Advantages and Disadvantages of Assessment in Inquiry Based Learning

There are advantages and disadvantages when using assessment strategies for IBL. Possible advantages and disadvantages include, but are not limited to the following:

1. Pre-Assessment


  • Pre-assessments can be used to develop essential questions and measure individual student’s prior knowledge.
  • Pre-assessment provides the teacher a window into students’ understanding of content that will be explored.


  • Pre-assessment results may be limited as a result of the pre-assessment strategy used and whether or not the educator assessed the class as a whole.

2. Teacher Observations/Anecdotal Records


  • Observation provides students with feedback and ensures their learning meets curricular outcomes.
  • Anecdotal records offer ways of recording aspects of students’ learning that may not be identified by other techniques (Saskatchewan Education, 1991, p. 69).


  • Educators need to be aware of their own biases and assumptions as their judgments influence their observations and anecdotal records.
  • Anecdotal records can be difficult to manage due to the documentation and commitment of time needed to observe each student.

3. Effective Questioning


  • Employing effective questioning strategies introduces and increases students’ critical thinking skills (Harlen, 2000, pp. 88, 91).


  • When using effective questioning an educator must have an understanding of how to ask effective questions (Harlen, 2000, pp. 91, 92).

4. Peer and Self-Assessments


  • Peer and self-assessment empowers students and promotes further learning as students have the opportunity to assess their own learning and provide meaningful feedback to peers.
  • Through peer and self-assessment “Students learn the expectations concerning their work in greater depth” (Saskatchewan Education, 1991, p. 59).


  • Students may find peer-assessment difficult due to the competitive or individualized nature of some schools (Macdonald, 2005, p. 89).
  • Students may find self-assessment difficult due to having to make judgments about their work (Macdonald, 2005, p. 90).
  • The value in these types of assessments depends on students’ understandings of how to peer and self-assess and the criteria-referenced guidelines students are given.

5. Portfolios


  • Using portfolios allows for student choice and encourages student reflection (Saskatchewan Education, 1991, p. 65).
  • Assignments have been collected over a period of time therefore portfolios are an effective tool for measuring students’ growth.
  • Portfolios demonstrate the partnership that should exist between formative and summative assessment.
  • Portfolios allow students choice of the work they want to have evaluated.


  • Portfolios may be time consuming as some students’ work may lack clarity therefore the educator will need to take time to conference with students.
  • Using portfolios can be difficult to manage and assess if they are not well designed (Macdonald, 2005, p. 89).

6. Checklists


  • Checklists can be given to students to assist them throughout the inquiry.
  •  Checklists can be used for ensuring the integration of relevant vocabulary, productive group collaboration, and assessing understanding of content.
  • Allows the educator and students to use the same checklist so expectations are clearly defined and understood.
  • Affords the teacher the flexibility to use checklists in various contexts of the inquiry.


  • If the requirements on the checklist are too vague it may affect the observations of the teacher (Saskatchewan Education, 1991, p. 73).

7. Rating Scales


  • Rating scales can provide students with structure and guidance for their inquiry.
  • Rating scales foster student empowerment because students have agency to choose which area of the rating scale they want to attain.


  • Rating scales have the potential to limit student learning and creativity due to their constricting nature.
  • Educator biases may appear throughout the rating scale if the educator does not consult with colleagues and students.


Harlen, W. (2000). Assessment in the Inquiry Classroom, 87-97. Retrieved from

Macdonald, R. (2005).  Assessment Strategies For Enquiry and Problem-Based Learning. In T. Barrett, I. Mac Labhrainn, H. Fallon (Eds.), Handbook of Enquiry & Problem Based Learning (pp. 85-93). Retrieved from

Saskatchewan Education. (1991). Student Evaluation: A Teacher Handbook, 1-120. Retrieved from,88,Documents&MediaID=10895&Filename=eval1991.pdf


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