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Weeks or months of study in a classroom generally culminate in a summative assessment. This refers to a test that evaluates a student’s comprehension of the material covered thus far. While other measures, such as homework and quizzes, cover potential or progress made, the essence of a summative assessment is more black and white — either the material has been learned (and taught) or not. As a result, these necessary but controversial assessments bring a lot of stress to both educators and students. Below are some of the key points about end of year assessments and tips for success.
Though they aren’t necessarily fun for teachers and students, summative assessments have a lot of advantages. They provide motivation for students to study and pay attention in class, particularly as they get older and grades become a major indicator of success in college or the working world. They also give great insight to teachers: if none of the children in a class score above a 2 or 3 on an AP exam, it is much more likely to be the result of poor or off-topic instruction than a class of students unable to complete the work.
Precisely because summative assessments reflect so closely on teacher performance, many instructors are accused of “teaching to the test.” In other words, if a state test is known to heavily favor anagrams or analogies, students may be asked to spend hours drilling those exercises instead of reading and writing to grow their vocabularies naturally. Conversely, no assessment is perfect, so even students with excellent knowledge of the material may run into questions that trip them up, especially if they get nervous under pressure. As a result, summative assessment is not always the most accurate reflection of learning.
Measurements and markers
Summative assessment gives students a level, usually numerical, and placement in which they can be compared against both other students and the standards for their grade. This is most commonly seen in:
- Literacy tests
- College entrance exams like the SAT or ACT
- End of year school, county, or statewide testing
- Special program learning, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate
Performance is often shown both in percentage of questions answered right, and by comparing performance with the rest of the class, state, or nation. A student scoring in the 90th percentile, for example, completed more questions correctly than 90 percent of other test-takers. This sort of competition indicates benchmark performances and helps admissions officers make informed decisions, but it can also cause undue anxiety for students who struggle more than their peers in certain areas.
There are non-traditional ways to use summative assessments to enhance the learning process. Many teachers find it useful to:
- Create the test after the learning plan. Though it may seem obvious, the best evaluation covers the material the instructor and curriculum meant to emphasize. If, for instance, a teacher holds a final exam in literature to the constant standard of “Does this student read deeper into the text?” he or she will have crafted a summative assessment that stays on point with learning goals.
- Offer different options. Standardized state and national tests have very little room for re-imagining. A classroom final, however, could be given as a visual/audio presentation, a long-form test, or an individual essay. By allowing students to explain the material in a medium they feel comfortable with, teachers get an accurate picture of their understanding.
- Move it out of the classroom. Unfortunately, many students decide early on that they are not strong in academics. By making the final resemble a real-world application, much of the pressure and stigma is removed, along with the temptation to plagiarize. Have biology students identify animals in nature or at a preserve, or have business students create job descriptions and resumes. This style of assessment can cover a broad range of material, and more closely emulates performance reviews and projects in a career field.
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Summative Assessment and Feedback
Summative assessments are given to students at the end of a course and should measure the skills and knowledge a student has gained over the entire instructional period. Summative feedback is aimed at helping students understand how well they have done in meeting the overall learning goals of the course.
Effective summative assessments
Effective summative assessments provide students a structured way to demonstrate that they have met a range of key learning objectives and to receive useful feedback on their overall learning. They should align with the course learning goals and build upon prior formative assessments. These assessments will address how well the student is able to synthesize and connect the elements of learning from the entirety of the course into a holistic understanding and provide an opportunity to provide rich summative feedback.
The value of summative feedback
Summative feedback is essential for students to understand how far they have come in meeting the learning goals of the course, what they need further work on, and what they should study next. This can affect later choices that students make, particularly in contemplating and pursuing their major fields of study. Summative feedback can also influence how students regard themselves and their academic disciplines after graduation.
Use rubrics to provide consistency and transparency
A rubric is a grading guide for evaluating how well students have met a learning outcome. A rubric consists of performance criteria, a rating scale, and indicators for the different rating levels. They are typically in a chart or table format.
Instructors often use rubrics for both formative and summative feedback to ensure consistency of assessment across different students. Rubrics also can make grading faster and help to create consistency between multiple graders and across assignments.
Students might be given access to the rubric before working on an assignment. No criteria or metric within a summative assessment should come as a surprise to the students. Transparency with students on exactly what is being assessed can help them more effectively demonstrate how much they have learned.
Types of summative assessments
Different summative assessments are better suited to measuring different kinds of learning.
Examinations are useful for evaluating student learning in terms of remembering information, and understanding and applying concepts and ideas. However, exams may be less suited to evaluating how well students are able to analyze, evaluate, or create things related to what they've learned.
A presentation tasks the student with teaching others what they have learned typically by speaking, presenting visual materials, and interacting with their audience. This can be useful for assessing a student's ability to critically analyze and evaluate a topic or content.
With projects, students will create something, such as a plan, document, artifact, or object, usually over a sustained period of time, that demonstrates skills or understanding of the topic of learning. They are useful for evaluating learning objectives that require high levels of critical thinking, creativity, and coordination. Projects are good opportunities to provide summative feedback because they often build on prior formative assessments and feedback.
With a portfolio, students create and curate a collection of documents, objects, and artifacts that collectively demonstrate their learning over a wide range of learning goals. Portfolios usually include the student's reflections and metacognitive analysis of their own learning. Portfolios are typically completed over a sustained period of time and are usually done by individual students as opposed to groups.
Portfolios are particularly useful for evaluating how students' learning, attitudes, beliefs, and creativity grow over the span of the course. The reflective component of portfolios can be a rich form of self-feedback for students. Generally, portfolios tend to be more holistic and are often now done using ePortfolios .
Disadvantages of Summative Assessments
What are the Effects of Raising Hands in Class?
You believe that the bad score that you received on a final exam doesn't accurately reflect what you learned in a course. Maybe you had a splitting headache on the morning of the exam and couldn't concentrate. You ask for the opportunity to retake the test, but the teacher denies your request on the grounds that it wouldn't be fair to the other students. This scenario demonstrates one of the problems with summative, or after-the-fact, assessments that are used to grade overall performance over a period of time.
Educational assessments are formative or summative. Formative assessments are those things done during the learning process to help students improve their performance. Ungraded feedback on a draft of an essay is an example of formative assessment. Summative assessments are measurements of outcome to gauge what a student has learned and compare it against a standard or benchmark. Examples of summative forms of assessment include end-of-chapter tests, final exams and such large-scale standardized tests as the SAT.
Proponents of high-stakes summative assessments say that tests motivate students to put more effort into their studies. However, in a comprehensive review of the impact on student motivation, the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre at the University of London found a direct correlation between performance on national standardized tests and self-esteem. Students who did poorly experienced lowered self-esteem, which in turn reduced their willingness to put in the effort required for future academic success.
Reliability and Validity
To be free of distortion, an assessment must be constructed so that it accurately reflects the whole of the material it's intended to cover, including the way the material has been taught. There also needs to be consistency across tasks and how they are marked, both internally within the assessment and externally across different versions. Reliability and validity errors call into question the point of the summative assessment, which is to accurately measure student performance.
External summative assessments of students used to judge teacher and school performance can negatively impact what occurs in the classroom. With the perception that their jobs are at stake, teachers often feel enormous pressure to explicitly "teach the test" at the expense of other curriculum goals and objectives. A survey of teachers conducted by Harvard's Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism Education found 60 percent of the respondents stated that preparing students to pass mandated standardized tests either dictated most of their teaching or substantially affected it.
Summative assessments with limited means of expression, particularly large-scale standardized tests that use multiple choice for automated grading, may unfairly disadvantage large classes of students, including non-native speakers with language or cultural barriers to understanding the questions asked, those with physical or learning disabilities, or those who do not do well under the pressure of the testing conditions.
Summative assessment may measure the wrong things. Professor David Rose of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and principal architect of the Universal Design for Learning argues that the ways in which students are assessed do not provide accurate information about how they are doing. Questions are asked in ways that students do not understand or have difficulty answering. Neither of these get at whether the student really knows the material that was taught.
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- National Center on Universal Design for Learning: UDL Guidelines -- Version 2.0: Principle II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
- Carnegie Mellon University: Formative vs Summative Assessment
- Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism Education; Mandatory Testing and News in the Schools: Implications for Civic Education; January 2007
- EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London: A Systematic Review of the Impact of Summative Assessment and Tests on Students' Motivation for Learning
- The Iris Center: Assessment
Matthew Spira has over nine years of experience as an ESL teacher/tutor specializing in bilingual early childhood literacy development. Before teaching, he spent seven years in the call-center industry as a line supervisor, operations manager and workforce planning, forecasting and analysis manager. Spira holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence
Nicole Messier, CATE Instructional Designer February 7th, 2022
WHAT? Heading link Copy link
Summative assessments are used to measure learning when instruction is over and thus may occur at the end of a learning unit, module, or the entire course.
