Formative and Summative Assessment

Formative Assessment

Formative and summative assessment often refer to assessment within the classroom, but each has a different purpose. Formative assessment is designed to monitor student learning and provide feedback to both students and the instructor during instruction or when learning is occurring. It intended to improve rather than evaluate student learning. Formative assessment is often low-stakes in the sense that it is ungraded or has very little point value and can include:

  • Observation during in-class activities – Instructors can gauge the number of nodding heads or deer-in-the-headlights looks (i.e. non-verbal feedback)
  • Drafts of papers or projects for feedback before being graded
  • Homework as a review for exams
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques:
    • Think, pair, share – Students spend 1-2 minutes alone reflecting on a question or problem, then pair and discuss with another student or in small groups, and then share with the rest of the class.
    • Summarize a reading or lecture in 1-2 sentences
    • The muddiest point – students submit the topic, concept, etc. that they are having the most trouble with on a module, chapter, lecture, or other class activity
    • Others

Summative Assessment

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of a chapter, module, unit, semester, or even program. Summative assessments are often high-stakes in that they have a large point value. Summative assessments can include:

  • Exams
  • Final exams (a true summative assessment)
  • Signature assignments:
    • Major papers
    • Major projects
    • Performances
    • Senior thesis
    • Capstone projects or performances
    • Portfolios, including ePortfolios