Informal vs. Formal Assessments: Tests are not the only end-all-be-all of how we assess.

REFLECTIVE LOG : When are informal assessments useful (versus formal assessments)? How valuable are informal assessments? Can informal assessments be good replacements for formal assessments?


It has been once said that “Everybody is a geniusBut if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Our students must be assessed relative to what their skills are. It could be done by doing formal assessments or informal assessments or combination of both. 


I realized that beyond giving formal assessments (i.e. Summative assessments: Quizzes, long tests, periodical exams, etc.), our main role as teachers is determined by how we recognize our students’ progress/stagnation through informal assessments (i.e. formative assessments: port folios, role play, record tracking, etc.) These methods allow the teacher to easily maneuver where and how his/her instuction is going.

The result of a formal test (e.g. long test) alone would not necessarily dictate the entire academic ability of our students. It does not mean that when a student fails a formal test (e.g. periodical test), we could already conclude that he’s entire learning capabilities for that subject failed as well.

Assessing students is not monopolized by just doing it formally (e.g. giving out tests, quizzes, summative exams, etc.), but rather depends on the other informal assessments (e.g. coaching sessions, reflective logs, fly-by-question and answers, etc.) that reinforce formal ones.

There are many factors why a student could fail from a test (e.g. lack of sleep, emotional and family distress, etc.), but there would only be few factors why he/she would not be able to provide a reflective insight on the lesson. But how do we separate formal assessments from informal ones?

The table and concept map I incorporated below could give some help (you could click the picture or open it in a new tab to see it clearer =).

INFORMAL VS FORMAL TABLEinformal vs formal mindmap

When are informal assessments useful (versus formal assessments)?

I believe the most applicable time to use informal assessments is when:

1. We want to gauge the students cognitive, affective and manipulative skills in the simplest way possible. We ask students to recite or write down essays to easily determine if they understood a specific lesson well or poorly, if they are enthusiastic or bored with the lesson, if they are already familiar or completely unfamiliar with the topic, etc.

2. We deem that the results of the formal examinations are not enough to give a concluding mark for the students’ performance. If a specific student performs excellently in class activities but suddenly failed a summative test, it could tell us that there could be a deviation between our formal against our informal assessments, or other factors might have been involved with such event (e.g. student factor: did not review, physically/emotionally troubled, etc.)

How valuable are informal assessments? Can informal assessments be good replacements for formal assessments?

Although informal assessments provide teachers with solid bases of how the students are performing, it would not imply that it could already replace formal assessments. They should work hand-in-hand and interdependently. One should complement the other.

For instance, if we opt to use role plays and recitals in assessing students’ communications skills informally, we should also align our formal exams with the activities our students previously engaged on. In this way, we could ensure validity and fairness of our assessments. Moreover, we could find that these methods relieve our burdens with analyzing, comparing, and understanding our students “true” abilities.

We cannot just give (formal) tests or quizzes in the same manner as we cannot just consume course-time with just giving out (informal) class activities. Arriving at a valid and reliable grades for our students is a combination of maximing both formal and informal assessments.

To summarize:
Informal assessment being a systematic observation = knowing what, when and where we are going to assess + (How) Establishing criteria for assessing students

I believe this is how it should be done:
1. Doing informal assessment > 2. Linking informal assessments with formal assessments> 3. doing feedbacks based from the results of both assessments


Is reflective teaching a necessary skill for informal assessment to effectively facilitate teaching-learning? (What does it mean to reflect about teaching?)

The term metacognition” loudly rings a bell when I brain-stormed for concepts behind reflective-teaching. Metacognitive skill is our ability to learn about learning or “knowing about knowing”. Being teachers makes us be in all professions we could possibly think of. It makes us social scientists in knowing how our students differ from METACONITION REFLECTIVE TEACHINGculture to culture, psychologists as it makes us recognize what behavior-patterns our students possess, etc. But beyond all these, being a teacher drives us in knowing not only how “we” teach but of how our “students” are being receptive/repulsive of what we are teaching.

I believe, formal assessments are insufficient to accomplish this task. As I have mentioned above, a specific score in a (formal) test would not entirely be reflective of what the students’ holistic capabilities are. What our students need is not just a “statistician” who just gathers and analyzes numbers/figures from formal tests and associates these to infer/conclude what our students performance is.