Summative assessments are usually graded, are weighted more heavily than other course assignments or comprise a substantial percentage of a students’ overall grade (and are often considered “high stakes” assessments relative to other, “lower stakes” assessments in a course), and are required assessments for the completion of a course.
Summative assessments can be viewed through two broad assessment strategies: assessments of learning and assessments as learning.
- Assessment of learning (AoL) provides data to confirm course outcomes and students the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in the learning objectives.
- Assessment as learning (AaL) provides student ownership of learning by utilizing evidence-based learning strategies, promoting self-regulation, and providing reflective learning.
A summative assessment can be designed to provide both assessment of learning (AoL) and assessment as learning (AaL). The goal of designing for AaL and AoL is to create a summative assessment as a learning experience while ensuring that the data collected is valid and reliable.
Want to learn more about these assessment strategies? Please visit the Resources Section – CATE website to review resources, teaching guides, and more.
Summative Assessments Heading link Copy link
Summative assessments (aol).
- Written assignments – such as papers or authentic assessments like projects or portfolios of creative work
- Mid-term exam
Although exams are typically used to measure student knowledge and skills at the end of a learning unit, module, or an entire course, they can also be incorporated into learning opportunities for students.
Example 1 - Exam Heading link Copy link
Example 1 - exam.
An instructor decides to analyze their current multiple-choice and short-answer final exam for alignment to the learning objectives. The instructor discovers that the questions cover the content in the learning objectives; however, some questions are not at the same cognitive levels as the learning objectives . The instructor determines that they need to create some scenario questions where students are asked to analyze a situation and apply knowledge to be aligned with a particular learning objective.
The instructor also realizes that this new type of question format will be challenging for students if the exam is the only opportunity provided to students. The instructor decides to create a study guide for students on scenarios (not used in the exam) for students to practice and self-assess their learning. The instructor plans to make future changes to the quizzes and non-graded formative questions to include higher-level cognitive questions to ensure that learning objectives are being assessed as well as to support student success in the summative assessment.
This example demonstrates assessment of learning with an emphasis on improving the validity of the results, as well as assessment as learning by providing students with opportunities to self-assess and reflect on their learning.
Written assignments in any form (authentic, project, or problem-based) can also be designed to collect data and measure student learning, as well as provide opportunities for self-regulation and reflective learning. Instructors should consider using a type of grading rubric (analytic, holistic, or single point) for written assignments to ensure that the data collected is valid and reliable.
Summative Assessments (AaL) Heading link Copy link
Summative assessments (aal).
- Authentic assessments – an assessment that involves a real-world task or application of knowledge instead of a traditional paper; could involve a situation or scenario specific to a future career.
- Project-based learning – an assessment that involves student choice in designing and addressing a problem, need, or question.
- Problem-based learning – similar to project-based learning but focused on solutions to problems.
- Self-critique or peer assessment
Example 2 - Authentic Assessment Heading link Copy link
Example 2 - authentic assessment.
An instructor has traditionally used a research paper as the final summative assessment in their course. After attending a conference session on authentic assessments, the instructor decides to change this summative assessment to an authentic assessment that allows for student choice and increased interaction, feedback, and ownership.
First, the instructor introduced the summative project during the first week of class. The summative project instructions asked students to select a problem that could be addressed by one of the themes from the course. Students were provided with a list of authentic products that they could choose from, or they could request permission to submit a different product. Students were also provided with a rubric aligned to the learning objectives.
Next, the instructor created small groups (three to four students) with discussion forums for students to begin brainstorming problems, themes, and ideas for their summative project. These groups were also required to use the rubric to provide feedback to their peers at two separate time points in the course. Students were required to submit their final product, references, self-assessment using the rubric, and a reflection on the peer interaction and review.
This example demonstrates an authentic assessment as well as an assessment of learning (AoL) and assessment as learning (AaL). The validity and reliability of this summative assessment are ensured using a rubric that is focused on the learning objectives of the course and consistently utilized for the grading and feedback of the summative project. Data collected from the use of grading criteria in a rubric can be used to improve the summative project as well as the instruction and materials in the course. This summative project allows for reflective learning and provides opportunities for students to develop self-regulation skills as well as apply knowledge gained in an authentic and meaningful product.
Another way to create a summative assessment as a learning opportunity is to break it down into smaller manageable parts. These smaller parts will guide students’ understanding of expectations, provide them with opportunities to receive and apply feedback, as well as support their executive functioning and self-regulation skills.
WHY? Heading link Copy link
We know that summative assessments are vital to the curriculum planning cycle to measure student outcomes and implement continuous improvements. But how do we ensure our summative assessments are effective and equitable? Well, the answer is in the research.
Validity, Reliability, and Manageability
Critical components for the effectiveness of summative assessments are the validity, reliability, and manageability of the assessment (Khaled, 2020).
- Validity of the assessment refers to the alignment to course learning objectives. In other words, are the assessments in your course measuring the learning objectives?
- Reliability of the assessment refers to the consistency or accuracy of the assessment used. Are the assessment practices consistent from student to student and semester to semester?
- Manageability of the assessment refers to the workload for both faculty and students. For faculty, is the type of summative assessment causing a delay in timely grading and feedback to the learner? For students, is the summative assessment attainable and are the expectations realistic?
As you begin to design a summative assessment, determine how you will ensure the assessment is valid, reliable, and manageable.
Feedback & Summative Assessments
Attributes of academic feedback that improve the impact of the summative assessment on student learning (Daka, 2021; Harrison 2017) include:
- Provide feedback without or before grades.
- Once the grade is given, then explain the grading criteria and score (e.g., using a rubric to explain grading criteria and scoring).
- Identify specific qualities in students’ work.
- Describe actionable steps on what and how to improve.
- Motivate and encourage students by providing opportunities to submit revisions or earn partial credit for submitting revised responses to incorrect answers on exams.
- Allow students to monitor, evaluate, and regulate their learning.
Additional recommendations for feedback include that feedback should be timely, frequent, constructive (what and how), and should help infuse a sense of professional identity for students (why). The alignment of learning objectives, learning activities, and summative assessments is critical to student success and will ensure that assessments are valid. And lastly, the tasks in assessments should match the cognitive levels of the course learning objectives to challenge the highest performing students while elevating lower-achieving students (Daka, 2021).
HOW? Heading link Copy link
How do you start designing summative assessments?
Summative assessments can help measure student achievement of course learning objectives as well as provide the instructor with data to make pedagogical decisions on future teaching and instruction. Summative assessments can also provide learning opportunities as students reflect and take ownership of their learning.
So how do you determine what type of summative assessment to design? And how do you ensure that summative assessment will be valid, reliable, and manageable? Let’s dive into some of the elements that might impact your design decisions, including class size, discipline, modality, and EdTech tools .
Class Size and Modality
The manageability of summative assessments can be impacted by the class size and modality of the course. Depending on the class size of the course, instructors might be able to implement more opportunities for authentic summative assessments that provide student ownership and allow for more reflective learning (students think about their learning and make connections to their experiences). Larger class sizes might require instructors to consider implementing an EdTech tool to improve the manageability of summative assessments.
The course modality can also influence the design decisions of summative assessments. Courses with synchronous class sessions can require students to take summative assessments simultaneously through an in-person paper exam or an online exam using an EdTech tool, like Gradescope or Blackboard Tests, Pools, and Surveys . Courses can also create opportunities for students to share their authentic assessments asynchronously using an EdTech tool like VoiceThread .
When designing a summative assessment as a learning opportunity for major coursework, instructors should reflect on the learning objectives to be assessed and the possible real-world application of the learning objectives. In replacement of multiple-choice or short answer questions that focus on content memorization, instructors might consider creating scenarios or situational questions that provide students with opportunities to analyze and apply knowledge gained. In major coursework, instructors should consider authentic assessments that allow for student choice, transfer of knowledge, and the development of professional skills in place of a traditional paper or essay.
Undergraduate General Education Coursework
In undergraduate general education coursework, instructors should consider the use of authentic assessments to make connections to students’ experiences, goals, and future careers. Simple adjustments to assignment instructions to allow for student choice can help increase student engagement and motivation. Designing authentic summative assessments can help connect students to the real-world application of the content and create buy-in on the importance of the summative assessment.
