More effective learning through (digital) formative assessment

More effective learning through (digital) formative assessment

In testing, you often think of taking examinations for the purpose of certification or receiving a diploma. This is called summative assessment. In addition to summative assessment, there is also formative assessment in which feedback is used to stimulate the development and growth of the participant. This blog discusses various aspects that determine the learning outcomes and benefits of digital formative assessment.

More effective learning (digital) formative assessment

What is formative assessment?

Formative assessment is testing in advance or in between, in order to see which components the participant does or does not master. The aim is to shape the learning process. In this way, what has been learnt can ultimately be optimally applied in practice (transfer).

Because formative assessments are intended to visualise the participant’s progress, these tests are taken more often than a summative assessment. Only through regular testing will you get a good picture of the participant’s development.

Moreover, with formative assessments you are not stuck to fixed standards, which makes testing fun for many people. For many trainers, lecturers and course members, this is a great advantage. In addition, formative assessment can contribute to good learning performance.

Which aspects determine learning performance?

  • The training or course is relevant if it matches the level of the participant. The participant can apply the acquired knowledge directly in the work field.
  • Already during the training, the participant feels increasingly competent and self-confident to apply what he has learned.
  • Participants consider the training to be of good quality and have confidence in the trainer’s capabilities.
  • The organisation stimulates that what has been learned is applied in practice.

More effective learning through (digital) formative assessment

The added value of formative assessment

Formative assessment provides added value in the first three aspects. Three specific applications are: baseline measurement, practice assignments and feedback. We briefly explain these, partly with examples from digital testing.

1. Baseline measurement

A baseline measurement prior to the training or education enables you to determine the participant’s proficiency level. Based on this, you can adjust the course content or change the group composition. This increases the likelihood that the training is relevant to the participant and also gives him or her more self-confidence to actually apply what has been learnt. In addition, the participant is more likely to experience the training as positive, because it matches his or her level. See the practical example of the effects of a baseline measurement.

Practical example baseline measurement - English language training

Prior to a language course in English, the participant’s level is identified so that the group can be subdivided according to level. Suppose there are four participants, all of whom undergo a baseline measurement. The measurement consists of speaking skills, in which film clips are offered using a digital testing system. The student responds to this via a webcam, after which the recordings are assessed by the teacher.

This measurement shows that 2 participants are at B1 level and 2 at C1 level. Based on this measurement, 2 (!) separate groups will be created. This might be more expensive but is very functional. Everyone gets the training that suits his/her level. The feedback after the training was very positive and candidates saw their command of English greatly improve.

2. Practice exercises

Exercise assignments give participants confidence in themselves, which can make a positive contribution to the image with regard to the quality of the programme. Especially in the case of skills, it pays to stimulate practice. See the practical example about drawing up a balance sheet.

Practical example exercise assignments – drawing up a balance sheet

During Business Economics lessons, the skill ‘drawing up a balance sheet’ is tested. Participants can practice this through digital testing. Because the practice questions are in the digital system, a new test composition is created when the exercise is repeated. This happens until the participant feels prepared. The practice questions can be assessed on the basis of a given example answer. The answers are only visible after completion of the test.

3. Feedback

In case of formative assessment, the participant is informed afterwards of his or her level of proficiency. Specific points for improvement are also revealed.

Mastering certain competencies creates self-confidence. It also gives you direction for the future. You know which things you do not yet master sufficiently and what you need to focus on.

The provision of feedback can be particularly relevant for digital testing. After the test, the participant immediately hears which learning objectives he or she has mastered and which he or she has not.

Why digital formative assessment?

Digital testing offers more opportunities for formative assessment. A typical characteristic of digital testing is the diversity of test forms. Think of a test in which a participant answers questions on the basis of film and sound fragments. This can also be used to map out attitudes and competencies, such as views on how best to communicate, sell something or manage something.

Digital testing also makes assessment easier. Think of a simple distribution of questions and the possibility to give feedback at the right time.


Formative assessment is of added value in order to increase the learning result and transfer, motivate participants and create even more customised training programmes and courses.

Education, training and examination within the business world is of course a costly and time-consuming affair. It is important to shape these efforts in a targeted way and also to keep the participants motivated.

Especially if you combine formative assessment with summative assessment, it results in a better examination result! Digital testing systems can also be very useful for formative assessment. It makes testing more feasible and relevant. When will you start to apply formative assessment?

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