There are two main categories of assessment – formative assessment and summative assessment. These are sometimes referred to as assessment for learning and assessment of learning, respectively. Both happen in all learning and teaching environments, and the key to good assessment practice is to understand what each type contributes and to develop assessment practice to maximise the effectiveness of each.
Formative assessment is used to monitor and evaluate how students are learning as they work through a module or programme of study. It is designed to help students learn more effectively by giving them feedback on their performance and on how it can be improved and/or maintained. It begins with diagnostic assessment, indicating what is already known and what gaps may exist in skills or knowledge.
Summative assessment sums up what a student has achieved at the end of a period of study. The assessment is used to certify that students have achieved an appropriate level of performance, and it will indicate how far a student has met the assessment criteria used to judge the intended learning outcomes of a module or programme.