Theories, principles and models of assessment - Start Teaching (2023)


It is essential that learning has taking place, as a result it is important to check that learning has occurred; this is completed in the form of assessment. Assessment ranges from a quick and simple learning check in the form of student questioning, up to a final exam which could form the entirety of the requirements of awarding the qualification. Assessment can be broken down into groups; the most common grouping of assessment is Diagnostic, Formative and Summative assessment.

Diagnostic Assessment

“Diagnostic assessments inform both teacher and learner of current abilities and specific future needs”.(Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 94) If possible this should be performed before the students start the course, as this diagnostic assessment will assess whether the student is suitable for the course. It may be that due to their existing ability a lower level course would be more suitable. This is also the ideal opportunity to assess a student’s Maths and English ability. A student with poor Maths and English is likely to struggle on a course that requires assignment writing as part of the assessment. In this case it may be suitable that the student enrols on an English course before starting the course they are trying to join.

Formative Assessment

“Formative assessment findings inform you of the content which needs to be covered and also the effectiveness of teaching and learning methods.”(Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 89) Many people consider the formative assessment as part of the teaching process, that everything that has been taught must be assessed to ensure the students have learnt the required material. I use this method on a regular basis, generally in combination with a behaviourist approach in which I explain how to implement something, explain what the goal is and then allow the students to tackle the problem and assess how well they have implemented it. The methods I frequently use for formative assessment are observations, strategic questioning and classroom polls. “Learners completing practical or written exercises, taking part in short quizzes, reporting back from discussions, engaging in problem solving activities, giving short presentations or demonstrations”(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 43) are both being taught and assessed at the same time. I find all of these methods, but particularly practical exercises, very effective within my teaching.

Summative Assessment

“Summative assessment and subsequent feedback informs learners of their overall achievement, as well as an overall grade, learners need opportunities to explore progression options which may differ depending on whether they have passed or failed.”(Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 97) At the end of each semester is exam week, in which students complete an exam for the majority of the units they study. This exam will often contribute a large portion of their overall mark. These exams can take many different forms, including multiple choice, essay, practical and presentation. In my games programming unit, the summative assessment is in the form of an essay style exam, a practical based assessment and a formal presentation; by assessing using multiple approaches I ensure a variety of learning preferences are covered.

While designing an assessment it is important to consider if the assessment is appropriate, for example, using an essay based task to assess a practical task would be inappropriate. There are seven factors to consider when designing an assessment; these are validity, reliability, practicality, authenticity, transparency, fairness and equity.


The validity of an assessment is how accurately the assessment measures the relevant performance of students. The primary focus of validity is whether the assessment measures what it is intended to measure, this will include if the assessment is appropriate for the criteria, the students and the education level. The validity of all formal assessments that I produce must be first verified by an internal verifier and then an external verifier to ensure the suitability of the assessment being proposed.

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“If a particular assessment were totally reliable, assessors acting independently using the same criteria and mark scheme would come to exactly the same judgement about a given piece of work.”(Rust, 2001, p. 2) While I teach on the Higher National Certificate (HNC), there is a clear example of how this reliability is assured, the course leader and I will independently mark the same piece of work and review the differences between the feedback and grade awarded, known as marking standardisation. This ensures that the assessment is reliable as two independent assessors have made the same judgement of work completed based on the assessment brief.

Fairness and Equity

“Each AO [Awarding Organisation] has specific provision for learners with SEND [Special Educational Needs and Disability]”,(Machin, Hindmarch, Murray, & Richardson, 2016, p. 91) it is essential that “an assessment should not discriminate between learners, other than on grounds of the ability that is being assessed.”(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 108)

During preparation for exam week I always ensure students complete a mock exam, this will hopefully reduce the stress level of students who may not perform well in a stressful environment. This is also the ideal opportunity to demonstrate the marking process, clearly illustrating the grading criteria. This will ensure all students are working towards the same goal within the exam and are not going off topic due to exam stress.

It is very important that all students are using the same computer hardware and software in the exam environment, while also being the same hardware and software that the student is familiar with during regular lessons. In all the exams conducted by educational establishments additional time is provided for those students that require it, such as students with dyslexia, other reasonable adjustments are also available where applicable, such as readers, scribes and signers, for students who have difficulty reading the question, writing an answer and those with hearing impairments respectively.


“Assessment is always a balancing act between what is practical – and affordable – and giving learners the best learning and assessment environment in order to succeed”.(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 93) In an ideal world each student would be assessed using multiple real world projects that exactly mimic what would be required of them once they achieve the qualification. Unfortunately, it is not practical to implement this kind of assessment due to the time duration for the assessment, the time limitation to make such an assessment, having multiple real work projects that fully assess to meet the unit criteria and the cost of implementing such an assessment would be unrealistic. It is important that the assessments “do not make unreasonable demands on the time and resources available”(SQA, 2018)

A theoretical approach to increasing an assessments validity and sufficiency would be to increase the number of assessments and cover sections of the topic from multiple perspectives using multiple assessment approaches. This would make the assessment less practical as the amount of work would increase for already stretched students and assessors.