Summative Assessment Tools
EdTech tools can help to reduce faculty workload by providing a delivery system for students to submit work as well as tools to support academic integrity.
Below are EdTech tools that are available to UIC faculty to create and/or grade summative assessments as and of learning.
Assessment Creation and Grading Tools Heading link Copy link
Assessment creation and grading tools.
- Blackboard assignments drop box and rubrics
- Blackboard quizzes and exams
Assessment creation and grading tools can help support instructors in designing valid and reliable summative assessments. Gradescope can be utilized as a grading tool for in-person paper and pencil midterm and final exams, as well as a tool to create digital summative assessments. Instructors can use AI to improve the manageability of summative assessments as well as the reliability through the use of rubrics for grading with Gradescope.
In the Blackboard learning management system, instructors can create pools of questions for both formative and summative assessments as well as create authentic assessment drop boxes and rubrics aligned to learning objectives for valid and reliable data collection.
Academic Integrity Tools
- SafeAssign (undergraduate)
- iThenticate (graduate)
- Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitoring
Academic integrity tools can help ensure that students are meeting academic expectations concerning research through the use of SafeAssign and iThenticate as well as academic integrity during online tests and exams using Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitoring.
Want to learn more about these summative assessment tools? Visit the EdTech section on the CATE website to learn more.
Additional guidance on online exams is available in Section III: Best Practices for Online (Remote Proctored, Synchronous) Exams in the Guidelines for Assessment in Online Environments Report , which outlines steps for equitable exam design, accessible exam technology, and effective communication for student success. The framing questions in the report are designed to guide instructors with suggestions, examples, and best practices (Academic Planning Task Force, 2020), which include:
- “What steps should be taken to ensure that all students have the necessary hardware, software, and internet capabilities to complete a remote, proctored exam?
- What practices should be implemented to make remote proctored exams accessible to all students, and in particular, for students with disabilities?
- How can creating an ethos of academic integrity be leveraged to curb cheating in remote proctored exams?
- What are exam design strategies to minimize cheating in an online environment?
- What tools can help to disincentive cheating during a remote proctored exam?
- How might feedback and grading strategies be adjusted to deter academic misconduct on exams?”
GETTING STARTED Heading link Copy link
The following steps will support you as you examine current summative assessment practices through the lens of assessment of learning (AoL) and assessment as learning (AaL) and develop new or adapt existing summative assessments.
- The first step is to utilize backward design principles by aligning the summative assessments to the learning objectives.
- To collect valid and reliable data to confirm student outcomes (AoL).
- To promote self-regulation and reflective learning by students (AaL).
- Format: exam, written assignment, portfolio, performance, project, etc.
- Delivery: paper and pencil, Blackboard, EdTech tool, etc.
- Feedback: general (how to improve performance), personalized (student-specific), etc.
- Scoring: automatically graded by Blackboard and/or EdTech tool or manual through the use of a rubric in Blackboard.
- The fourth step is to review data collected from summative assessment(s) and reflect on the implementation of the summative assessment(s) through the lens of validity, reliability, and manageability to inform continuous improvements for equitable student outcomes.
CITING THIS GUIDE Heading link Copy link
Citing this guide.
Messier, N. (2022). “Summative assessments.” Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence at the University of Illinois Chicago. Retrieved [today’s date] from https://teaching.uic.edu/resources/teaching-guides/assessment-grading-practices/summative-assessments/
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Heading link Copy link
Academic Planning Task Force. (2020). Guidelines for Assessment in Online Learning Environments .
McLaughlin, L., Ricevuto, J. (2021). Assessments in a Virtual Environment: You Won’t Need that Lockdown Browser! Faculty Focus.
Moore, E. (2020). Assessments by Design: Rethinking Assessment for Learner Variability. Faculty Focus.
Websites and Journals
Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education website
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. Taylor & Francis Online Journals
Journal of Assessment in Higher Education
REFERENCES Heading link Copy link
Daka, H., & Mulenga-Hagane, M., Mukalula-Kalumbi, M., Lisulo, S. (2021). Making summative assessment effective. 5. 224 – 237.
Earl, L.M., Katz, S. (2006). Rethinking classroom assessment with purpose in mind — Assessment for learning, assessment as learning, assessment of learning. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Crown in Right of Manitoba.
Galletly, R., Carciofo, R. (2020). Using an online discussion forum in a summative coursework assignment. Journal of Educators Online . Volume 17, Issue 2.
Harrison, C., Könings, K., Schuwirth, L. & Wass, V., Van der Vleuten, C. (2017). Changing the culture of assessment: the dominance of the summative assessment paradigm. BMC Medical Education. 17. 10.1186/s12909-017-0912-5.
Khaled, S., El Khatib, S. (2020). Summative assessment in higher education: Feedback for better learning outcomes
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Formative And Summative Assessment: The Differences Explained
The assessment landscape in schools is often confusing and ever-changing. With the debate between the merits of formative vs summative assessments raging on, it can be difficult to know when to use either of these assessment types in your classroom. That’s why, in this article, we will discuss when you should use either type of assessment and explain why.
Formative vs summative assessments – what is the difference?
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When teachers discuss assessment, they often refer to two types – ‘formative’ and ‘summative’, however the distinctions and lines between the two types of assessment can often be blurred and misunderstood.
This article will compare and contrast formative and summative assessments to give you a true view of the difference between both types.
Formative assessment is the use of day-to-day assessments to gauge and explore students’ understanding of a topic.
It is best thought of as an assessment for learning.
Formative assessments are what we carry out to help inform the learning ‘in the moment’. Formative assessment is continuous, informal and should have a central and pivotal role in every math classroom.
If used correctly, it will have a high impact on current learning and help you guide your instruction and teaching by giving ongoing feedback on learners’ progress.
Having an assessment with low stakes allows students to develop their skills, confidence and user experience before attempting a summative assessment with high stakes. It also makes room for self-assessment.
Summative assessments take place after students’ have completed a block of work, whether that be at the end of a unit or at the end of a quarter. They are a more formal way to sum up student progress and are often compared against a standard benchmark.
They are best thought of as assessments of learning.
There are different types of summative evaluations that we carry out ‘after the event’, often periodic (rather than continuous), and they are often measured against a set standard.
Summative assessment can be thought of as helping to validate and ‘check’ formative assessment – it is a periodic measure of how children are, overall, progressing in their mathematics learning.
If formative assessment has been continually carried out, then the results of summative assessment shouldn’t yield any surprises.
Some common examples of summative assessment include:
- Final projects
Importantly, it is not the ‘form’ that assessment takes that determines whether it is formative or summative, instead it is how it is being used.
For example, ‘test style questions’ can be used both as formative assessment (perhaps as exit tickets – questions given to students at the end of the lesson to check student understanding) or summative (perhaps as an end of an instructional unit test or check).
It is important that in all subjects, but especially in math, that we use a combination of both assessment strategies, but that formative assessment, due to its constant nature, makes up the bulk of our assessment activities.
This Venn diagram shows the difference and similarities between the two assessment types very clearly.
Formative assessment is an intrinsic part of both teaching and student progression. This form of assessment does not rely upon tests and results, but rather the ability to adapt to classroom blockers as they arise.
It should indicate what a good piece of work is and why this is the case, but it also gives you as a teacher a chance to see when things are not going so well and act upon it and see improvements.
Good formative feedback will enable both the teacher and student to plan together what the next stage of their progression will be and future learning goals.
During a lesson, all adults in the classroom should be on a ‘constant assessment mission’ through interactions with students.
Teachers should be moving around the room, interacting with each child, and assessing their progress towards the learning objective in real-time.
In the moment, assessment can take many forms:
• You could use a question from your shared learning to assess where you need to give independent work, or which students need further support
• It could be as simple as asking key questions to students during their independent work
• You could use ‘exit tickets’ to assess children’s understanding at the end of a lesson
However, it is important that this ‘in the moment’ assessment that is carried out has a purpose, and that this information is used to adapt the learning experiences and opportunities that you are providing to each child.
The information obtained from formative assessments can help you understand the student’s learning processes and adapt to this in future lesson plans.
If your assessment shows that students are secure, then how are you going to deepen their learning?
If your assessment shows that students have some misconceptions, then how are you going to support these?
These are just two of the questions you should be asking yourself throughout a formative assessment.
If you are looking for a way to bring formative assessments into your classroom, take a look at our blog containing your Math Intervention Must-Have: Formative Diagnostic Assessment Tests.
There are a lot of different assessment routines you can use to keep up with the progression of your math class.
