Formative Assessment

Formative assessment helps to answer these questions:

  • Are our students learning what we think is important?
  • Should we modify our learning goals?
  • Are we getting better at helping our students learn?
  • Should our teaching strategies be modified?
  • Do recent innovations help students learn more effectively?

Formative assessment assesses student learning while it is taking place. It provides detailed feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of teaching and learning strategies so faculty can make immediate modifications to classroom activities and assignments. (Adapted from Assessing Student Learning by Linda Suskie, 2004).

The goal of formative assessment is to informally allow students to demonstrate their level of understanding of a specific topic, which in turn helps the instructor recognize what teaching techniques are most effective.


  • Informal verbal or written feedback
  • Practice problems with feedback
  • Self-assessment
  • Games 
  • Practice tests
  • Instructor observation

For more information see Collecting and Using Student Feedback or contact Robin Nickel in CETL at (608) 246-6413.