Types of Assessment


Multiple assessment strategies can be used and different assessments can be used to assess different learning objectives or competencies.

Assessments Vs. Activities

According to Quality Matters definition, assessments are methods and instruments used to confirm learner mastery and to identify what students have learned. Assessment examples include a quiz, a paper, a research project, a presentation, a portfolio, and etc.

An activity is any form of learner participation that serves to reinforce course content and provides an opportunity for learners to further their attainment of course or module/unit learning objectives or competencies. Often, an activity allows for practice, discovery, and trial-and-error. Since many assessments, especially authentic assessments, are in the form of activities, such as a presentation, an interview, even a quiz.

Assessments and activities share many similar types. Assessments and activity types are introduced on the following pages in this module. Hopefully, these activity and assessment types can inform your own choice of course activities and assessments so that students with different learning styles and abilities could engage in course content and have multiple opportunities to practice knowledge and skills, and demonstrate their mastery and learning. 

Standardized Assessments

Traditional assessments, such as those that use multiple choice, true-false, fill-in the blank, matching, short-answer questions, essay questions, or a mix of question types, are called standardized tests, which require all students to answer the same questions in the same way and score them in a consistent manner. Standardized test makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students. It is objective, easy to score, easy to administer. However, it only provides a snapshot of what students have learned, and gives students limited options to demonstrate what they have learned. It is not the exclusive measure of educational performance or the only representative indicator of student achievement.

Authentic Assessments

In alternative assessments, also commonly called performance or authentic assessments, students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of what they have learned. Such assessments include interview, journals, portfolios, observations, demonstrations, performance tasks, exhibits, and etc. Alternative assessments can be used to demonstrate skills in application, analysis, evaluation, and creation. Please refer to the following section for examples of different types of assessments that can be used in your courses.

Different Types of Assessments and Activities


A quiz is usually a short test. Some instructors have several quizzes in a unit or a module to check how well students understand the material. Although they vary according to the instructor, quizzes are often heavy in multiple choice, true-false, and sometimes fill-in-the-blank questions. They don’t often have interpretive questions such as essay questions. Canvas quizzes are very powerful in creating different types of quiz questions, including multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, and even formulation and numeric questions.


Whereas a quiz usually evaluates student's understanding of a unit or a module, a test normally covers a whole unit or several chapters. Tests are commonly longer than quizzes. It’s common for the test to consist of several different types of questions: multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank questions, matching, listing, and / or essay questions, which vary according to the instructor. 


Essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject. Students can write essays to analyze topics covered in the course. Essay usually uses a formal, academic writing style and has a clear structure, that is, an introduction, body and conclusion.  An essay can be an opinion piece or an expository essay consisting solely of one's interpretation of a text or an overview of a particular topic. 


Both in traditional and online classrooms, journals are used as tools for student reflection. By consciously thinking about and comparing issues, life experiences, and course readings, students are better able to understand links between theory and practice and to generate justifiable, well-supported opinions. This kind of writing assignment is meant to be interactive, as students engage with ideas and experiences that bring about questions, comparisons, insights, criticisms, speculations, and tentative conclusions. Although somewhat less formal than essays or other course writing assignments, journal entries should still construct a coherent narrative, use complete sentences, be grammatically correct, and be scholarly in tone. 


Surveys are used to collect individual feedback that you probably wouldn’t otherwise get. A survey may focus on factual information about individuals, or it might aim to obtain the opinions of the individuals. Instructors can use survey to ask for students's opinion about the course content. Students can use survey to collect data related to course topics. 

Case Study

Case studies are presented as scenarios that apply concepts or ideas learned in class to a “real-life” situation. They are usually provided in narrative form, and can be used for problem-solving, or for critiquing a situation. Usually, case studies are most effective if they are presented sequentially, so that students receive additional information as the case unfolds, and can continue to analyze or critique the situation/problem. Cases can be more or less “directed” by the kinds of questions asked—these kinds of questions can be appended to any case. Advantages of Case Studies are that they engage students in critical thinking and promote student reflection. In some cases, case studies can enable students to appreciate ambiguity in situations (e.g. ethics cases). Case studies need not be generated by the instructor. Students can bring case studies from their own work or life situations into the course and receive input from their instructor on potential solutions.


A critique is a genre of academic writing that briefly summaries and critically evaluates a work or concept. Critiques can be used to carefully analyze a variety of works such as:

  • Creative works – novels, exhibits, film, images, poetry
  • Research – monographs, journal articles, systematic reviews, theories
  • Media –  news reports, feature articles

Like an essay, a critique uses a formal, academic writing style and has a clear structure, that is, an introduction, body and conclusion.   However, the body of a critique includes a summary of the work and a detailed evaluation.The purpose of the evaluation is to gauge the usefulness or impact of a work in a particular field.