Common types of formative assessment include:
- Group activities
- Class projects
Make sure that your assessment ‘routines’ have purpose and use.
For example, if you are going to do the ‘math lesson classic’ and ask children to show you an answer on a mini-whiteboard, make sure you are actually looking at the answers given by all students.
You should then be using these to inform the next step in your lesson and the learning for each student.
I have observed many lessons where teachers have carried out the mini-whiteboard ‘routine’, not actually looked at the responses given, and carried on with what they had planned regardless.
Remember- it is not the activity or ‘thing’ that you do that represents effective assessment, but what you do with the information you gather from it.
It is through effective in-lesson assessment that you can ensure that each student is supported and challenged, and that every student is learning rather than constantly rehearsing what they already know.
I often use a ‘pothole’ analogy with the schools I work with. Imagine a local council were filling in potholes but that their road maintenance vehicles were themselves creating new holes in the road.
They wouldn’t be doing a very good job at improving the overall quality of the road surface would they?
Yet, schools often inadvertently do the same with math. They are often very good at carrying out a plethora of intervention activities to fill gaps (or potholes) that have been ‘left’ from previous years, but, at the same time, often allow new gaps (or potholes) to be created.
It is therefore important that we use our constant, ‘in the moment’ assessment to help ensure that no new gaps are being allowed to form in a student’s mathematical understanding and learning.
Make sure that you use your ‘in the moment’ and ‘end of lesson’ assessment to help fill any new gaps that are starting to emerge.
Then, at the end of the math lesson, you formatively check that all students are secure with the objective for that lesson, and if not, you carry out some form of intervention to help address these gaps.
If you are not going to address the gaps now, then who is and when?
Summative assessment helps to demonstrate the extent of students’ success in meeting specific goals. It is a method that can be used to quantify achievement, and due to its data driven nature, it is a great way to provide a numerical basis for a student’s next step.
However, while the principles of summative assessment are simple, there are 4 key points you need to consider before implementing it in your classroom.
1- Assessment systems vs framework – What are you assessing against?
Despite the power of ‘in the moment’ formative assessment, schools do need a way to track the attainment and progress of students throughout the school.
It is this need that means that schools also need to consider the assessment framework they are using- i.e. what you are assessing against. This decision is often one that is taken at district level.
However, it is important that you are clear about the difference between your assessment system and the framework you are using.
Often with my work in schools, I am told that they are using ‘student asset’, ‘classroom monitor’, ‘target tracker’ (and many others) as their assessment. In fact, these are all assessment systems – bits of software that allow you to record and track student’s progress against a framework that has been chosen by your school.
They are not what you are using to ‘assess’- merely what you are using to record your assessment.
These assessment systems all allow you to select (and often create your own) framework upon which to assess your students – and it is these frameworks that are vitally important.
2- Balancing the frameworks is crucial
When choosing, or creating, the assessment framework that you are using, it’s important to consider the balance of objectives and target areas of mathematics within the framework.
Some end-of-grade tests may give a higher weight towards number based objectives, with number, calculations and proportionality making up between 75-85% of a child’s final result.
Yet, most grades have an even split between all standard domains.
This essentially means that a child could be legitimately marked as ‘secure’ or ‘working at aged related expectations’ against the whole curriculum, on the basis of their strength in geometry, but they wouldn’t be classed as ‘secure’ or ‘working at aged related expectations’ in a standardized test.
It is therefore important that whatever framework you use is balanced, and includes an equal weighting of standards-based questions.
There are many ways in which you can do this, including:-
• Use built-in ‘weighting’ functions of some assessment systems that allow you to weight each objective.
• Assess against key objectives only, which overall, have the balance of number vs non-number objectives.
• Group objectives together, creating the overall numbers vs non-number balance.
• Use a commercially available assessment framework which has the weighting work done for you.
3- Teacher assessment plays a huge role in summative assessment
Once your school has decided on a framework to use for assessment, next comes the question of how it is actually used.
These frameworks can be used both in a purely ‘summative’ way, or in a formative way that leads to, over time, an accurate summative assessment.
The traditional use of these frameworks is for schools to ask for each child to be assessed against the framework at set points – for example, midway through the school year or end-of-grade tests.
This often leads to ‘assessment panic’ with teachers feeling overwhelmed having to create the assessment against many objectives for all students in their task in a short period of time.
If this is the only way in which these frameworks are used, then these are being used purely summatively – it is the teacher’s judgment at the end of a quarter/year.
Due to the stress of having to meet a deadline and make a judgment against each objective for all students in your class, this can often mean that these summative only teacher assessments are not as accurate as many would like.
Luckily, you can adapt these assessments very easily
However, these frameworks can also be used in a more formative way – with teachers being encouraged to record the learning progress towards objectives on the framework or rubric as they are being taught .
An example of this is recording and amending judgements each week as a result of the ‘ongoing’ assessment. This leads to an ever-changing snapshot of each child’s performance, which can be really powerful.
This can be used to inform interventions and subsequent teaching, and help to identify common misconceptions, giving the assessment framework used by your school both a summative and formative use.
These assessments can then just be finalized in time for whatever deadline of ‘snapshot’ date your school set.
It is fantastic that many schools and districts are favoring teacher assessment to provide this ‘data.’
Teacher assessment is incredibly powerful, and gives teachers the professional autonomy that they deserve.
4- Testing can’t be forgotten about either
Many schools will also choose to use some form of testing alongside their assessment frameworks.
This can be seen as helping to validate teacher assessment judgments, and can also help to ensure there are no ‘nasty’ surprises when it comes to state standardized tests.
However, testing is only as good as the quality of the tests that you use. It is important that the tests your schools rely on have the same degree of ‘standardization’.
They should be standardized so you know how children across the country perform, and be based on a clear test development framework, and have been trialed and refined in schools.
Some popular tests that have been developed in this way include STAR Math and Terra Nova.
Regardless of what tests are used, it is also important that schools and teachers understand that they provide a snapshot of the performance on the day the test was taken.
Children, just like adults, all have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days, and it is important that these tests are seen as a supplement to good quality teacher assessment, not a replacement for it.
Both formative and summative assessment have a very important role to play in the classroom and in schools. However, it is very important to ensure that you find the right balance between the two approaches for your own class’s learning needs.
Constant formative assessment can prove difficult if not implemented properly, but consistent assessment of students strengths and weaknesses can prove invaluable in helping them to progress.
Summative assessment can often not show the whole picture of a students’ progression, but it is a fantastic way of getting a data driven overview of how a student has progressed and grown over a period of time.
The goal of this blog was to summarize the difference between formative and summative assessment, and the conclusion is that both approaches have their flaws, but they can also both provide a valuable insight into how a class is getting on throughout the school year.
All that is left is to use assessments of both kinds to inform your teaching!
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The content in this article was originally written by math consultant and author Tim Handley and has since been revised and adapted for US schools by elementary math teacher Katie Keeton.
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What are summative assessments?
Summative assessments are implemented at the end of a unit, set of units, or entire course to assess and evaluate the extent to which students have achieved the learning objectives (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) for that period of instruction. Summative assessments are typically higher stakes (higher point value) than formative assessments and tend to constitute a relatively larger proportion of a student’s grade. Whereas formative assessments provide feedback on student learning while learning is in progress, summative assessments primarily evaluate how much learning has occurred by the end of an instructional period.
What makes a summative assessment equity-minded?
Equity-minded summative assessments are:
- Relevant : Well-aligned with the learning objectives for that period of instruction. Some definitions also consider relevant assessments as those that reflect the goals, interests, or experiences of students (Artze-Vega et al., 2023).
- Authentic : Provide students with meaningful ways to demonstrate the knowledge or skills they have acquired. For example, this could involve applying course concepts to real-world problems, topics, or careers (Wiggins, 1990). Although all authentic assessments are also relevant, authentic assessments additionally aim to simulate tasks that students will encounter in their academic, professional, or personal lives.
- Rigorous : Set high expectations and encourage students to engage in cognitively demanding tasks. Designing rigorous assessments communicates the belief that all students, regardless of their background, have the potential to succeed on challenging tasks if given sufficient support. This actively counteracts the harmful practice of giving less instruction and fewer challenging tasks to minoritized students under the assumption that these students have limited capabilities (Artze-Vega et al., 2023).