Our students need more of a “teacher” than a “statistician”. As teachers, we should be sensitive to how our students are absorbing or repelling our way of teaching. We should learn how they learn. We should reflect not only from the “numbers” they are giving us, but also from the “unscored/unrated” behavior, skills, performance they are able to express.

Reflective teaching for me means going beyond what the text book dictates. It makes us ponder the following questions:
1.How good did my students absorb the lesson? Why are they performing poorly/greatly? How do I improve their performance?
2. “Am I teaching the subject effectively/poorly?”
3. “Did I give the right questions? Were my activities aligned with what my students’ current needs are?”

Reflecting from these self assessment questions would give us a bird’s-eye view of whether we are on the right track or not. I believe it has much to do with knowing our learners’ learning styles and our own teaching styles. Knowing about knowing. Being aware of how we are teaching our subjects gives us more confidence on addressing what our students’ needs are.



Weaver, B. Formal versus Informal Assessments.
Morrison, G. Informal Methods of Assessment.
Forlizzi, L. Informal assessment: The Basics.
Navarete, C., et al. Informal Assessment In Educational Evaluation.
Mind map retrieved february 20, 2013 from the URL:

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ASSIGNMENT 1 : Getting to know the key terms. (Personal Glossary relative to assessment-studies)

branding-terminologiesUpon going through the modules and other resources, I am amazed how a seemingly typical word such as Assessment” could become an entirely “intricate” and “complex” concept, definitely integral to the teaching-learning process, and is one of the “critical” foundation of education-studies.

Coming across several key terms and concepts from the readings, I gradually realized (and appreciate) how the course (EDS113) was creatively designed in a spiral and interconnected manner that makes it an easy and rewarding learning experience for the readers/learners like me to navigate through each materials and almost always end up enlightened with the ideas carefully laid-down from them.


Here is a list of key-terms/concepts I came accross with and how I personally understood them:

A. Assessment Key-term tundems, groupings and classifications (distinguishing one from the other):

1. Characteristics of Assessment:
1.1. VALIDITY vs RELIABILITY vs FAIRNESS: As assessments create a basis of how we gauge our students’ performance as learners (and our own performance as teachers), it is but vital to ensure that the manner by which we deliver and execute such process is governed by “justifiable” standards. Although, “All assessment is ultimately subjective” [1], we still want our students to get the grade/output that they deserve, out of each assessments they go through, but how do we make sure that this is done?

1.1.1. VALIDITY – The characteristic of an assessment where “it measures what it supposed to measure”[1]. It is comparable with the concept of “Accuracy“, where the results of assessment show relevant nearness to the expected and ideal result. The assessment given match the learning goal.

example: In a Math class, a teacher does not give an “essay form” of assessment if what he really wanted to gauge is more of the students’ Arithmetic than their writing skills.
Note: “Unfortunately, no assessment is completely valid.” [1]   Valid vs Relia

1.1.2. RELIABILITY – The characteristic of an assessment to be “replicated or reproduced” and give the same “consistent” results (provided that the testing scenarios/environment are also the same). It is comparable with the concept of “Precission“, where assessments give the same results no matter how many times it is repeated.

example: Students taking essay type of assessments usually get different and varying results depending on the rater, as such form of assessment is greatly subjective. Thus, the results of the same assessment vary from rater to rater or from time to time where the same assessment is repeated. Hence, producing less reliable results.

1.1.3. FAIRNESS – The characteristic of an assessment to be “unbiased“. It gives equal opportunities for everyone to take and accomplish the assessment, regardless of any varying and contrasting backgrounds of the assessees.

example: In a Math class, the set of questions given in a problem solving assessment is different from low performer students than the high performing students. Low performing students are given typical questions, where as high performers are given advanced ones. Knowing that they belong to the same heterogeneous class, it is obviously “UNFAIR” to give unequal treatment to specific group of learners.

1.2. NORM vs CRITERION vs IPSATIVE assessment referencing: These characteristics of assessment describe how the results of assessment are relative to a certain standard, other assessees’ scores or the assessees’ own previous scores.

