Keeping track of students’ progress is crucial to enable students to reach the desired learning outcomes of your course. When you (re)design a course, it is important to decide for each activity what type of assessment and feedback you will give and how it will be given.

Assessment is important for several reasons. It has an impact on:

  1. The approach that students adopt towards learning.
  2. How much time they will spend studying.
  3. How deeply they will dive into the curriculum.
  4. Whether they will comprehend the key concepts and themes of the subject.

Therefore, it is crucial to choose assessments that will be most beneficial for students and will help them to reach their goals. There are various types of assessments, but the most common distinction is formative and summative assessments.

Formative assessment

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning. It is used to assess how much your students have learned so far and to diagnose which topics or parts need to be addressed more fully. Most of the time, formative assessment is not for a grade but is for you as a teacher to receive insight into how to adjust your course to the needs of your students. Most importantly, formative assessment helps your students to focus on what’s going well, what needs to be improved and how to work on those aspects. That is the reason why feedback is one of the most important parts of this assessment.

Summative assessment

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of the course. The form of this assessment varies and depends on your choices. For example, the final grade might depend only on the final assignment, or it might be calculated from several assignments that took place during the course. It is also a way to standardise the student performances so the results can be compared.


  • Be precise. Ask specific and clear questions. For example, questions like “How does this compare to model a and b?” or “What’s the difference between theory a and b?” help students to focus on what is important, and which skills and knowledge to apply.
  • Provide a platform. Indicate where and how students should answer the questions. For example, you can use a discussion forum in Brightspace, the chat or a poll in the video lecture tool, or PresentersWall to gather their answers.
  • Assess quickly and effectively. Quizzes can provide immediate feedback automatically. All you need to do is create a quiz on Brightspace, Kaltura Live Room, Microsoft Teams or Zoom and provide the correct answers and feedback. By looking at students’ responses, you can develop a better view of the difficulties that students come across. Additionally, more in-depth feedback can be provided directly by you in class or by other students in peer feedback assignments. Depending on the tool you use, it might be possible to have open questions as well. This format is well suited for self-assessments and exam preparation. More information on how to do this can be found on this Brightspace Screensteps page or in the Kaltura blog from the library. Use these tips and tricks from Brigham Young University to create good quality multiple choice questions.
  • Don't forget the feedback. As a teacher, you are the expected source when it comes to providing feedback. Students value your opinion and judgement, and like to know how they are doing, but providing feedback also takes a lot of time. In some cases a peer review can just be as effective, with the added benefit that both parties will learn from the peer review session and it will contribute to the academic development of your students. For more information, read this page.
  • Choose wisely. Keep in mind the types of tasks that you are planning to use for assessment. It is possible to assess students on a pre-specified basis, for example – multiple-choice questions – which means that there will be less freedom for students to express themselves and their individual thinking. However, it is also possible to include more open-ended tasks that require a different, more creative, approach. For instance, you can ask students to write an essay, or other types of text, to do a group project, etc. Tasks of this kind can help students to dive more deeply into a problem and help to understand it better, which, sometimes, might be more valuable than a broad assignment.

It is important to understand that there is no one golden formula and the choices that you make should fit as much as they can with the goals of the course and the curriculum. One type of assessment might be the best fit for one course but might give a reverse effect for the other course. You can check out our article about constructive alignment principles, where more information about the alignment between learning objectives, teaching activities activities, and assessment is provided.


The most up-to-date information on how to organize digital assessment is currently published on the staff website. You can also watch the webinars 'Online formative assessment' and 'Online assessment for remote teaching' (sign in with your ULCN staff account) or read the Leiden University manuals 'Manual for Digital Assessment' and 'Tips for tests and assessment'.

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