- Transparent : Explicitly communicate both the purpose of the assessment and the criteria for success (e.g. using rubrics). Additionally, sample assignments or questions should be made available to students where possible. Furthermore, it is important to be transparent about policies related to grading, use of technology (Generative AI, Search Tools), and collaboration. Transparency helps students achieve the high expectations set by equity-minded assessments. It has also been shown to promote student motivation, sense of belonging, and increased retention rates, particularly among first generation, BIPOC, and international students (Winkelmes, 2023).
- Inclusive : Designed to mitigate cultural and other biases through the use of language and examples that are relevant to the diverse lived experiences of students in the classroom (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2020). Inclusive assessments also avoid the use of jargon and ambiguous language that could make the test difficult for students to understand (thereby also undermining transparency ). Additionally, inclusive assessments can involve giving students options and flexibility to choose from varied formats and types of assessments to demonstrate their learning.
Best practices when designing summative assessments
Although high-stakes summative assessments can be useful for encouraging students to synthesize knowledge over relatively broad periods of instruction, they are also more anxiety-inducing for students in comparison with lower-stakes assessments (Hembree, 1988; Wood et al., 2016; Silaj et al., 2021). Further, high-stakes summative assessments in most courses tend to take place later during the semester which can place multiple demands on students. In such situations, students may tend to procrastinate or manage time poorly resulting in bad performance on such high stakes exams. With this in mind, there are ways to design and implement summative assessments to reduce anxiety and prepare students to succeed, while still ensuring these assessments are rigorous and promote just and equitable learning outcomes. Some examples include:
- Breaking down summative assessments, such as major projects and papers, into smaller, more manageable steps. Being explicit in how students can seek feedback, can particularly benefit international and first-generation students who are getting acquainted with a new academic culture.
- Providing opportunities for revisions based on self, peer, or instructor feedback.
- Having students complete multiple low-stakes formative assessments (e.g., short quizzes) prior to a high-stakes summative assessment (e.g., exam).
- Scaffolding assignments to provide more guidance early on but progressively increase the level of independence later on in the assignment.
- Implementing course policies to allow students to drop their lowest grade or retake an exam.
- Invest time in class to teach students how to use AI tools like Chat-GPT or Co-pilot , reference managers , or search engines that can aid their performance through practice. This can reduce student anxiety around tackling summative assessments and also reduce the tendency to plagiarize or inappropriately use content produced by generative AI.
All these strategies allow summative assessments to set high expectations while simultaneously lowering the stakes and providing students with ample opportunities to practice, improve, and ultimately achieve those high expectations (Schrank 2016).
Artze-Vega, I., Darby, F., Dewsbury, B., & Imad, M. (2023). The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching , New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Instructional scaffolding to improve learning . Northern Illinois University.
Hembree, R. (1988). Correlates, causes, effects, and treatment of test anxiety . Review of Educational Research, 58 (1), 47–77.
Montenegro, E., & Jankowski, N. A. (2020, January). A new decade for assessment: Embedding equity into assessment praxis (Occasional Paper No. 42). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).
Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R., & Tomaš, Z. (2023). Chapter 4: Effective and Equitable Assignments and Assessments. Fostering International Student Success in higher education (pp, 61-87, second edition). TESOL Press.
Schrank, Z. (2016). An assessment of student perceptions and responses to frequent low-stakes testing in Introductory Sociology classes . Teaching Sociology , 44(2), 118–127.
Silaj, K. M., Schwartz, S. T., Siegel, A. L. M., Castel, A.D.(2021). Test anxiety and metacognitive performance in the classroom . Educational Psychology Review, 33 , 1809–1834.
Wiggins, G. (1990). The case for authentic assessment . Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 2 , 1–3.
Winkelmes, M. (2023). Introduction to Transparency in Learning and Teaching . Perspectives In Learning , 20 (1). Columbus, GA: CSUE Press.
Wood, S. G., Hart, S. A., Little, C. W., & Phillips, B. M. (2016). Test anxiety and a high-stakes standardized reading comprehension test: A behavioral genetics perspective . Merrill-Palmer Quarterly , 62 (3), 233–251.
Further readings and resources:
Office of Instructional Consultation. Low + High-stakes assessments . University of California, Santa Barbara.
Fournier, K. A., Couret, J., Ramsay, J. B., & Caulkins, J. L. (2017). Using collaborative two-stage examinations to address test anxiety in a large enrollment gateway course . Anatomical Sciences Education , 10 (5), 409–422.
Morrison R., University of Tasmania. (2020, February 11). Don’t “just Google it”: 3 ways students can get the most from searching online . The Conversation.
Writing Across the Curriculum. (2019, July 23). Using citation management tools in writing assignments . University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mollick, E., Mollick, L. (2023, August 9). Practical AI for instructors and students: Part 5 . Wharton School of Business: Interactive.
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Teaching excellence & educational innovation, what is the difference between formative and summative assessment, formative assessment.
The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:
- help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
- help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately
Formative assessments are generally low stakes , which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:
- draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
- submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
- turn in a research proposal for early feedback
The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.
Summative assessments are often high stakes , which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:
- a midterm exam
- a final project
- a senior recital
Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.
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Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year. Generally speaking, summative assessments are defined by three major criteria:
- The tests, assignments, or projects are used to determine whether students have learned what they were expected to learn. In other words, what makes an assessment “summative” is not the design of the test, assignment, or self-evaluation, per se, but the way it is used—i.e., to determine whether and to what degree students have learned the material they have been taught.
- Summative assessments are given at the conclusion of a specific instructional period, and therefore they are generally evaluative, rather than diagnostic—i.e., they are more appropriately used to determine learning progress and achievement, evaluate the effectiveness of educational programs, measure progress toward improvement goals, or make course-placement decisions, among other possible applications.
- Summative-assessment results are often recorded as scores or grades that are then factored into a student’s permanent academic record, whether they end up as letter grades on a report card or test scores used in the college-admissions process. While summative assessments are typically a major component of the grading process in most districts, schools, and courses, not all assessments considered to be summative are graded.
Summative assessments are commonly contrasted with formative assessments , which collect detailed information that educators can use to improve instruction and student learning while it’s happening. In other words, formative assessments are often said to be for learning, while summative assessments are of learning. Or as assessment expert Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s summative assessment.” It should be noted, however, that the distinction between formative and summative is often fuzzy in practice, and educators may have divergent interpretations and opinions on the subject.
Some of the most well-known and widely discussed examples of summative assessments are the standardized tests administered by states and testing organizations, usually in math, reading, writing, and science. Other examples of summative assessments include:
- End-of-unit or chapter tests.
- End-of-term or semester tests.
- Standardized tests that are used to for the purposes of school accountability, college admissions (e.g., the SAT or ACT), or end-of-course evaluation (e.g., Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams).
- Culminating demonstrations of learning or other forms of “performance assessment,” such as portfolios of student work that are collected over time and evaluated by teachers or capstone projects that students work on over extended periods of time and that they present and defend at the conclusion of a school year or their high school education.
While most summative assessments are given at the conclusion of an instructional period, some summative assessments can still be used diagnostically. For example, the growing availability of student data, made possible by online grading systems and databases, can give teachers access to assessment results from previous years or other courses. By reviewing this data, teachers may be able to identify students more likely to struggle academically in certain subject areas or with certain concepts. In addition, students may be allowed to take some summative tests multiple times, and teachers might use the results to help prepare students for future administrations of the test.
It should also be noted that districts and schools may use “interim” or “benchmark” tests to monitor the academic progress of students and determine whether they are on track to mastering the material that will be evaluated on end-of-course tests or standardized tests. Some educators consider interim tests to be formative, since they are often used diagnostically to inform instructional modifications, but others may consider them to be summative. There is ongoing debate in the education community about this distinction, and interim assessments may defined differently from place to place. See formative assessment for a more detailed discussion.
While educators have arguably been using “summative assessments” in various forms since the invention of schools and teaching, summative assessments have in recent decades become components of larger school-improvement efforts. As they always have, summative assessments can help teachers determine whether students are making adequate academic progress or meeting expected learning standards, and results may be used to inform modifications to instructional techniques, lesson designs, or teaching materials the next time a course, unit, or lesson is taught. Yet perhaps the biggest changes in the use of summative assessments have resulted from state and federal policies aimed at improving public education—specifically, standardized high-stakes tests used to make important decisions about schools, teachers, and students.
While there is little disagreement among educators about the need for or utility of summative assessments, debates and disagreements tend to center on issues of fairness and effectiveness, especially when summative-assessment results are used for high-stakes purposes. In these cases, educators, experts, reformers, policy makers, and others may debate whether assessments are being designed and used appropriately, or whether high-stakes tests are either beneficial or harmful to the educational process. For more detailed discussions of these issues, see high-stakes test , measurement error , test accommodations , test bias , score inflation , standardized test , and value-added measures .
