Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 18 June, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Formative assessment

core definition

Formative assessment is evaluation of student learning that aids understanding and development of knowledge, skills and abilities without passing any final judgement (via recorded grade) on the level of learning.

explanatory context


analytical review

For the University of Warwick (2011), formative assessment is:

Coursework which does not contribute to final degree classification, but is undertaken for developmental purposes. Formative assignments, essays or presentations may be required of students in order for staff to provide them with feedback prior to students undertaking a piece of assessed work which counts towards the student’s degree classification.

The University of Reading (2011) defines formative assessment as follows:

Formative assessment is that which takes place during the module. Students receive feedback which should identify their strengths and weaknesses and help them to develop strategies for improving their performance.


The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) (2009) states:

Formative assessment is used to identify future learning needs and gaps in learning. It can also identify an individual’s support needs. The results of formative assessment will be used to set learning goals and success criteria, and to provide feedback to learners. Feedback should always be direct and constructive, and should provide information to learners on their next steps. To be effective, feedback needs to be given promptly so that learners can take account of it in their learning. This provides motivation, which is a crucial element in helping individuals to become successful learners. Delayed feedback can cease to have meaning to the learner. (SQA, 2009, p. 4).


For Wojtczak (2002):

Formative assessment is testing that is part of the developmental or ongoing teaching/learning process. It should include delivery of feedback to the student.


The UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) (2006) states:

Formative assessment has a developmental purpose and is designed to help learners learn more effectively by giving them feedback on their performance and on how it can be improved and/or maintained. Reflective practice by students sometimes contributes to formative assessment.

The UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) (undated) states:

Feedback on students' performance, designed to help them learn more effectively and find ways to maintain and improve their progress. It does not contribute to the final mark, grade or class of degree awarded to the student.

The University of South Australia (2011) states:

Formative assessment helps students and staff to identify strengths, weaknesses and ways to improve and enhance learning attainment. Formative assessment is intended to improve outcomes rather than determine a final grade/mark. It may include (but is not limited to) examinations, written assignments, quizzes, reports, discussions or tests.

associated issues

related areas

See also

assessment [of quality]

assessment of student learning

assessment of teaching

summative assessment


Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), 2006, Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, Section 6: Assessment of students, Second Edition September 2006, available at, accessed 2 February 2011, not available 18 July 2012.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 3 January 2017, not available 20 June 2019.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), 2009, Guide to Assessment, November 2009 edition, Glasgow, Scottish Qualifications Authority, available at, accessed 18 July 2012, page not available 3 January 2017..

University of Reading, 2005, A Guidance Note on Providing Students with Feedback on their Performance, Approved by the University Board for Teaching and Learning on 8 June 2000 and revised by the Board on 24 February 2005.

University of South Australia, 2011, General Definitions available at, accessed 23 July 2012, still available 3 January 2017, not available 26 June 2019.

University of Warwick, 2011, Course Specifications: Glossary of Terms relating to Course Specifications, last revised 18 October 2011 , accessed 18 July 2012, still available 26 June 2019.

Wojtczak, A., 2002, Glossary of Medical Education Terms,, December, 2000, Revised February 2002, accessed 2 September 2012, page not available 30 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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