Assessment links curriculum, teaching, and learning. The primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to improve student learning.

Assessments are used to inform instruction and to help students monitor their progress towards achieving their learning goals.  Assessments help students reflect on their learning, redirect their efforts, and set goals for their future learning. To promote learning, assessments should be used to help students recognize their learning strengths and needs and to identify ways they can further develop as learners.
Assessment improves teacher understanding of the needs of their students. Teachers use evidence gathered through assessments to describe what students know, are able to do, and are working toward. Reflection on this information helps teachers evaluate the effectiveness of their instructional approaches and consider how they might adapt approaches to address the students’ strengths and needs.  Teachers analyze, reflect upon, summarize assessment information and make decisions based upon the information that has been gathered.

The following guiding principles are the foundation for student assessment in Nova Scotia’s public education system.

All assessments conducted at the classroom, school, regional, and provincial levels must adhere to these principles.


  • contribute to student learning, achievement, and well-being.
  • are valid, reliable, and fair.
  • are planned, purposeful, inclusive, and equitable.
  • are aligned with the expected learning outcomes, instructional approaches, and individual student learning conditions.
  • provide students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and application of concepts and skills related to the expected learning outcomes.
  • provide ongoing information about student learning that is meaningful, accessible, and communicated to parents and students in a variety of ways.

 Assessment and evaluation must:

  • have a clear purpose and defined criteria of what students need to know, show, and do, that are communicated to students in advance of the related learning.
  • be aligned with the expected learning outcomes and classroom instruction.
  • be ongoing, to provide students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning in various ways.
  • provide students with frequent feedback as they are learning as well as periodic feedback on what they have learned. Feedback must be directly related to the defined criteria.
  • provide students with opportunities to develop their self-assessment skills.
  • not be used as a reward or punishment.

Evaluation must:

  • be based on evidence of individual students’ achievement related to the expected learning outcomes and the teacher’s professional judgement.
  • be based on criteria that is appropriate to the expected learning outcomes and the selected assessment method.
  • summarize and report student achievement based on a sufficient body of evidence that accurately reflects a student’s achievement of the expected learning outcomes at a given point in time.

There are a variety of methods that can be used to assess student learning.

The purpose of assessment should be clarified first, and then the best method can be selected to serve the purpose in the particular context. As the Nova Scotia curricula evolves to reflect better the competencies that students will need to seize opportunities and meet the challenges of the future, the methods of assessing learning must also change. In a personalized inquiry-based learning environment, students are engaged in project-based learning where they work independently or collaboratively to solve complex problems that culminate in real-world products. Through performance-based assessments, students demonstrate application of competencies in challenging and engaging tasks that resemble the context in which adults do their work.

Classroom assessments are administered by classroom teachers, formal individual assessments are administered by specialized qualified staff and through the Program of Learning & Assessment of Nova Scotia provincial, national and international assessments are administered for their specific purposes. Evidence from these forms of assessment inform intended outcomes and/or classroom instruction.