Best practices in summative assessment
- 1 College of Medicine, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida [email protected].
- PMID: 28188198
- DOI: 10.1152/advan.00116.2016
The goal of this review is to highlight key elements underpinning excellent high-stakes summative assessment. This guide is primarily aimed at faculty members with the responsibility of assigning student grades and is intended to be a practical tool to help throughout the process of planning, developing, and deploying tests as well as monitoring their effectiveness. After a brief overview of the criteria for high-quality assessment, the guide runs through best practices for aligning assessment with learning outcomes and compares common testing modalities. Next, the guide discusses the kind of validity evidence needed to support defensible grading of student performance. This review concentrates on how to measure the outcome of student learning; other reviews in this series will expand on the related concepts of formative testing and how to leverage testing for learning.
Keywords: blueprinting; generalizability; reliability; summative assessment; validity.
Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society.
- Educational Measurement / methods*
- Educational Measurement / standards
- Faculty* / standards
- Physiology / education*
What is summative assessment? How to further learning with final exams
Understanding the meaning and function of summative assessment helps clarify its role within education as a critical component of bridging teaching and learning. In this post, we take a closer look at summative assessment’s qualities with the end goal of ensuring that summative assessment supports learning and informs teaching.
Grading can be learning, for both students and teachers.
Assessment is a term that describes tests, quizzes, exams, and assignments that measure student learning. Each of these methodologies can provide students and teachers with insights. Educators receive data on what students have and have not learned and gain observations into teaching efficacy and exam design. Students, in turn, recognize any learning gaps they might have, and when they receive feedback, understand next steps to further learning.
The most high-stakes type of assessment is called summative assessment. Summative assessment often comes at the endpoint of learning, whether at the end of a unit, course, or curriculum, serving largely as a pure evaluation of knowledge.
It’s easy to consider summative assessments as a final chapter to learning, but summative assessments can also act as a milestone and inform next steps for both educators and students. By examining the definition of summative assessment as well as its capabilities, educators can embrace its strengths, bolster its shortcomings, and foster learning.
Summative assessment is a specific type of assessment that evaluates learning and offers little opportunity for providing student feedback because of its positioning at the end of a learning unit. They are usually high-stakes, contributing to a large portion of a student’s course grade (e.g., final exams) or an exam that has a high impact on a student’s educational outcome. (e.g., standardized exams or entrance exams). Summative assessments include heavily weighted midterm exams, final exams, licensure tests, and standardized exams like A levels in the UK, SATs in the United States, Matriculation Exams in Finland, National Boards in India, or the CSAT in South Korea.
In such a high-stakes context, failing or struggling on summative assessments can negate student effort in other areas of study. On the other hand, summative assessment can be an effective tool to evaluate student knowledge and in the realm of licensure and certification exams, determine qualification for beginning a career.
While we aim to focus discussion on summative assessment, it’s important to describe another type of assessment to provide context; formative assessments not only evaluate learning but provide feedback to students and data to instructors. While formative assessments may or may not be given a grade, they most certainly further learning and occur throughout the course to support student learning needs, and often provide a safe space for failure . Formative assessments include assignments, tests, in-class activities, quizzes, and even midterm exams when they include feedback and opportunities for instructor intervention.
Best practices in formative assessment include providing timely and actionable feedback to students before the next assessment ( Hattie & Timperley, 2007 ).
While formative assessment is the measurement and support of learning as it takes place, summative assessments are evaluations of what a student has learned at the end of a given period (e.g., semester or training course). By assessing students at the end of a module, course, or curriculum, educators gain insight into how well their students have mastered the content and how effective their teaching methods were.
Even though summative assessments are situated at a point where students will find it hard to action results, data from summative assessments can still be used to inform curriculum planning and teaching, as well as any future exam adjustments.
That said, when possible, it’s important to balance formative and summative assessments within a term or curriculum. Fortifying summative assessments with prior formative assessments can support a student’s educational journey. Students who understand what they know and what they need to know in order to move forward are more likely to be prepared for final evaluation. Furthermore, preparing students for final evaluation with frequent opportunities to fail safely and receive feedback reduces stress, increases learning outcomes, and can mitigate academic misconduct .
While every type of assessment has its function to evaluate, every type of assessment, too, can be maximized for learning and teaching. Mid-course exams, for example, have the potential for both summative and formative qualities, serving to evaluate mastery (summative) and provide feedback to promote student learning (formative).
Without feedback, a midterm exam is purely summative. And while a summative component to a mid-course exam is reasonable, there is a lot more potential to them. It is important to provide feedback on mid-course exams so that students understand what they do and do not know and have the tools to bridge learning gaps for the next assessment and ultimately their final exam.
When assessments are provided with timely and actionable feedback, students have the information they need to facilitate their own learning; in this way, even high-stakes midterm exams can pivot towards formative learning opportunities for students. Additionally, summative assessments contain information critical for teacher and curriculum intervention as well as future exam design.
While formative assessments hinge on providing students with immediate feedback to help with the learning process, summative assessments happen after the student learning occurs. However, this doesn’t mean that communicating students’ performance is any less important.
For students to understand what content they have mastered and which topics might need additional study time, they need a detailed breakdown of their performance.
Categorizing summative assessment questions can give instructors the granular performance data they (and their students) need. By tagging exam items to course topics or learning objectives, faculty can provide the detailed feedback students need to be more focused in their study efforts.
Summative assessments are an important part of the assessment process and are incredibly valuable to both students and faculty. By ensuring high-stakes exams are secure, and providing students with performance feedback, educators can gain insight into how well students have learned the content and how well instructors have presented it.
Summative assessments evaluate content mastery. Generally, they are end-of-course or end-of-year exams; however, these are not the only applicable uses of summative assessments. Evaluating student learning could also come at the end of a chapter or learning module with mid-course exams.
Summative exams can also be multi-functional, as they, like all assessments, are rich with data. When item analysis and psychometrics accompany summative assessment, instruction is bolstered. When an assessment occurs at the end of a course or year or curriculum, data insights help educators make adjustments to teaching and curriculum so that future learning can be bolstered. When category-tagging is employed in tools like ExamSoft, educators can pinpoint student preparation for things like licensure exams. And conducting item analysis can inform effective exam design.
Summative assessments are by nature, high-stakes, and very stressful.
Who hasn’t woken from a nightmare in panic about missing or failing a final exam, even decades out from school? The reality that summative assessments can make or break academic success is deeply implanted in our psyche.
While there is little disagreement among educators about the need for or utility of summative assessments, debates and disagreements tend to center on issues of fairness and effectiveness, especially when summative-assessment results are used for high-stakes purposes.
Fair and inclusive assessments uphold accurate assessments. When exams are not fair nor inclusive, they become vulnerable to misconduct, resulting in missed learning opportunities. When exams do not cover what was taught, students may feel stressed and vulnerable. These missed opportunities can compound and widen learning gaps.
Assessments need to contain a variety of formats and question styles to measure different components of learning and include different learning styles. Summative assessments, when poorly designed, reward memorization rather than deep understanding of concepts. Encouraging competition between students, which can happen when grading on a curve, can also increase stress and decrease fairness.
Additionally, when test-takers are not sure how they will be evaluated, summative assessments can be unfair and inaccurate. Providing rubrics to students and graders ensures clarity of expectations and ensuing measurement of learning.
When summative assessments are stressful, do not accurately measure learning, aren’t preceded with learning opportunities beforehand, and/or don’t test what has been taught, they also become more vulnerable to academic misconduct and shortcut solutions like cheating, plagiarism, and AI Writing misuse.
Assessments are a checkpoint for student learning and teaching efficacy; consequently, accurate student responses are critical to increasing learning outcomes.
Most summative assessments are given with the understanding that the student’s score counts toward their final grade. As such, keeping these secure from academic dishonesty is paramount to providing a fair experience for all exam-takers. Though many educational institutions are moving to computer-based testing (CBT), taking exams on laptops or other devices brings a new list of potential security issues, such as access to the internet or other applications during an exam. An effective way to ensure exam integrity is testing software that does not allow use of the internet during an exam and prevents students from accessing other applications on their device.
Preventing academic dishonesty by blocking exam-takers’ information sources isn’t the only point to consider; ensuring students don’t share assessment items is also a concern. Once a test question is compromised, it’s no longer a valid measurement of student learning. Thus, keeping questions secure is vital.
