Case Study: Diagnostic, formative and summative language assessment


Department of Italian, School of Modern Languages, Faculty of Arts, University of Bristol

Tools used


Mr Andrea Zhok,


To increase opportunities for students to practice specific grammar points and listening skills.


Since 2006, the Italian Department has embraced e-assessment activities in their UG language degree programme. A wide-range of assessments currently cover diagnostic, formative and summative testing. Tests are run both asynchronously (grammar, vocabulary and listening comprehension activities are provided so that revision and extension opportunities are possible on a weekly basis) and synchronously (summative grammar tests).

Factors that have contributed to the adoption of this approach are the recognition of a marked increase in students’ opportunities for language learning, tapping into new student habits & expectations, thanks to the role technology now plays in students' daily lives and routines. The availability of adaptable digital audio & video material, together with the need to innovate and keep the curriculums fresh have also been important motivating factors.

This approach blends contact time with a more visible role for independent learning, stimulating a higher sense of responsibility and ownership for one’s learning in students.

What was done

Andrea Zhok began developing the online assessments in 2007 thanks to a Faculty funding opportunity which enabled him to dedicate some of his time to developing diagnostic, formative and summative assessment for Year 2 and 4. The project was successfully completed and online assessments have now been integrated into the curriculum as a self study / revision materials for students who need to practice specific grammar points and listening skills.


So far, benefits for students have included:

  1. an increase in self-directed learning among students
  2. open and flexible access 24/7 which facilitates multiple attempts
  3. remote access (i.e. during vacation or on Year Abroad)
  4. instant and personalised feedback.

For tutors this has allowed:

  1. development of a permanent/growing questionbank (timesaving in the mid/long term)
  2. flexibility in updating and creating questions; the need to rethink assessment
  3. a fresher approach concentrated on the student experience
  4. an increase in upskilling and in-service professional development
  5. increased collaboration with colleagues, including the creation of special interest groups for dissemination of best practice.