Concept Map or Charting

A concept map is a diagram that depicts suggested relationships between concepts. It is a graphical tool for organizing and structuring knowledge. In a concept map, concepts are usually represented in enclosed circles or boxes, and relationships between concepts are usually indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts with labeled arrows and linking phrases, such as causes, requires, or contributes to. The technique for visualizing these relationships among different concepts is called concept mapping. The same as concept mapping, charting asks students to create graphs, tables, images, and etc, to represent and organize data. Having students create concept maps or charts can provide insights into how they organize and represent knowledge.  


An interview is a conversation between two people (the interviewer and the interviewee) where questions are asked and answered. Interviewing is a common way to collect data and obtain knowledge and expertise of others. As a learning activity or assessment method, conducting interview is a good way for students to practice effective communication, data gathering, and critical thinking skills.


A student portfolio is a compilation of materials that exemplifies student’s skills, qualifications, academic work, and evidence for education, training and experience. Portfolios can be assembled to evaluate student academic achievement, learning progress or to create a lasting archive of academic work products, accomplishments, and other documentation. Different than standardized tests and exams, portfolios provide a richer picture of what students have learned over time. Portfolios can be a physical collection of student work or evidence, such as written assignments, project reports, journals, certifications, recommendations, and etc. Online portfolios, often called digital portfolios or e-portfolios, are also commonly seen these days. They may include content such as blogs, websites, student-created videos, multimedia presentations, spreadsheets, photographs, or other digital artifacts of learning. Portfolios can be used to assess learning in one specific subject area or to evaluate knowledge or skills that can be applied in a broad context.

Literature Review

A literature review is a survey and summary of the literature on a specific topic. Students could be asked to give brief citations and synopses of the literature or discuss contexts, authors’ major purposes, and opposing author viewpoints. 

A literature review is a written approach to examining published information on a particular topic or field. An author uses this review of literature to create a foundation and justification for his or her research or to demonstrate knowledge on the current state of a field. This review can take the form of a course assignment or a section of a longer capstone project.  

Student Presentation

With technology such as online presentation and video tools, however, students can still make or record a presentation and submit to the instructor. Students can also be asked to give presentations in synchronous environments as well using tools such as Zoom. Presentation involves researching a topic, taking a position and/or a role, organizing, presenting, and communicating


A blog is a personal journal updated frequently with links, commentary, and anything else someone chooses to post there. Students are encouraged to throw their ideas onto their blogs as they occur. Blogs can be used as course journals, or personal diaries. They can focus on one narrow subject or range across a number of topics. Students can be encouraged to create collaborative blogs, adding to and commenting on preceding topics. What makes a blog different from a threaded discussion is that the entries are not in response to posed discussion questions, but are free-flowing ideas that emerge from the material being studied. Most common use of a blog is as a “field-experience journal”.

Research Paper or Research Project

A research paper is an expanded essay that presents interpretation, evaluation or argument. When students write a research paper, they build upon what they know about the subject and make a deliberate attempt to find out what experts know. A research paper involves surveying a field of knowledge in order to find the best possible information in that field.  A research paper is not simply an informed summary of a topic by means of primary and secondary sources. Instead, it is a genre that requires one to spend time investigating and evaluating sources with the intent to offer interpretations of the texts, and not unconscious regurgitations of those sources. The goal of a research paper is not to inform the reader what others have to say about a topic, but to draw on what others have to say about a topic and engage the sources in order to thoughtfully offer a unique perspective on the issue at hand. 


A report is written for a clear purpose and to a particular audience. Specific information and evidence are presented, analysed and applied to a particular problem or issue. The information is presented in a clearly structured format making use of sections and headings so that the information is easy to locate and follow.

When students are asked to write a report, they will usually be given instructions and guidelines that may outline the purpose, audience and problem or issue that the report must address, together with any specific requirements for format or structure. 

Videos (create/watch)

Video is a great way to add visual stimuli to your lectures. When used properly they can help to heighten the educational experience for students and raise the level of engagement and achievement. Videos can give students authentic learning experiences and inspire their thinking. Creating videos may also enhance students problem solving skills and increase their motivation.


Observing an event or a phenomenon might enhance student learning experience greatly. In an observation assignment, students might be asked to record their observations of a particular setting or situation via note taking. They will take descriptive notes on anything important to the situation, including date, time, locality, actions of people, and etc. Students might also be asked to write papers to present their observations and interpretations. 

Interactive Games

Interactive game is where the players actively and physically engage in the activities of a game, which require the player's input. Interactive games in educational settings not only provide a rich environment, but also provide real-time feedback and built-in goals, encouraging students to apply a variety of knowledge, skills, and strategies to solve problems, including collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills. Interactive games are available in many subjects, including science and engineering, history and culture, geography, language learning, to give a few examples. 


Collaborating Online: Learning Together in Community by Rena M. Palloff and Keith Pratt (Oct 28, 2004)

Walden University Writing Center at http://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/assignments/journal

QUI http://www.citewrite.qut.edu.au/write/critique.jsp

Purdue Online Writing Lab https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/658/02/