Assessment Versus Evaluation

Quick post here to create some clarity and some common language around:

1. Assessment and evaluation

2. How to differentiate between the assessment and evaluation

3. Clarifying some supporting terms including: metrics, measures, standards, indicators, outcomes and more.

To create clarity, defined terms will be shown in ALL CAPS.


Essentially, assessment is the act of measuring.

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Whereas, evaluation is the act of making meaning from one’s measurements.

​​Assessment is essentially the process of measuring the current level of a METRIC (a component of anything you want to evaluate) often using one or more INDICATORS (smaller things you can observe that give you evidence of the state of the targeted metric) associated with a given state of being.

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​​Assessments are often measuring intended outcomes by looking at predetermined METRICS and often sub-sets of INDICATORS of those metrics. ​​​

INDICATORS are observable evidence, information, data relating to a given METRIC. ​​INDICATORS often range in levels in relation to a “standard.” They might be the basis for the language describing different levels of performance on a rubric, for example.

​​The STANDARD would be the desired level of performance as shown by indicators in relation to a given metric.

A STANDARD could also be the minimum desired outcome, goal or objective in relation to a given METRIC. ​​​​Assessments can take place through a variety of quantitative and qualitative MEASURES.

MEASURES are the ways, means or sometimes the tools used to conduct assessment(s).​​ E.g. surveys, tests, rubrics, questions, interviews, observations, experimentation and more.

That is ASSESSMENT in-a-nutshell. What about EVALUATION?

EVALUATION, on the other hand, would be the act of interpreting the data gained from assessments (measurements) to derive inferences, conclusions, judgments, relationships – both correlations and also possibly causal relationships. Evaluation can also be used to attempt to determine something’s merit or value (from the data gained through assessments.)

So again, in short, assessing is the act of measuring using a variety of measures. Evaluation is the act of making meaning from one’s measurements.

The result of assessment is a bunch of data.

The results of evaluation would include data-derived / data-informed judgments, inferences, conclusions, relationships value propositions and possibly implications for actions (recommendations / next steps).

An example of an assessment for a writing task might sound like:

“The results of your writing assessment show that you made four attempts at writing a topic sentence, three of which were at standard, one of which was below the standard because it didn’t capture the main idea of your third paragraph.”

That’s the observable data; that’s the assessment. On the other hand, if I were to say:

AND SO, overall, you’re a strong persuasive writer who needs to work on ______.”

That’s the evaluation. It would the "and so..." statements. It would be the "therefore..." statements derived from considering the data from our assessments.

During assessments, one should attempt to measure accurately , and one should try to withhold “judgment” until one carefully reviews all the data gained from that which one had assessed. Withholding judgment during assessment and data reviews helps prevent faulty conclusions that can occur when we race up the “Ladder of Inference” too quickly.

What's the Ladder of Inference? Well, let's do a little activity together. Take a look at the image below and in the box below list what you're noticing.

First, we gather our data, and then we can climb the ladder with evidence to support our claims, judgments, recommendations and more.​​

One could conduct assessments and never take the step to make sense of the data to judge, evaluate and/or derive meaning from it.

One could also take the next step to make evaluations and then never take the next action to share those evaluations in a way that's positive and geared towards growth. (How to offer assessment feedback and evaluative feedback WELL deserves its own blog.)

In terms of when assessment and evaluation occur. Assessment can be diagnostic, formative and/or summative. Evaluation or “meaning-making” can occur in the face of data derived from assessments done diagnostically, formatively or summatively.

Hope this helps clarify some of the differences between assessment and evaluation. Both are important and play friendly in the sandbox.

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Interested in how to design a Balanced Assessment Plan for a unit or a PBL experience (Project Based Learning) that you're designing? Click here to see our FREE resources (free, easy sign-in required) for Balanced Assessment Planning and dozens of protocols for assessment!

Related Blog:

One Student's Perspective on Grading and "Going Gradeless," authored by Jess Sloan, one of our Learner-Perspective Coaches.

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Visit our Services Page to learn more about our immersive workshop on Balanced Assessment Planning.

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