1.2.1. Norm-referencing – Assessment that involves comparison of results from one assessee to another. It promotes competetion as it creates ranking among the assessment takers and employs quota or cut-off lines where only a specific range/number of takers are considered, depending on what their scores are.

example: A Science teacher gives only plus points to those who get top 5 scores from a long test, and gives penalties to anyone who gets the bottom 10 scores. As their assessment/test scores are compared from one another to get their ranking, it promotes high level of competetion and creates an environment where students either feel fulfilled as they achieve top rank or get demotivated as they fall under the bottom performers.

1.2.2. Criterion-referencing – Assessment that involves a “fixed” referenced (as the student providing correct or wrong answer, for example.)
example: In a music class, students are given opportunity to proceed on the next choir training only if they pass the assessment. The assessment results are viewed only in a “fixed” pass or fail perspective and no comparison to other scores are made, thus making it fairer for the assessees.  Criterion-referenced test - Wikipedia modified

1.2.3. Ipsative assessment – Assessment that involves comparison of results from one’s own previous scores against the latest ones.

example: In a one on one tutorial session, a tutee is given the same set of questions he was previously given. Initial and final results of the assessment are reviewed to verify if he was able to achieve better than what he previously got.

1.3. Assessment vs. Evaluation: CLICK HERE (This is a hyperlink from my personal post via UPOU Myportal)

1.4. Assessment Relative to the teaching learning process :  CLICK HERE (This is a hyperlink from my personal post via UPOU Myportal)

2. Purposes of Assessment:  CLICK HERE (This is a hyperlink from my personal post via UPOU Myportal)
2.1. SUMMATIVE vs FORMATIVE assessment:
2.1.1. Summative Assessment- Is mainly given at the end of a course or a class period. It usually aims to determine whether the students achieved learning or if the teachers completely accomplish learning goals. Thus, it is a high-stake assessment.

example: Long tests, periodical exams, Mid-final term exams, end of term practical exams, etc.

summative-vs-formative2.1.2. Formative Assessment- Is mainly on-going and continous. It aims to provide the teacher/student with feedbacks regarding what their current standing is.

example: Teachers always asks snap questions to catch class attention and to determine their range of understanding relative to the lesson. Questions like, “what do you think this implies? How would you perform the task? Could you give us more examples about it?“, allow both the teacher and the students to continously evaluate current understanding of the “content” or reations to the “instruction”.

2.2.1. Traditional assessment – Are the common paper-and-pencil tests, where students are given “knowledge” tests with time-constraint and focused on lower order learning skills. Passive learning. teacher and/or subject centered.

example: The usual quizzes or class activities where students are required to do rote memorization, etc. TRADITIONAL VS. ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT By Teresa Shull.htm_20130122091801 modified

2.2.2. Alternative assessment – Is more of a formative and holistic (sometimes also refered to as “authentic”) type of assessment where students are allowed to collaborate in group activities and are given enough freedom on their learning. Active learning. Student-centered.

example: In a PE class, the students are given opportunities to explore on the sports materials and asked to give their take on their usage.

3. Types of Assessment:
3.1. FORMAL vs INFORMAL assessment:
3.1.1. Formal Assessment – Data driven. Summative type, where it usually assess the overall achievement of the students. More of norm-referenced type of assessment where results are viewed as abiding by the standards or not (sometimes refered to as standardized test since results from one assessee are compared to how the others ranked based from a specified standard/data.)
example: NSAT’s (National Secondary Achievement Tests), NCEE’s, Board exams, etc.)

3.1.2. Informal Assessment – Rather than data, it is driven by the current performance or standing of the students/teachers. Formative type, where it usually assess the current performance of the students. More of a criterion-referenced type of assessment where the results are viewed based from a fixed reference/standard.
example: Portfolios, Journal/blog creation, reflective essays, etc.

