Creating Meaningful Assessments

Why do we assess our students? When we really stop and think about it, assessment serves a wide variety of purposes in schools. School assessments are used to determine if students have earned a leaving qualification, such as a diploma. They’re used to measure the learning process, to identify future areas for teaching, to monitor progress, and to encourage engagement. All of these purposes are informed by a set of beliefs about the role of assessment in education, which are, in turn, informed by your school culture and that of the country, state, province, or territory where you teach. The school’s beliefs and practices are set forth in your school’s Assessment Policy, and this helps to explain the practices in place within your school.
There are two general types of assessment we use in classrooms: formative and summative assessments. Formative assessment is often referred to as ‘assessment for learning’ rather than ‘assessment of learning’ which better describes summative assessment.Formative assessment takes place before, during, and after a unit, and teachers should explicitly plan to include it in every unit. It can take many forms such as quizzes, presentations, writing paragraphs, and so on. 

Formative assessment occurs through the course of a lesson or unit and helps the teacher continually shape the learning experience. Concept maps are an example of formative assessment. Students may complete a concept map individually or with a group while reading a textbook, and the teacher can circulate the room and determine which students have discovered information on their own and fill in the blanks if necessary. Interviewing students is another method of formative assessment. Teachers may ask students questions about the lesson either individually or in groups to determine which concepts have been learned. (

The IB assessment criteria are designed for use with summative assessment. This means that at the end of a period of substantive new learning, students have an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the statement of inquiry and to show their progress towards meeting the objectives. While this form of assessment often comes at the end of the unit, this is not always the case. Some statements of inquiry require students to show understanding through multiple summative assessments, which is an acceptable practice as well.

Here are a few tips for planning meaningful assessments in your IB classroom:

1. Create an authentic assessment that gives students a genuine reason to complete the assessment and show their knowledge. Creating assessments with a real-world context helps engage your students in this authentic task.

2. Plan your assessments by using the Understanding by Design framework. This allows you to hold academic standards and guides your instructional practice.

3. Plan your assessment practices for the full year to ensure you are meeting all assessment objectives throughout the year. By doing this, you will scaffold the knowledge base for your students throughout the entire year.

4. Use the command terms to clarify for students the expectations of the task. By understanding these terms, students will find more academic achievement on their summative assessments as they progress through the IB programme.

5. Use formative assessments to guide students and ensure they have success on their summative assessments. Think about your learning objectives and use assessment as a continuation of your teaching.
You can learn more about IB assessments in our MYP, DP, or CP IB Teacher Toolkits. Each toolkit focuses extensively on assessment.