Skip to main content
Femal instructor with her hair pulled back in a ponytail writes notes on a chalkboard as she teaches a class.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment helps you monitor what students are learning in order to teach more successfully.

Formative Assessment is:

  • Frequent
  • Low stakes
  • Predictive
  • Goal: give feedback and inform instruction
  • During learning

Summative Assessment is:

  • Comprehensive
  • High stakes
  • Final
  • Goal: measure learning
  • After learning

Types of Formative Assessment

You can assess course knowledge and skills, learner attitudes and metacognition, and teaching strategies and materials. Examples of each type of formative assessment are below. These strategies are helpful to the instructor because they allow you to adjust your teaching. They are useful to the learner because they provide opportunities for active learning, which promote knowledge retention. For descriptions of each of the strategies listed below, access the active learning strategies spreadsheet.

Course Knowledge and Skills

  • Minute paper
  • Clearest point/muddies point
  • Concept map
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Word sprint
  • Directed paraphrasing
  • 3-2-1

Learner Attitudes and Metacognition

  • Learning logs
  • Exam wrappers
  • Interest/knowledge/skills checklist
  • Confidence rating

Teaching Strategies and Materials

  • Teacher-designed feedback
  • Reading rating
  • Exam evaluations

Implementing Formative Assessment


  • Course and program learning outcomes
  • Your goals as an instructor
  • Students’ background knowledge
  • Course time constraints
  • Anonymous or not


  • Explain approach to students
  • Allow extra time at first
  • Establish routines to reduce the time needed for explanation


  • Make changes based on students’ knowledge and feedback
  • Let students know what changes you are making and why
  • Review feedback and implement changes quickly for the most effective results
Back to Top