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Teaching Toolkit

An Introduction to Assessment

Assessment is the process of defining, selecting, designing, collecting, analysing, interpreting, and using information to increase students’ learning and development

 ERWIN, 1991

Assessment is a major part of any student’s academic life and shapes what they learn and how they will learn it (Biggs & Tang, 2007). Its myriad roles include: selecting, controlling, or motivating students; satisfying expectations; providing formative feedback; accountability; grading; and determining the extent of learning.

Assessment does more than allocate a grade or degree classification to students – it plays an important role in focusing their attention and, as Sainsbury & Walker (2007) observe, actually drives their learning. Gibbs (2003) states that Assessment has 6 main functions: 

  1. Capturing student time and attention
  2. Generating appropriate student learning activity
  3. Providing timely feedback to which students pay attention
  4. Helping students to internalise the discipline’s standards and notions of equality 
  5. Generating marks or grades which distinguish between students or enable pass/fail decisions to be made
  6. Providing evidence for others outside the course to enable them to judge the appropriateness of standards on the course 

Learn More  

This topic is explored in greater depth in the Assessment and Feedback section of this website.

Video - Introduction to Assessment

Watch our short presentation of tips and techniques for assessment from our Teaching Toolkit Thursday series of webinars:


  • Erwin, T. D. (1991) Assessing Student Learning and Development: A Guide to the Principles, Goals, and Methods of Determining College Outcomes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university Maidenhead. Berkshire, UK: McGraw-Hill Education
  • Sainsbury, E. J., & Walker, R. (2007). Same words, different meanings: Learning to talk the scientific language of pharmacy. Sydney University Press
  • Gibbs, G. (2003). Using assessment to support student learning at University of East Anglia. Leeds, UK: Leeds Metropolitan University.