Assessment Glossary


When the complexity of content is at the same level for: the curriculum, the instruction and the assessment.


Evidence of student learning

Authentic Assessment

Asking the learner to demonstrate their knowledge in a “real world” scenario. An example might be to “parallel park the car” as opposed to asking the learner to describe what is involved in parallel parking.


Cognitive Assessment

These are tasks that assess cognitive ability such as memory, problem solving and other intellectual functioning. Traditional exams and essays are examples of cognitive assessments.

(see also “Authentic Assessment”).


WHAT we plan on teaching



This relates to the ability to differentiate between marks/grades. If one learner got 2/3 and another got 2.5/3 on an item can we articulate why? If not, then the item lacks effectiveness.


Formal Assessment

Assessment in which a mark is allocated, as opposed to simply providing feedback about a learner’s progress.

Formative Assessment

Feedback to the learner about his or her progress throughout the course (i.e. not at the end of the learning).

See also “Summative Assessment”.


Informal Assessment

No marks are given – feedback is provided on the learner’s progress – can be done individually or as a group/class.


HOW we teach the curriculum


These are often referred to as exam “questions” but technically, an item on an exam is not always a question. Consider the following example:

Provide the definitions for the following terms: (this is not a “question”)



This term relates to validity. While validity refers to accuracy of an assessment, reliability suggests that that assessment will ALWAYS give us the same results. When you go to the gas station and put 25 litres of gas in your car today, do you trust that it is the same amount as when you filled it with 25 litres last week? Then the measurement of 25 litres is a reliable measurement.

When we are building a well-aligned course our assessment strategies must be reliable as well as valid.


Summative Assessment

Assessment that provides a mark (or a decision – e.g. pass/fail) at the end of the learning.

(See also “Formative Assessment).



An assessment is valid when what we are attempting to measure is ACTUALLY what we are measuring. For example, when our doctor uses a blood pressure monitor on our arm and determines whether we have high, low or normal blood pressure, he or she (and we!) trust that test to be valid – it gives a true and accurate measurement of our blood pressure. If it gave a different reading each time, then we would say the results of that instrument are invalid.

Validity relates to reliability. When we are building a well-aligned course our assessment strategies must be valid as well as reliable.


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