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Types of Assessment There are two general categories of assessments: formal and informal.

Formal assessments have data which support the conclusions made from the test. We usually refer to these types of tests as standardized measures. These tests have been tried before on students and have statistics which support the conclusion such as the student is reading below average for his age. The data is mathematically computed and summarized. Scores such as percentiles and standard scores are mostly commonly given from this type of assessment. Informal assessments are not data driven but rather content and performance driven. For example, running records are informal assessments because they indicate how well a student is reading a specific book. Scores such as 10 correct out of 15, percent of words read correctly, and most rubric scores; are given from this type of assessment. The assessment used needs to match the purpose of assessing. Formal or standardized measures should be used to assess overall achievement, to compare a student's performance with others at their age or grade, or to identify comparable strengths and weaknesses with peers. Informal assessments sometimes referred to as criterion referenced measures or performance based measures, should be used to inform instruction.
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/formal-versus-informal-assessments

Informal and Formal Assessment One way to begin untangling the lexical conundrum created by distinguishing among tests, assessment, and teaching is to distinguish between informal and formal assessment. Informal assessment can take a number of forms, starting with incidental, unplanned comments and responses, along with coaching and other impromptu feedback to the student. Examples include saying 'Nice job!" "Good work!" Did you say can or can't?" "I think you meant to say you broke the glass, not you break the glass," or putting a on some homework. Informal assessment does not stop there. A good deal of a teacher's informal assessment is embedded in classroom tasks designed to elicit performance without recording results and making fixed judgments about a students competence. Examples at this end of the continuum are marginal comments on papers, responding to a draft of an essay, advice about how to better pronounce a word, a suggestion for a strategy for compensating for a reading difficulty, and showing how to modify a students note-taking to better remember the content of a lecture. On the other hand, formal assessments are exercises or procedures specifically designed to tap into a storehouse of skills and knowledge. They are systematic, planned

sampling techniques constructed to give teacher and student an appraisal of student achievement. To extend the tennis analogy, formal assessments are the tournament

games that occur periodically in the course of a regimen of practice. Is formal assessment the same as a test? We can say that all tests are formal assessments, but not all formal assessment is testing. For example, you might use a Student's journal or portfolio of materials as a formal assessment of the attainment of certain course objectives, but it is problematic to call those two procedures tests. A systematic set of observation of a students frequency of oral participation in class is certainly a formal assessment, but it too is hardly what anyone would call a test. Tests are usually relatively time-constrained (usually spanning a class period or at most several hours) and draw on a limited sample of behavior.
Excerpt from Principles and Classroom Practices by H. Douglas Brown Page 5-6

Formal assessments are the conventional method of testing that we are all very familiar with from our school days. Tests and their other aptitude measuring counterparts are classified as formal assessments. These tests are generally used to assess overall

achievement, compare a student's performance to their peers, or find a student's strengths and weaknesses. (Weaver, 2006).

The second form of assessments are called Informal assessments and make up another area of testing that helps teachers to catalogue immediate results from their students. Instead of being driven by data, informal assessments are centered on content and performance. (Weaver, 2006). Since informal assessments make up such a broad and open ended range of assessments there are a great number of different possibilities for assessments that fall under this category. As informal assessments aid the teacher by providing quick answers as to the level of learning and understanding attained by the students writing samples are the first of the informal assessments that will be examined.
Taken from http://voices.yahoo.com/formal-informal-assessments-64269.html?cat=4