Introduction to Assessment

What will assessment do for me?

Assessment allows you to measure if and how your students are learning. It also allows you to evaluate how well your instruction methods are working.

What types of assessment are available to me?

Educators break assessment down into three types:

  1. Diagnostic assessment helps you gauge students’ current skill level or understanding before instruction takes place. Examples: Pre-tests; pre-instruction writing or discussion prompts; student self-assessments of current knowledge.
  2. Formative assessment gives you feedback about students’ engagement with your instruction methods and the material being taught during the learning process. Not only does formative assessment allow you to observe how well students are learning new knowledge or skills, it also helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your own teaching. Formative assessments are usually not graded. Examples: observation of students’ behavior during a classroom activity; reflection journals; formal or informal question and answer sessions with students.
  3. Summative assessment happens after formal learning activities are complete. Summative methods are most often used to measure students’ overall mastery of skills and knowledge but can also give you feedback about your teaching. Summative assessment is often based on products created by students; rubrics are useful to help you benchmark students’ achievement relative to specific learning objectives. Examples: tests, papers and projects, post-instruction student evaluations.

How do I choose which assessment might be most appropriate?

In general, it’s best to consider your instructional goals and learning objectives for your lesson, class, or program before deciding on which types of assessment or assessment activities to use. For example, if your goal is to have each student leave your library instruction session with three primary sources to explore for a research paper, will you have students share their list at the end of class (a summative assessment) or will you simply observe their progress during class (a formative assessment)? Do you need to have a brief check-in with students at the beginning of class to gauge their familiarity with the library (a diagnostic assessment)? Your assessment doesn’t need to be elaborate.

For further reading

Melissa Bowles-Terry and Cassandra Kvenlid, Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians. ACRL (2015).

Mary Snyder Broussard, Snapshots of Reality: A Practical Guide to Formative Assessment in Library Instruction. ACRL (2014).

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