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Student assessment: more than just the examination

Student assessment is about more than just examination results. Have you ever thought of assessment as being part of the learning process? By combining effective feedback with the appropriate forms of assessment and examination, you will contribute to your students’ learning.

Illustration of four people communicating
Illustration of four people communicating

Formative and summative assessment – two ways of promoting your students’ learning

In an educational context, we draw a distinction between so-called formative and summative assessment. 

  • Formative assessment involves accumulating a continuous assessment of a student’s work by guiding him or her while the learning process is taking place. 
  • Summative assessment entails an assessment of a student’s learning at the end of a course of study in a given subject. An examination is a form of summative assessment that has the aim of demonstrating the learning a student has acquired in relation to desired learning outcomes. 

But does the learning process really end on the date of the examination?

The work towards an examination and exam results also provide the student with important knowledge in terms of further work with their curriculum, future examination situations and reflections about their own learning strategies. Regarding continuous and summative assessments as integral parts of the learning process gives us the opportunity to provide a more holistic learning experience for the student, while at the same time harmonising with our understanding that learning is a continuous and lifelong process.

 Before choosing how to assess your students, ask yourself the following questions

  • Is the form of examination fit for purpose? 
  • Does the form of assessment enable me to determine whether the student has achieved the desired learning outcomes? 
  • Are my approaches to teaching and assessment in harmony with desired learning outcomes? 
  • Will your selected form of examination be able to distinguish between different levels of performance? 
  • Have you made sure that there is variation in examination type for different subjects? 
  • Is your assessment strategy in line with prevailing statutory regulations and guidelines? 

In his book ‘Eksamensrevolusjonen’ (The Examination Revolution), published in 2019, Arild Raaheim offers us a series of examples of innovative thinking on the topic of examination types. The University of Bergen has compiled a list that enables the reader to examine these examples in greater detail. 
Don’t forget to check the regulations governing courses and examinations to see what forms of assessment can be used at USN. 

Some advice about effective feedback

Targeted learning combined with focused feedback are crucial to positive learning outcomes (Ambrose et al., 2010). For this reason, emphasis should be placed on extensive ‘training’ and continuous assessment. As a teacher, you must be clear about your assessment criteria and have a well thought out strategy for the kinds of feedback you intend to give, including how and when it should be given. 
When you give feedback as part of continuous assessment, always remember the following:

  • Tell the student where he or she stands in terms of desired goals, and what the student has to do to improve.
  • Avoid saying that this or that is right or wrong; don’t talk about passing and failing.
  • Lean towards feedback focused on specific goals or work-related criteria. 
  • The amount and frequency of feedback is key to a student’s learning process.

Portfolio assessment: feedback and learning throughout the term

Portfolio assessment is a collective term for educational approaches that make use of digital portfolios to gather, present, share, assess and develop a student’s work. Active participation and subsequent reflection on the part of the student with regard to choice, degrees of openness and work progress are key factors for the success of this approach. 
Portfolio assessment may entail work about which the student receives feedback while it is in progress, giving him or her the opportunity to develop and work towards a summative assessment date. Portfolios can be organised in different ways. In situations involving several assignments, you might encourage the student to participate in selecting which of the assignments shall be subject to assessment. In his book, Raaheim points out that a portfolio assessment should always include notes, written by the student and supplementary to his or her answers, reflecting on how he or she feels about their work with the portfolio approach.

Self-assessment and peer assessment; student participation in the assessment process

All students should also be in a position to assess their own work. Boude et al. (2018) emphasised the need for students to develop an ability to assess the quality of their own work, and that of their peers, and to meet their future learning needs. Learning to make judgements on the quality of their own and others’ work demands an understanding of both standards and quality. The authors point out that it is common to criticise traditional assessment design for being unidirectional and passivising, in that it simply contributes towards rendering students unable to apply quality criteria to their own work. For this reason alone, the development of an ability for self- and peer assessment should be a stated aim during teaching and assignment design. This kind of work also requires training. 
Read more about how you can facilitate peer assessment in Canvas. 

When examinations are taken digitally

In the case of digital examinations, a number of opportunities are available when students take such examinations at home. The time permitted may extend from a few hours to several days. It may be possible to submit one or several files. As is stated in Norwegian statutory regulations governing examinations, the various forms of examinations may be employed either individually, or in combination. The following are a few examples: 

  • A digital examination taken at home, involving the submission of files (including hand drawings) using the Wiseflow system. 
  • Quiz/multiple choice test. There may be many variations on this theme, including tests with or without time limits, one or more sets of exercises, varying orders of questions, etc. 
    • Example of a time-limited multiple choice test
    • Experiences of multiple choice tests in Radiography
    • Webinar on the advanced use of multiple choice tests
  • Oral examinations can be carried out on an individual basis, as a group examination, as the only form of examination in a given subject, or as one of many constituent parts. Oral examinations at USN can be taken digitally using the video conferencing tool ‘Zoom’.
    • Online oral examinations using Zoom

Are you looking for support?

The Examinations Unit at USN is ready to provide you with any practical assistance you may need when it comes to designing examinations in Wiseflow.
eDU can help you in a variety of different ways to switch to a digital examination design. Take a look at our resources and case examples here in these pages. eDU can also assist employees and academic groups that need or want to discuss the various options available for developing relevant student assignments and assessment design in connection such a switch. Contact us if you’re looking for guidance or someone to discuss things with.



  • Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, C., Norman M. K. (2010). How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. Jossey-Bass. 
  • Raaheim, A. (2019). Eksamensrevolusjonen: Råd og tips om eksamen og alternative vurderingsformer. (2.utgave). Gyldendal.  
  • Tai, J., Aijawi, R., Boud, D., Dawson, P., Pandero, E. (2018). Developing evaluative judgement: enabling students to make decisions about the quality of work. Higher Education, 76, 467-481.