Assessment security is a focus of Professor Phillip Dawson, an authority on assessment security from Deakin University in Australia, who defines assessment security as: “Measures taken to harden assessment against attempts to cheat. This includes approaches to detect and evidence attempts to cheat, as well as measures to make cheating more difficult.”
Dawson suggests a multilayered approach to assessment design, with seven standards for assessment security that institutions ought to consider:
- Coverage across a program - how much of a degree should be secured?
- Authentication - how do we ensure the student is who they say they are?
- Control of circumstances - how can we be sure the task was done in the intended circumstances?
- Difficulty to cheat metrics - we need to know how hard it may be to cheat a task.
- Detection accuracy metrics - we need to know if our detection methods work.
- Proof metrics - we need to be able to prove cases of cheating.
- Prevalence metrics - we need to know approximate rates of undetected, detected, and proven cheating ( Dawson, 2021 ).
According to Professor Roseanna Bourke, Director of Educational Psychology programme and Institute of Education at Massey University, there is a link between student cheating and student understanding and investment in the assigned tasks; when students don’t understand questions and lack confidence, learning itself becomes the barrier ( Bourke, Integrity Matters, n.d. ).
Providing support to students throughout a course or curriculum mitigates academic dishonesty in summative assessments. When students feel seen and supported with formative feedback in their educational journey, they are less likely to cheat. Additionally, rubrics can make clear the purpose of each question.
As stated, summative assessment is useful when the data exchange is maximized and accurate. Not only should it provide information about content mastery to instructors, it can also act as a reservoir of statistics about learning trends, item analysis, and exam effectiveness. Finally, and when possible, summative exams can take on formative qualities when feedback is provided. All of these data points directly benefit student learning.
Because it is a platform to demonstrate a culmination of knowledge, designing summative assessments is particularly critical to make the test accessible and inclusive for all different types of learners, and thus promote accurate measurement and data insights. Exam design principles include:
- Test what has been taught; aligning summative assessment with instruction models and promotes integrity for students.
- Design assessments that focus on measuring both breadth and depth of student knowledge and consider eliminating components that do not inform learning. Offer a variety of assessment formats. Multiple-choice questions can effectively breadth of knowledge in a limited time while short-answer and long-answer formats can evaluate higher-order thinking.
- Offering a variety of formats and questions styles within a summative assessment can also accommodate different learning styles. When diverse formats are offered, a larger spectrum of learning can be assessed. Additionally, diverse formats provide different ways for students to demonstrate their learning.
- And consider eliminating grading on a curve, which can increase competition between students, some of whom may be cheating ( UC Berkeley, 2020 ). Researchers Schinske and Tanner state, “Moving away from curving sets the expectation that all students have the opportunity to achieve the highest possible grade” ( Schinske & Tanner, 2014 ).
- A rubric, too, benefits students by clarifying expectations and acts as added assurance that tests align to previously-communicated learning goals.
Finally, the summative assessment itself is a living document, one that can be continuously optimized.
Analyze student responses to ensure assessments are fair, and to examine answer patterns to see if shortcut solutions have been utilized. Item analysis , or formally examining student responses and patterns, can show whether or not summative assessments are accurately assessing student knowledge. The data (Did every student get one particular question wrong? Did every student get one particular question correct? What kinds of answers are your test questions eliciting? Did you get the answers you expected?) can inform both exam design and teaching. Furthermore, item analysis supports exam robustness by highlighting questions on exams that may need adjustment.
Category tagging , a feature in ExamSoft assessment software, can offer more in-depth insights into future testing. A nursing program, for instance, can evaluate readiness for certification and the strength of curriculum to prepare students for standardized exams. Of course, category tagging can also fortify summative assessment within the curriculum.
In conclusion, summative assessments function largely as a way to evaluate learning at critical learning junctions, whether at the end of a term, end of a curriculum, or for advancement into the next level of schooling or licensure. The nature of summative assessments make them high-stakes, sometimes to the extent that they can negatively impact all prior learning. Moreover, they lack the opportunity for feedback, given their position in the educational journey.
That said, summative assessments are not wholly an endpoint. They are an intersection rich with data for educators to inform teaching, curriculum, and exam design. For students, too, there can be opportunities to learn, either by feedback or via data analysis, their own learning gaps and how to bridge them.
When educators maximize the potential of summative assessment, they can foster learning.
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Guides | 17 minutes
What are examples of summative assessments?
What are summative assessments in education.
Summative Assessments are—in simple words—the way educators determine what a student has learned. They are typically tests or cumulative assignments that provide teachers with insights into the overall success of their instructional methods. Summative assessments also reveal if students have or have not mastered the learning targets or standards. Additionally, summative assessments provide school administrators, districts, and other key decision makers with actionable data and insight into how successfully a curriculum or teacher performs.
Summative assessments must be created following specific guidelines, which are outlined in detail below. In brief, summative assessments must provide valid, reliable data points that can be compared across classrooms, across time, and across graders in order to measure student growth and teacher, district, or curriculum efficacy.
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What does a summative assessment measure?
Summative assessments measure student learning along with teacher and curriculum effectiveness. Unlike formative assessments , which are often low-stake check-ins, summative assessments are typically high stakes, serving not only as the cumulation of a unit, semester, or school year, but also frequently serving as the key factor in a student’s grade or an administrator’s decision about a teacher or curriculum.
Teachers who incorporate mastery learning into their instructional process rely heavily on summative assessments to measure whether or not a student has mastered the content taught. When they have finished their units, teachers offer a summative—or cumulative—test, project, or essay to determine if students have reached the key learning targets. If a student does not reach a predetermined score (80%, according to most mastery learning models), teachers adjust what content comes next and often provide strategic interventions to provide students with the time needed to truly master the content. In this way, summative assessments can be thought of as formative, in that teachers inform next steps based on summative results.
Why are summative assessments used in education?
Summative assessments are highly valued in education due to the valuable data they provide. Unlike formative assessments, which are typically more subjective and rarely designed to be used across classrooms or schools for comparative purposes, summative assessments are created for validity and reliability.
Validity in summative assessments—or the ability of an assessment to actually measure what it is supposed to measure—ensures that teachers can be confident that students have or have not mastered the key learning objective. Additionally, valid summative assessments mean that educators and administrators are able to trust the summative assessment’s data about whether or not a teacher or curriculum performed as expected. A summative assessment’s validity ensures that decisions are made according to the true learning targets and not some side topic that may have unintentionally found its way into the assessment.
Reliability in summative assessments—or the ability of an assessment to reproduce consistent outcomes across time and setting regardless of grader—ensures that teachers and administrators are making decisions using accurate data, not outlying data. This is especially important in situations where a teacher’s salary or a controversial curriculum hangs in the balance.
Many educators have found that online tools allow them to more effectively gather and analyze data for validity and reliability, and to measure trends over time. Additionally, online tools allow teachers to quickly spot anomalies so they know which students need enrichment or intervention.
How do you write a summative assessment?
Summative assessments must be written according to a few specific guidelines.
First, in order to ensure a summative assessment is valid, teachers must:
- Determine the key learning objectives or standards that they will teach.
- Decide on what format will best showcase whether or not that objective or standard has been met. In some cases, a multiple choice test might work best; in others, teachers may need to choose something more along the lines of an essay or project.
- Ensure that students understand the learning objectives, the method of the summative assessment, and the grading scale or rubric. Students are far more likely to not only perform better on summative assessments but also to engage and take ownership in their learning when they clearly understand what they are being asked to do and why.
- Plan and teach curriculum that closely aligns with the learning objectives and parallels the summative assessment.
Second, in order to ensure a summative assessment is reliable, teachers must:
- Create a comprehensive grading plan—or rubric—to ensure data is consistently and correctly gathered.
- Ensure classroom instruction and curriculum follows the same plan across classrooms or year over year, depending on how the teacher is planning to use the data from the summative assessments.
- Decide on how the summative assessment will be given in order to ensure consistent results across classrooms or time. Does it always need to be given at a specific time of day or of year? Does the classroom need to be set up a certain way? Does the teacher provide specific prompts or help during the assessment?
- Create and execute the summative assessment according to the predetermined guidelines. Many teachers find it helpful to bring their summative assessments to their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for help in spotting questions that could take away from the test’s validity or reliability.
- Grade the summative assessment according to the predetermined guidelines. Many teachers find it helpful to bring in “blind graders”—fellow staff or other experts to grade the assessments without any background knowledge of students or classroom instruction.
Third, teachers should take time to analyze the results of their summative assessment. Did students master the learning targets or standards ? Did this unit drive their understanding and comprehension forward? Or will they need intervention and help before moving on to the next unit or goal? Teachers should then make decisions about how to proceed.
