Informal assessment comes in a variety of forms, each one with a specific strength in providing a clear picture of the functioning of a child. Types include observation, checklists, rating scales, rubrics, teacher-designed instruments, and performance-based instruments.

Observation is a valuable tool for assessing many types of development in students. With young children, observation can give the teacher a clear picture of, for example, the child’s motor or language development. Emerging skills can be noted as well as skills already mastered. Teachers routinely use observation as they are teaching new skills to their students when they walk around the room and see how students are progressing with their assignments, or as they ask questions as the lesson progress.

Checklists are often referred to as scope and sequence of skills measures. A checklist is merely a list of the learning objectives for a particular age, grade or subject matter. The teacher checks off each skill as the student exhibits proficiency in that area. Many checklists are teacher-made, while others may be standardized. They are completed with a negative or positive response; the student either knows the material or does not.

Rating scales are similar to checklists, but they provide additional information into developing skills and can more easily monitor progress. A rating scale evaluates a student on a continuum showing progress towards mastery rather than only mastery at the end. Areas covered by a rating scale are usually the learning objectives for that particular age or grade.

Rubrics are designed to evaluate performance skills. They include a range of criteria-like rating scales, but also include indicators for determining quality of a performance of a particular skill. They are especially useful in areas such as creative writing, where there is no right or wrong answer.

Teacher-designed measures include any method developed by a teacher to assess children that does not clearly fall into another category. Teachers of young children often use concrete tasks or oral questioning to assess their students. Most teachers incorporate assessments into their instruction and other learning experiences. Games and other learning activities can be used for learning and assessment. For older children, paper-and-pencil tasks are most often used for assessment.

Performance-based assessments include ways of assessing children’s work as they are proceeding with it rather than isolating assessment from the actual work. Performance assessments may include child interviews. The dialogue with the child during the interview may reveal the child’s thinking and understanding about concepts being studied. Portfolios are another way of collecting performance data in a systematic way. Student work samples, along with all other information collected, are put together in a central portfolio that can display the child’s progress over a longer period of time.

Additional Resources

STANDARD 8 - Communication
The competent teacher understands various formal and informal assessment strategies and uses them to support the continuous development of all students.   Standard 8 Indicators

Download and evaluate a rubric for assessing learning in a subject you might teach.


When do you see teachers use formative vs. summative evaluation?

Engaged Learning Indicators