Alternative summative assessments

Alternative Summative Assessments

Formative assessment typically monitors student learning in order to provide ongoing feedback. This approach allows instructors to improve their teaching by being able to clearly see what learners are not understanding, and also allows learners to improve their learning by identifying where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Difficulty: 2/5





Core Competency Connection

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Sketch of chief mountain on an ammolite gradient background
Sketch of a raven on a blue gradient background




Prepare an explanation of the assessment as well as a rubric for learners to help guide them

The Process

1. Portfolio of Work

A summative portfolio focuses on the product or end result of learners’ comprehension. This can be done online as an e-portfolio or a physical piece of work.

  • Learners develop portfolios in order to demonstrate the evolution of their work over the course of the semester.
  • Learners are typically asked to compile their best/most representative work and write a brief introduction to each piece and a final written piece about their entire learning experience in the course (Ryerson)

2. Podcast

A podcast is an audio narrative that uses audio recording to capture learner self-expression and analytical skills in creative ways. A podcast can be done individually (a voice memo) or collaboratively (conducting interviews). Learners can also submit a script alongside their podcast to show their learning (Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning)

3. Annotated bibliography

Rather than ask learners to write a research paper, ask them instead to compile a bibliography using literature on a course topic. In essence they do everything but write the paper. They must read the works, evaluate their accuracy and helpfulness, and provide an explanatory introduction to the bibliography (from Anna Livia Braun, French). Each entry contains an explanatory and/or evaluative paragraph. Learners develop skills in locating relevant literature, analyzing the quality of articles, understanding the arguments being made, and summarizing them in a brief description. (Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning) (Berkeley Ceter for Teaching & Learning)

4. Poster sessions (with peer critique)

Have learners create a visual poster on the culmination of their learning in the course or one one specific outcome(s) that is equivalent to a term paper. The posters will be put up and learners can walk around critiqueing each others posters. (Taylor Institue for Teaching and Learning) The presenter may deliver a short informal talk or conduct a demonstration. Generally it is an informal arrangement where much of the time is taken up with queries & answers. (IASA)


Berkely Center for Teaching & Learning. (n.d.) Alternatives to traditional testing.

International Assocation of Sound and Audiovisual Archies (IASA). (n.d.). What is a poster session?

Ryerson University Learning & Teaching Office. (2018). Best practices in alternative assessments [PDF file].

Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Alternative assessments for an online learning environment. University of Calgary.

CTLI Staff

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