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As learning progresses, teachers use subtle methods to track how much students know and to discover any challenges learners have with the subject. These subtle methods are best described as informal assessments and make up an essential part of course evaluation.

Unlike formal evaluation, informal assessment methods do not use standard grading criteria, hence, they are described as low-stake. Here, the teacher uses straw polls, exit surveys, and flashcards to determine how much students know. 

Use this guide to learn about different informal assessment methods and how to create online educational assessments with Formplus

What is an Informal Assessment? 

An informal assessment is spontaneous. It is a method of evaluation where the instructor tests participants' knowledge using no standard criteria or rubric. This means that there is no spelled-out evaluation guide. Rather, the instructor simply asks open-ended questions and observes students' performances to determine how much they know. 

If informal assessments are not concerned with grading students, then what are they about? It's simple—feedback. Data from these evaluations help the instructor make ongoing adjustments to create better learning experiences for participants. 

Simultaneously, teachers depend on these pieces of information to plan out standard testing, aka formal assessments. For example, during an English class, the teacher observes that students find summary-writing challenging. They pay more attention to this area during the course and then set a formal summary writing test at the end of the day. 

Examples of Informal Assessments

  1. Quizzes
  2. Projects
  3. Portfolios
  4. Observation
  5. Oral Presentation

Quizzes

A quiz is a quick-fire method of evaluating what students know about a subject. Quizzes or tests can happen at any point in the lesson, including before kick-off and after the instructor covers substantial knowledge grounds. 

Often, teachers use quizzes to improve class participation. A standard method is to split students into groups and ask them questions in turns. The group with the highest score at the end wins the quiz and earns bragging rights plus some other reward. 

So how do you design classroom quizzes? Most times, it's best to ask close-ended questions that students can respond to fast. There are several ways to do this—you can ask multiple-choice questions with radio options or checkboxes or choose dichotomous questions. 

It's not uncommon for people to use quizzes and tests interchangeably, although they are pretty different. Unlike a quiz, tests are a more standardized assessment method—you can think of them as mini exams. The instructor evaluates test papers using a rubric, and these scores are part of the final grading. 

Examples of Quiz Questions 

1. How many continents are in the world? 

  • 1
  • 5
  • 7
  • 10

2. Australia and Africa are examples of planets.

  • Yes
  • No  

Advantages of Using Quizzes in Classroom Assessment. 
  1. Because quizzes are fun and fast, students are more excited to take part in this process. 
  2. It exposes students to new subject areas. 
Disadvantages of Using Quizzes in Classroom Assessment
  1. Quizzes are fast-paced and do not give room for detailed feedback. 
  2. It can demotivate students easily. 

Projects

A school project is a creative task that requires students to use their knowledge from the classroom and engagement with the real world in answering complex questions. For example, students can be asked to conduct a mini-survey at home and present their findings to others. 

Depending on the project’s structure, the teacher can assign group tasks or ask each individual to engage with the project independently. For example, in a drama class, students may have to work with others to produce a mini-play.  

School projects allow students to develop deep knowledge on the subject and relevant skills like critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.

Examples of School Projects 
  1. Ask students to write a sample letter to the President inviting him for their presentation. 
  2. Ask students to grow a plant at home and bring it to school. 
  3. As part of civic education, you can ask students to do some charity work for the elderly in their community and share their experiences in class. 
Benefits of School Projects 
  1. As students engage in projects, they learn life skills outside of the classroom, such as collaboration and communication. 
  2. It helps students to understand how their classroom knowledge fits into the real world. 
Disadvantages of School Projects
  1. It is time-consuming and better-suited for formal assessment.
  2. Students may not have access to the resources needed for the project. 

Portfolio

As learning progresses, the instructor may require students to build up a portfolio. This is essentially a "snapshot" of each student's knowledge and provides evidence of their experiences, strengths, and weaknesses. 

The instructor asks students to present their portfolios at different points until the learning period for informal assessments. This way, the instructor can give real-time feedback to help individuals improve their knowledge before a formal evaluation. 

As learners create their portfolios and improve them over time, they develop self-awareness, goal-setting, and decision-making skills to help them make the right decisions. 

Examples of Student Portfolios for Informal Assessments
  1. A student can build a portfolio to show the process of a creative project like a novel. 
  2. Students can create a swipe file of their best artworks and pieces. 
Pros of Using Portfolios for Informal Assessment
  1. It helps the instructor to identify any gaps in the student's knowledge and address them on time. 
  2. It promotes positive feedback and encourages teacher-student communication. 
Disadvantages of Using Portfolios for Informal Assessment
  1. It is time-consuming, especially when you're dealing with a large class. 
  2. It is subject to bias. 

Observation 

Observation is one of the most common methods of informal assessment. As the name suggests, it involves paying attention to students as they learn and recording any noticed behavioral pattern. 

Typically, teachers use the observer as a participant method. Here, they subtly observe students' interactions without interference to discover gaps in knowledge and understand any challenges they face. Simultaneously, the instructor looks out for character traits like timidity, charisma, and friendliness.