4. Ways of doing assessments (gathering evidence) [2]
4.1.Formative – On-going and given within the same time of learning.
4.2. Summative – Usually given at the end of the course to determine overall achievement.
4.3. Direct – Evident and tangible representation of student-achievement.
4.4. Indirect – Implied represention of students’ potential achievement.
4.5. Objective – Questions associated with a given form of assessment have fixed and constant answers.
4.6. Subjective – Answers vary depending on the rater.
4.7. Traditional – The commonly accustomed type of assessments like matching type, multiple choice exams, etc.
4.8. Performance – Requires students to demonstrate skills.
4.9. Embedded – Assessment incorporated in the course work.
4.10. Local – created by faculty and/or staff


B. Other key terms and concepts regarding assessment: [3]
1. External Assessment – Assessment that make use of rubrics or standards provided by entities outside of the group being assessed (e.g. Board exams, Equivalency exams, etc.)
2. High stakes Assessment – Mostly summative exams that determines overall achievement (e.g. Board exams, comprehensive post graduate exams, etc.)
3. Rubric – A scoring tool that includes specific measures and standards in rating a specific piece of work like assigment, essays, etc.
4. Assessment for Accountability – Assessment that involves evaluation of a certain program to satisfy external stakeholders. (e.g. accreditation of college programs, etc.)



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Assessing my initial knowledge of ASSESSMENT (e-Journal entry #1)

Assessment: A key on learning how much is learned from how much is taught.

“Am I already prepared to be in the teaching arena? What competencies did I learn that make me ready for it?”— These were the questions that echoed loudly in my mind as I was eaten by mixed emotions from realizing that I am only few months away from taking the LET (Licensure Examination for Teachers) and few weeks away from leaving UPOU.roadmap

I realized that through these questions I was already doing an initial assessment of myself, and not being aware that it would be one of the primary tasks I need to do and develop as a hopeful teacher. We might not notice it but doing and undergoing certain forms of assessment has been part of our daily living. It’s the one that tells us whether we are doing the job right or if we need to do it the other way around. But does assessment have the same typical meaning as it is applied to the actual teaching-learning process?

What does assessment mean to you?

For me, assessment is a mirror that reflects how we are as a teacher and how our students are being receptive or repulsive of what/how we are teaching them. As my initial concepts of assessment was shaped by our previous courses (especially of EDUC103), I learned that Assessment is almost always associated with evaluation. Although both terms (assessment and evaluation) are frequently used interchangebly, assessment is formative (on-going), process oriented and diagnostic while evaluation is Summative (mostly given at the end of the study), product-oriented and judgmental. Both determines the range and depth of how and what the students learned from how and what the teachers taught.    exam

Assessment and evaluation methods both aim to gauge how much the students and teachers moved forward, downward or remained static within the whole teaching-learning experience, but these methods are also gauged as how they are reliable and valid. I believe, giving assessment also needs to conform with standards, as its results could be affected by the manner it was delivered and executed. The type of assessment should be aligned with the type of students or students’ skills being assessed. These methods should conform with standards and should produce outputs (e.g. grades, marks, progress-reports/status, etc.) that accurately reflect how the students (or teachers) are performing.

As the concept of assessment gets more technical and other scholastic terms/concepts are added, I believe it would just boil down to viewing assessment as A key on learning how much is learned from how much is taught.

What are your views about the role and function of assessment in classrooms?

How could we determine if our students still need more from us, in terms of content (more details on the lesson, facts, examples, etc.) and instruction, if there would not be any form of assessment? Being teachers, doing assessment is vital and inevitable. It is what’s keeping us updated and on track with what the class standing/progress is. We give deliverables (assignment, projects, research, term papers, etc.) to our class not solely for them to learn from it, but for us to have a basis of whether learning goals are being met or not.

Primarily, I believe assessment has a great role in keeping our teaching strategies on the right track and ensures that the class’ strengths and weaknesses are recognized and properly dealt with. It functions as an indicator or a gauge of how our students are learning from us and of how we are teaching them as teachers.


Do you consider assessment essential? Why/ Why not?

It would be life changing to know that assessment is not essential. I could not imagine any formal teaching-learning process that do not require any form of assessment. If it’s not essential, our basic education would end up as streets without traffic lights, cars without speedometer, or fridge without thermostat. No one could tell if the students could go to the next grade or if they have learned anything at all, if there wouldn’t be any basis for it. Definitely, It would be chaotic.

I know EDS113 is challenging as concepts get deeper and complicated, but the extended support and guidance from both classmates and FIC’s would hopefully cater for fruitful results out of each assessments we inevitably need to go through. =)

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