end of a unit or course

When: After learning

Why: to evaluate student learning against learning outcomes


  • Essay
  • Test
  • Research poster
  • Presentation  


Consider what you are assessing at each level of assessment (diagnostic, formative, and summative) including the knowledge and skills required for learners to achieve course outcomes. 

What are you assessing? Reflection, critical thinking, recall of facts and information, professionalism, communication, collaboration and team work, creativity, problem solving or how information is used

Knowledge and skills can be assessed in the following ways:

Diagnostic and Formative Assessments

  • Minute papers
  • Exit tickets
  • Practice quizzes
  • Learning logs, reflective journals, or course blogs
  • Self and peer assessments
  • Live question poll/survey response

Summative Assessment/Evaluation

  • Oral exams or final presentations
  • Digital portfolios
  • Research posters
  • Research papers
  • Wikis


 How to use assessments. Example: composition course. Learning outcome: by the end of this unit, you will be able to (stem) compose (action) a research-based five paragraph essay (learning) based on a topic of your choice (application/context). Diagnostic assessment: at the beginning of the unit, use a Mentimeter quiz to check for understanding about essay writing. Formative assessment: have students share the introductory paragraph of their essay with a peer for feedback. Summative assessment: students submit a research-based five paragraph essay on a topic of their choice


Assessment Strategies module. Queen’s University

Learner-Centred Assessment. University of Waterloo