There are many methods that can be used to either formatively or summatively assess student learning. This handout by the University of Reading contains a list of some methods but is not exhaustive. Good assessment design will be inclusive and will incorporate some variety of assessment methods instead of over-relying on exams or essays, which are not applicable to real world settings. Find out more about inclusive assessment.

Below are some examples from Imperial and across the sector of different, non traditional ways of formatively or summatively assessing your students in STEMMB. Most of those examples illustrate authentic assessments that test skills for real life settings.

Formative assessment techniques for the classroom

When choosing an assessment method it might be useful not think of a method but rather of the purpose (i.e. learning outcome) and choose the method accordingly. To give you some ideas of which methods work best with which purposes, read Selecting appropriate assessment methods according to learning outcomes [pdf]

Formative assessment can be conducted within the constraints of a one lecture or one class. It essentially helps you check students comprehension of the material covered within the session and helps you identify what needs further revision. Below are examples of some formative assessment strategies that you may wish to consider for your own context.

Formative assessment techniques for the classroom

One Minute Paper

This technique provides a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback on student learning. To use the Minute Paper, an instructor stops class two or three minutes early and asks students to respond briefly to some variation on the following two questions: "What was the most important thing you learned during this class?" and "What important question remains unanswered?" Students they write their responses on index cards or half-sheets of scrap paper and hand them in. Plan to set aside five to ten minutes of your next class to use the technique, as well as time later to discuss the results.

Muddiest Point

The technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: "What was the muddiest point in ........?" The focus of the Muddiest Point assessment might be a lecture, a discussion, a homework assignment, a play, or a film. If you are using the technique in class, reserve a few minutes at the end of the class session. Leave enough time to ask the question, to allow students to respond, and to collect their responses by the usual ending time. Collect the responses as or before students leave. Stationing yourself at the door and collecting "muddy points" as students file out is one way; leaving a "muddy point" collection box by the exit is another. Respond to the students' feedback during the next class meeting or as soon as possible afterward.

Classroom opinion poll

Instead of raising hands to poll students, a written poll assures anonymity and more accurate data. Students can be polled about material they will encounter in the course. This activity assists in determining an effective starting point and the appropriate level of a lesson.

Student generated test questions

This activity allows instructors to collect written feedback about what students think are the most important concepts discussed in lecture. A week or two prior to an exam, begin to write general guidelines about the kinds of questions you plan to ask on the exam. Share those guidelines with your students and ask them to write and answer one to two questions like those they expect to see on the exam.

Background knowledge probe

A short, simple questionnaire given to students at the start of a course, or before the introduction of a new unit, lesson or topic. It is designed to uncover students’ pre-conceptions.

What's the principle?

After students figure out what type of problem they are dealing with, they often must then decide what principle or principles to apply in order to solve the problem. This technique focuses on this step in problem solving. It provides students with a few problems and asks them to state the principle that best applies to each problem.

Traffic lights

Provide students with signals that they can use to communicate with you. Putting up hands may be appropriate for asking questions or a show of hands for decision making activities, but you could also develop other symbols or gestures. For example, a cross, a tick, or a question mark in a hand out, which you could ask the students to hold up to check their understanding at a particular point in the lecture.

Another system is to use traffic lights. For example, you might want to check student understanding during a lecture. Provide students with coloured card which they can hold up.

  • Green = Full understanding
  • Amber = Partial understanding
  • Red = Little understanding

This will give you guidance as to whether you can move on. These are, of course, all ‘low tech’ solutions. Some lecturers will now have access to ‘clickers’ where electronic voting can take place.

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