The most important aspect of observation is keeping records of changes over a period. This allows the instructor to compare a student's performance over the learning period and determine how much progress they have made. 

Advantages of Observation 
  1. Observation is one of the simplest methods of assessing students. It doesn't require too many resources from the instructors or students. 
  2. It provides reliable data for assessment. 
Disadvantages of Observation
  1. Students can adjust their behaviors when they know the instructor is watching. This alters the quality of data from observation. 
  2. Observation is subjective and easily affected by the personal bias of the instructor. 

Oral Presentation 

Oral presentations take different forms. For example, the teacher can organize an impromptu presentation on a specific subject or tell the students to prepare ahead of time. Sometimes, the instructor merges oral presentations with written assignments. 

It's not uncommon for instructors to request extemporaneous speeches from students. Here's a familiar scenario: The teacher calls up a pupil and asks them to recap lessons from a previous class. To make things easier, the instructor might include prompts like: 

  1. The most important thing I learned is…. 
  2. What I did not like about the class was….

In these situations, the student only needs to complete the sentences with their ideas. Oral presentations can also happen within groups like debates. 

Advantages of Oral Presentations
  1. During oral presentations, teachers can provide immediate feedback to every student. The rest of the class also benefit from these feedback sessions. 
  2. It is one of the most effective methods of assessing students. 
  3. Oral presentations are flexible. You can easily adjust them to suit different contexts. 
Disadvantages of Oral Presentations
  1. If you are dealing with a large class, oral presentations are time-consuming. 
  2. Students and teachers need to invest lots of resources to organize oral presentations successfully. 

How to Use Formplus for Online Assessments

Formplus allows you to create quizzes, polls, and questionnaires for informal assessments. With the different field options, you can collect data in multiple formats from your students. 

Here's a simple way to create an informal assessment questionnaire: 

1. Sign up for a free Formplus account here if you don't have one. 

Step 2: Click on the "create new form" button on the dashboard to access the form builder.

Step 3: On the left side of the builder, you'd find a section with multiple field options, including rating scales, long question fields, and advanced fields. To add any of these fields to your form, simply click or drag and drop them into the work area. 

Step 4: Each field has a pencil icon for editing. When you click on this icon, you can add questions or carry out other functions like making the field read-only or compulsory. 


Step 5: Save all changes to access the form customization section. Here, you have access to different functions to help you change the look and feel of your form. You can choose new themes or create custom themes from scratch. 


Step 6: Copy the form link and share it with respondents. If you want more sharing options, go to the form share section and try your hands on a few of them. For example, you can embed the form link on your website or share it as a post on social media with beautiful images.

Benefits/When to Use Informal Assessment 

Informal assessment methods help the instructor monitor the learner's progress throughout the learning period—these different methods build-up to the final formal assessment at the end of the class or session. 

Let's look at some other benefits of informal assessments. 

1. It presents a more accurate picture of a learner's abilities: You've probably heard that examination isn't the actual test of knowledge. Different occurrences can throw a student off balance and ruin their performance during a final evaluation. There are many situations where A-list individuals end up with subpar performances and results. 

With informal assessments, instructors can observe students' progress as they go from one stage to the next. This provides a holistic background for grading knowledge instead of one-off tests. 

2. It takes place in the student's natural learning environment: Since informal assessments happen in the students' natural learning environment, they can engage with different tasks freely. This provides a realistic presentation of their abilities. 

A standardized test or a traditional evaluation tool may not accurately picture the child's knowledge on the flip side. Exams come with a lot of anxiety, and the student might feel scared, anxious, or uncomfortable during a formal assessment, thus skewing the results.

3. Unlike formal assessment, informal assessments require less planning and resources to pull off. The instructor can simply call students up for an impromptu presentation without investing any monetary resources. 

4. It sets the stage for immediate and consistent feedback. Since there's no grading involved, students can improve and apply their knowledge multiple times. 

5. For the instructor, informal assessments like formative evaluation provide meaningful data that informs specific adjustments to their teaching methods. Instead of guesswork, teachers identify the particular challenges students face and adjust their teaching methods to address them. 

Disadvantages of Informal Assessment 

  1. Since there are no formal criteria for evaluation, it can be challenging to measure how much progress a student has made over time. 
  2. Informal assessments are spontaneous, which puts a lot of pressure on both students and teachers. For example, a student who has stage fright might suffer a panic attack when asked to make an impromptu presentation. 
  3. Informal assessments are unpredictable, so these results cannot be used as a standard grading system. 

Conclusion 

The goal of informal assessment is to discover the peculiar learning needs of individual students, and then, create strategies to plug these gaps. Informal assessment methods thrive on two-way feedback—the students get feedback on their performance while teachers get feedback on their instructional methods and the learning curriculum. 

Trying out different informal evaluation methods is the best way to discover what works for your class. You could start with exit surveys and move on to flashcards or polls. Using multiple assessment methods would help you gather data in different formats to improve the learning process.



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