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In this lesson, we will discuss informal assessments used in the classroom. We will cover what informal assessments are and look at some types and examples, and then you will be asked to take a short quiz to assess your comprehension.

Informal vs. Formal Assessments

In order to properly understand what informal assessments are, we should first differentiate them from formal assessments.

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Formal assessments are designed to tell how well a student has progressed as evaluated against other students. These are standardized tests, tests that are presented and graded in a formulated, consistent manner, such as the SAT 9, ACT, and so on. These tests, through the gathering of data, are used to evaluate how students are doing when compared to a larger group of students.On the other hand, informal assessments are those that are used to evaluate a student’s own performance and progress individually.

In the classroom, these take numerous forms and are simply the teacher’s, student’s, and parent’s way of measuring that student’s progress.

Types of Informal Assessments

A few types of informal assessments are as follows:Tests and quizzes – this is the typical way students are evaluated for their acquisition of knowledge, usually consisting of elements such as multiple-choice questions, true and false questions, short-answer questions, fill-in-the-blank questions, and so on.Grading – this is how teachers normally assign value to a student’s work. It consists of giving either numerical or alphabetical grades, or a combination of both, to student’s products. In other words, if you miss, say, 10 questions on a 100-question test, you would get a 90/100, or 90%.

Portfolios – this is an assessment tool that is great for helping students, as well as their teachers and parents, to see their progress over time. Students collect completed assignments in a single folder or portfolio. By looking at all of their work over the course of time, they can see how they have improved and/or where they need more work.Written samples – this entails any type of written work that students create to show their comprehension of material. It can take many forms, the essay being the most common.Project-based assignments – this type of assignment is usually quite extensive and allows the student to show off his or her accomplishments in a variety of ways.

The student creates a project of some sort that illustrates his understanding of what he has learned over time.This is, of course, not an all-inclusive list. While there are other types of assessments that can be used, these are the ones normally found in the modern classroom.

Examples of Informal Assessments

Considering the aforementioned types of assessments, let’s now look at some examples of how they are incorporated into the classroom.

Quizzes, Tests, and Grades

Grading, of course, fits within all types of informal assessments as it is usually integrated into most assignments as a way to evaluate that individual piece of work. Starting with tests and quizzes, teachers will often provide lessons over a given period of time. Throughout that time, they may provide quizzes to see how well students are ‘getting’ the information.

A quiz may be an exam as short as one question or as long as, perhaps, ten. It will usually be easier than a test. Quizzes also help the teacher see who is paying attention to the material and who is not: If students do poorly on a quiz, it’s a good bet they are not really paying attention or perhaps they are missing too much class. Whatever the reason, it provides at least some insight as to how they are doing on a periodic basis.Tests, however, are normally given at the end of the overall lesson to assess how well the students have acquired the expected knowledge. Tests may be much longer and have a greater variety of question types on it, perhaps even including a short essay question.


An example of the use of portfolios might occur in a science class in the following way: Let’s say the student is in biology.

Her portfolio might consist of all of the essays, lab reports, tests, quizzes, or worksheets used throughout the semester or year. This work would be assembled in such a way as to accumulate her progress over the entire period. It provides the student with a sense of accomplishment, the teacher with a valuable source of progressive data, and the parents with a visual artifact showing their child’s achievement!

Written Samples

Written work is done throughout the semester or year to provide a student with a way of highlighting their comprehension of material. For English class, they may write essays, book reviews, short stories, journals, and more. For science class, they may produce lab reports and essays. For history class, they may create timelines, histories, and essays.

For a civics class, they may be asked to write essays and perform debates and much more.

Project-Based Assignment

Finally, there is the project-based assignment. This is a tool to provide students with a hands-on product as a result of their hard work. For example, such a lesson in a science class might have the students produce a working model of how tectonic plates shift and create earthquakes. Or, history students might be asked to produce a history book about their school.

Lesson Summary

Unlike formal assessments, informal assessments are what teachers use every day to evaluate the progress and comprehension skills of their individual students.

These assessments come in many types, such as written work, portfolios, grading, tests, quizzes, and project-based assignments. Equally, these types are comprised of numerous examples of assessments, such as essays, lab reports, journals, quizzes, cumulative tests, and much more. Teachers, parents, and students all benefit from informal assessments every day of the student’s academic career!

Learning Outcomes

When you are done, you should be able to:

  • Explain the difference between formal and informal assessments
  • Discuss some types of informal assessments and how they can be utilized in the classroom

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