As you’re probably already aware, assessing students’ understanding and attainment can be done in many ways. This could be from self-evaluation and student interviews to formative and summative assessments. All techniques have their place in the classroom. Using a combination of these will create a holistic picture which can really help you understand exactly where your students are at.
Let’s take more of a look into formative and summative assessments and discuss how they can play a part in helping your students grow their knowledge and skills.
All about summative assessment
Summative assessment is normally carried out at the end of a year or term, and its purpose is to evaluate a students’ learning of a topic/topics over that time period.
Summative assessment helps you as a teacher to evaluate your students’ progress from whichever starting point you have identified. It also supports you with identifying gaps between students’ understanding and learning objectives to decide how best to move forward with your instruction.
Here are some methods of summative assessment
End-of-unit exams – where students take a formal exam to evaluate understanding.
Portfolio/cumulative work – where students complete work over a longer period of time and put it together into one piece of work to demonstrate understanding.
Standardized tests – such as those that are administered to show school results.
All about formative assessment
You might say that formative assessment is more diagnostic and informal than summative assessment. It is designed to give ongoing feedback on a subject area to help you adjust your teaching and learning methods as you go.
Feedback from formative assessments can help give both you and your students an idea of where they’re at and what extra support they might need. Many formative methods fit quickly and simply into daily classroom life, and whilst some feedback may be recorded, on-the-spot feedback allows misconceptions to be identified and addressed in the moment.
Here are some methods of formative assessment
Quizzes – these can be created by students or yourself. Ask students questions, and allow them to work through incorrect answers as a class so they can gain a better understanding of how to get to the correct answer.
In-class clicker systems – students use clickers to answer multiple choice questions to check for mastery in the class.
Cumulative presentations – after a subject area has been taught, you could task students with creating a presentation so you can see their thoughts and understanding.
Linking summative and formative assessment
Sometimes there isn’t really a clear line between formative and summative assessment and they can be done in very similar ways.
The main difference between the two, however, is that formative assessment is part of the instructional process and helps you inform changes for your teaching methods. Summative assessment helps see where students are at in their learning.
Mainly though, they are both ways to assess students, and are ideal for giving students feedback. They inform instructional changes too, as well as adjust future lesson planning, and sometimes, even the curriculum offered in schools.
Why is assessment important
Ultimately, both assessment types are important to a students’ learning progress and both look to help students with an end result – improving their understanding and helping them succeed.
It could be said, though, that you should spend as much time on formative assessment as summative. Both are really valuable for students’ success with their progress and understanding.
With both methods, you can help your students succeed, as well as get insights into their progress and where they are with targets or learning goals. This is why your school’s learning program should consider both, in addition to any other strategies you may use.