(Video) Theories, Principles and Models of Assessment


It is essential that “the work assessed should be the learner’s own”.(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 109) In the event that work submitted for a summative assessment is not the work of a student and this is not discovered, the student may receive a qualification for which they do not hold the necessary skills, this could result in a life or death situation in many industries. For example, if a student in one of my classes goes on to work with computer hardware but doesn’t have the necessary health and safety skills that their qualification suggests, they could put themselves and others in serious danger.

All work submitted by students is checked with a plagiarism checker to verify that if the student has stolen any work from other sources it is highlighted, ensuring the authenticity of the piece of work. During exams the student must present their ID card, the photo is then checked to ensure the correct student is taking the exam, based on the exam register.

Another aspect of the authenticity of an assessment is how relevant the assessment is to the real world task. Many of the assessments that I create are based on scenarios that I have created from real world events, often tasks I have had to perform while working in industry. If the unit lends itself, students will need to find a real world client and complete a project for this client. The students greatly benefit from this client based project as they are conducting a project in exactly the same manner as if they were employed to do so.


The sufficiency factor of an assessment is that “the evidence is enough to prove competence”,(Ollin & Tucker, 2008, p. 45) this is an essential element of assessment as without this factor the assessment is largely irrelevant to real life. “Whilst sufficiency ensures that the teacher or assessor can be certain a learner is competent, it also means that learners are not dependent on one occasion only to demonstrate their competency.”(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 111) This avoids the risk of students performing badly on a particular day due to having a bad day; this can also assist the fairness aspect of assessments as one student may be having an issue that day that will not affect any other student completing the assessment.


The transparency aspect of assessments applies to “learners, teachers and external organisations such as Ofsted.”(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 92) It is essential that students are provided with the grading criteria and are “well aware of the standards expected of them to gain particular awards”(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 92). It is essential that the marker marks the assessment following the transparent marking criteria. “You therefore need to be able to explicitly refer to the agreed criteria in your feedback so that it is clear why the mark has been awarded.”(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 92) Each assessment that I produce for my students includes the marking criteria within the assessment brief. These criteria include the grade boundaries and requirements for each of the grades, this makes it completely clear how I will mark the assessment and what is required from the student in the assessment.

Models of Learning

Many of the learning models have varying forms of assessment or assessment that may be more applicable. The behaviourist approach suits assessment that demonstrates a clear and observable change in behaviour. A multiple choice exam would be most suitable to a behaviourist approach due to the clear right or wrong approach to answers. While using a cognitive approach the “assessment is concerned with testing the ability to interpret and structure information and to engage in reasoned thought”.(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 190) A clear example of this is during a Maths assessment; the end result may be incorrect, however, the methods implemented are correct, as a result some marks can be awarded. This is exactly the same in a programming exam, the program may not function due to a typo but if the student has made use of the correct techniques and algorithms, the majority of marks can still be awarded. During a humanistic approach “the emphasis shifts towards a consideration of learners themselves, their characteristics and how these influence the learning that takes place”,(Gould & Roffey-Barentsen, 2014, p. 205) as a result an Ipsative assessment may be more suitable. “Ipsative assessment means an assessor makes comparisons with a learner’s previous work to record progress and this enables learners from all backgrounds to achieve an academic ‘personal best’.” (Hughes, 2017) In the past I have utilised an Ipsative assessment approach while teaching workshop classes. These classes were an opportunity for students to complete work, there was no criteria for this unit. The primary rule for students in my class was that I didn’t mind what they worked on as long as it was productive and they made progress, this was assessed by student and lecturer agreed smart targets that were checked at the end of each session.

(Video) Theories, principles and models in education and training

This blog has been included by Twinkl among their blogs that all trainee teachers should be following.

Gould, J., & Roffey-Barentsen, J. (2014). Achieving your diploma in education and training (1st ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Hughes, D. G. (2017, March 16). Ipsative assessment: motivating students through recording feedback and progress over time. Retrieved from Queen Mary University of London:

Machin, L., Hindmarch, D., Murray, S., & Richardson, T. (2016). A Complete Guide to the Level 5 Diploma in Education & Training (Second Edition ed.). St Albans: Critical Publishing.

Ollin, R., & Tucker, J. (2008). The NVQ Assessor, Verifier and Candidate Handbook. (4. Editor, Ed.) London: Kogan Page.

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Rust, C. (2001). Purposes and Principles of Assessment. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University.

Smith, M. (1996). Competence and competencies. Retrieved from The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education:


SQA. (2018, 6 6). What is good assessment? Retrieved from SQA Academy:


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