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Difference Between Formal and Informal Assessment

Formal vs Informal Assessment

Assessments are important tools in the hands of teachers to know about the learning graph of their students. Assessments help teachers to gather information about students so as to be able to take corrective decisions. This is more or less testing students to check whether they are rasping the subject matter in the manner intended by the teachers. There are two major types of assessments namely formal and informal assessments. Both are used by teachers to measure the extent or degree to which students are gaining from instruction. There are differences between formal and informal assessments that are of great significance for teachers and educators. Let us take a look.

Formal Assessment

As the name implies, formal assessments are formal ways of knowing how much a student has learnt or improved during the instructional period. These include exams, diagnostic test, achievement tests, screening and intelligence tests, etc. All formal assessments have standardized methods of administering the tests. They also have a formal method of grading as well as interpretation thereby allowing a teacher to assess the performance or the level of skill of a student using these formal methods of assessment. If you take a look at a text book, you will find that, at the end of every lesson, there are exercises that are meant to assess whether the student has learnt the concept and can solve the problems based upon the subject matter. There are obviously right or wrong answer patterns, and a student is graded based upon his right or correct answers in an answer sheet.

The performance of students on formal assessment tools enables teachers to know instantly where the students stand in comparison to each other and also in relation to the instructions given by them. These kinds of assessment tools also help in keeping the motivation levels of students high as they work hard to achieve high scores in these tests and, in addition, get encouragement from teachers.

Informal Assessment

Informal assessment tools are all tools that can judge and evaluate students’ performance and skill levels without making use of standardized tests and scoring patterns. There are no standardized tools to measure or evaluate the performances in these assessment tools. The best examples of informal assessments are projects, experiments, and presentations given by students in classrooms and other platforms. Debating and peer teaching are also considered by some as examples of informal assessments. One way of assessing the skills of students is to ask them questions that they are required to answer in front of other students.

What is the difference between Formal and Informal Assessment?

• Formal assessments evaluate the performance of students on the basis of their grades in standardized tests whereas informal assessments are qualitative in nature and do not have standardized tools for evaluation.

• Sometimes stopping in between lectures and observing students, to see their level of involvement, can be a way of informal assessment whereas tests, quizzes, essays, lab reports etc. remain important tools of formal assessment.

• Formal assessments are standardized and have criteria for evaluation while informal assessments are subjective and there is no criterion to evaluate the performance.

• Some students become nervous when taking formal assessments and do not perform to their true potential while there are also students who become nervous when teacher suddenly asks them to answer. Therefore, teachers need to have a heady mix of both kinds of assessments to evaluate the skills of their students.


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