Tag Archives: Informal Assessment

Formal and Informal Assessments

Organized and intentional assessments are an indispensable part of planning and assessment tasks. Assessments are also a facet of instruction, such as preparing questions to ask students ahead of time, for promoting engagement or deepening learning. Assessments should vary to produce quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (descriptive) forms of information. For example, comparing correct answers to objective items on pre-assessment (sequence start) and post-assessment (sequence end) results can show whole-class and individual student learning over time.

A key feature of informal (i.e. formative) assessments is they are able to provide ongoing monitoring of student learning. In other words, multiple informal assessments should be included in lessons. A key feature of formal (i.e. summative) assessments is enabling analysis of student learning. Analysis of student learning based on a formal/chosen assessment is conducted using evaluation criteria (such as rubric, checklist, answer key, or other protocol for appraising performance). All assessments should show logical connection to the central focus and learning objectives.

Some example assessments by subject-area follow. Generally, assessments are clearly organized (such as thoughtful application of titles), use a variety of item types, and align with lesson plan goals, learning activities, and evaluation criteria. In addition, many of the examples use pre- and post-assessment to facilitate analysis of student learning.

Elementary literacy assessments, Elementary math assessments, English as Additional Language assessments, English Language Arts assessments, Family and Consumer Science assessments, Health assessments, History Social Studies assessments, Library Specialist assessments, Performing Arts assessments, Physical Education assessments, Secondary mathematics assessments, Secondary Science assessments, Special Education assessments, Visual arts assessments, World Languages assessments

Characteristics of High-Scoring edTPA Lessons

The exemplary lessons1 shown below earned fours and fives on Task 1 rubrics. Some characteristics shared between lessons helpful for earning points include

1) Clear labeling and description, such as lesson title, learning targets, and activities
2) Thorough description of teacher and student behavior
3) Use of preassessment for understanding student background knowledge
4) Two or more opportunities for informal assessment in each lesson
5) Multiple practice or support activities in each lesson
6) Prewritten questions for eliciting student understanding
7) Use of postassessment for analyzing learning at the conclusion of the sequence

The outlines for general and special education include these characteristics and are useful for planning lessons for Task 1.

Elementary Literacy Elementary Mathematics English as Second Language
English Language Arts Family Consumer Science Health Education
History Social Studies Mathematics for Secondary Performing Arts
Physical Education Science for Secondary Special Education
Visual Arts World Languages

1. The lessons shown above have been shared with permission of the authors.


The definition of assessment according to the edTPA model is that it “includes all those activities undertaken by teachers and students that provide information to be used as feedback to modify teaching and learning activities.”

There are many types of assessments. Nowadays, educators often talk about formative and summative assessment. However, in edTPA, assessments are categorized as informal and formal. It is possible to align informal assessment with formative and formal with summative.

Nevertheless, the definitions provided for informal and formal assessment are defined with examples. Informal assessments include questions posed by the teacher or teacher observations of students. Practical methods for conducting observations for assessment include pair-share and think aloud, among others. In addition, any type of prompt presented by the teacher to elicit student response may be labeled as an informal assessment.

Some examples of formal assessment include assignments, quizzes, journal entries, projects, tests, lab reports, and so on.

Generally, the requirements for edTPA include multiple informal assessments across lessons, assessment of students’ prior learning to begin the lesson sequence, assessment of student voice, and a formal assessment summarizing student learning of the lesson sequence. In addition, the formal assessment should include an evaluation criteria, though brief assessment criteria could be presented for each assessment included in the portfolio.

This sample pre- and postassessment with evaluation criteria may help you design your own.