Fourth, teachers should report findings to the stakeholders—students, parents, administrators, and the like. Students are far more likely to improve their learning when they receive descriptive feedback—clear, exact descriptions of what a student got right or wrong, and more importantly, why they made certain mistakes and how to correct them.
Finally, many teachers find it valuable to bring the results of their summative assessments back to their PLCs. While there, teachers find support in analyzing data, understanding results, and creating intervention plans .
How do summative assessments fit in with the 5 types of assessment?
There are five foundational types of assessments:
- Diagnostic assessments , or pre-assessment, which teachers use to gauge students’ pre-knowledge and zone of proximal development. These typically occur once at the beginning of a unit.
- Formative assessments , which teachers use to determine where student knowledge is at mid-unit. These typically occur frequently throughout the unit.
- Summative assessments , which teachers use to determine student growth at the end of a unit. These typically occur once at the end of a unit.
- Interim assessments , which districts use to measure specific grades across schools. These typically occur once a year.
- Benchmark assessments , which bigger bodies (e.g. states) use to measure overarching student growth and school effectiveness. These typically occur once a year.
Typically, teachers create their diagnostic assessments to mirror their summative assessments in order to easily compare the results of a summative assessment to its unit’s diagnostic assessment. This allows teachers to quickly and easily see if students grew in the desired knowledge during the unit.
Additionally, many teachers work to align the majority of their formative assessments with their summative assessments. For example, teachers may use questions similar to the questions found on the summative assessments as exit tickets throughout the unit. They do this to tap into the “testing effect” of formative assessments: by allowing students to “test” themselves in a low-stakes environment, they are enabling students to recall up to 67% more of what they’ve learned on the final summative assessment than students would have via other study methods.
While summative assessments are not always interim and benchmark assessments, these two categories would fall under the same umbrella as summative assessments, as both teachers and administrators use interim and benchmark assessments to not only determine what students have learned, but to make decisions about staffing, curriculum, or school success.
While there is no one right summative assessment, it is important that teachers use or create summative assessments that will provide valid, reliable data across classrooms or year over year. For example, many teachers use:
- Curriculum Tests : Although a teacher may tweak the test created by the curriculum here or there to align with their state or district’s learning targets, using the curriculum test provides a large degree of validity and reliability, and teachers can easily use the same test (with the same tweaks) in every class for as long as they use that curriculum.
- Rubrics : It is essential that teachers create strong, detailed rubrics when they choose to use writing assignments or final projects. Although it may take the teacher a few rounds with their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and iterations in classrooms, eventually teachers should land on a rubric that they can use year over year for reliable data.
- Multiple Choice Tests : These are perhaps the easiest summative assessments to use in terms of gathering and comparing data. However, it can be easy to create multiple-choice questions that don’t align well with the learning objectives, which compromises the validity of the test. Teachers do well to bring their multiple-choice tests to PLCs to get peer feedback on their summative assessments before bringing them to their class.
Again, it’s important to note that regardless of what type of assessments teachers choose to use, these assessments should be used to gauge student learning and make critical decisions about how to enhance the learning process so students receive the best learning opportunities possible.
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10 Summative Assessment Examples to Try This School Year
- Teaching Strategies
- A formative and summative assessment definition
- Difference between formative and summative assessment
- Pros and cons of summative assessment
- 9 effective and engaging summative assessment examples
- Helpful summative assessment strategies
When gauging student learning, two approaches likely come to mind: a formative or summative assessment.
Fortunately, feeling pressure to choose one or the other isn’t necessary. These two types of learning assessment actually serve different and necessary purposes.
Definitions: What’s the difference between formative and summative assessment?
Formative assessment occurs regularly throughout a unit, chapter, or term to help track not only how student learning is improving, but how your teaching can, too.
According to a WestEd article , teachers love using various formative assessments because they help meet students’ individual learning needs and foster an environment for ongoing feedback.
Take one-minute papers, for example. Giving your students a solo writing task about today’s lesson can help you see how well students understand new content.
Catching these struggles or learning gaps immediately is better than finding out during a summative assessment.
Such an assessment could include:
- In-lesson polls
- Partner quizzes
- Ed-tech games
- One-minute papers
- Visuals (e.g., diagrams, charts or maps) to demonstrate learning
- Exit tickets
So, what is a summative assessment?
Credit: Alberto G.
It occurs at the end of a unit, chapter, or term and is most commonly associated with final projects, standardized tests, or district benchmarks.
Typically heavily weighted and graded, it evaluates what a student has learned and how much they understand.
There are various types of summative assessment. Here are some common examples of summative assessment in practice:
- End-of-unit test
- End-of-chapter test
- Achievement tests
- Standardized tests
- Final projects or portfolios
Teachers and administrators use the final result to assess student progress, and to evaluate schools and districts. For teachers, this could mean changing how you teach a certain unit or chapter. For administrators, this data could help clarify which programs (if any) require tweaking or removal.
The differences between formative and summative assessment
While we just defined the two, there are five key differences between formative and summative assessments requiring a more in-depth explanation.
- Occurs through a chapter or unit
- Improves how students learn
- Covers small content areas
- Monitors how students are learning
- Focuses on the process of student learning
- Occurs at the end of a chapter or unit
- Evaluates what students learn
- Covers complete content areas
- Assigns a grade to students' understanding
- Emphasizes the product of student learning
During vs after
Teachers use formative assessment at many points during a unit or chapter to help guide student learning.
Summative assessment comes in after completing a content area to gauge student understanding.
Improving vs evaluating
If anyone knows how much the learning process is a constant work in progress, it’s you! This is why formative assessment is so helpful — it won’t always guarantee students understand concepts, but it will improve how they learn.
Summative assessment, on the other hand, simply evaluates what they’ve learned. In her book, Balanced Assessment: From Formative to Summative, renowned educator Kay Burke writes, “The only feedback comes in the form of a letter grade, percentage grade, pass/fail grade, or label such as ‘exceeds standards’ or ‘needs improvement.’”
Little vs large
Let’s say chapter one in the math textbook has three subchapters (i.e., 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3). A teacher conducting formative assessments will assign mini tasks or assignments throughout each individual content area.
Whereas, if you’d like an idea of how your class understood the complete chapter, you’d give them a test covering a large content area including all three parts.
Monitoring vs grading
Formative assessment is extremely effective as a means to monitor individual students’ learning styles. It helps catch problems early, giving you more time to address and adapt to different problem areas.
Summative assessments are used to evaluate and grade students’ overall understanding of what you’ve taught. Think report card comments: did students achieve the learning goal(s) you set for them or not?
😮 😄 😂 #reportcard #funny #memes #comics #samecooke #schooldays #music #classic #letsgo #gooutmore #showlove pic.twitter.com/qQ2jen1Z8k — Goldstar Events (@goldstar) January 20, 2019
Process vs product
“It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey”? This age-old saying sums up formative and summative assessments fairly accurately.
The former focuses on the process of student learning. You’ll use it to identify areas of strength and weakness among your students — and to make necessary changes to accommodate their learning needs.
The latter emphasizes the product of student learning. To discover the product’s “value”, you can ask yourself questions, such as: At the end of an instructional unit, did the student’s grade exceed the class standard, or pass according to a district’s benchmark?
In other words, formative methods are an assessment for learning whereas summative ones are an assessment of learning .
Now that you’ve got a more thorough understanding of these evaluations, let’s dive into the love-hate relationship teachers like yourself may have with summative assessments.
Perceived disadvantages of summative assessment
The pros are plenty. However, before getting to that list, let’s outline some of its perceived cons. Summative assessment may:
1) Offer minimal room for creativity
Rigid and strict assignments or tests can lead to a regurgitation of information. Some students may be able to rewrite facts from one page to another, but others need to understand the “why” before giving an answer.
2) Not accurately reflect learning
“Teaching to the test” refers to educators who dedicate more time teaching lessons that will be emphasized on district-specific tests.
A survey conducted by Harvard’s Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism asked teachers whether or not “preparing students to pass mandated standardized tests” affects their teaching.
A significant 60% said it either “dictates most of” or “substantially affects” their teaching. While this can result in higher scores, curriculum distortion can prevent students from learning other foundational subject areas.
3) Ignore (and miss) timely learning needs
Because summative assessment occurs at the end of units or terms, teachers can fail to identify and remedy students’ knowledge gaps or misconceptions as they arise.
Unfortunately, by this point, there’s often little or no time to rectify a student’s mark, which can affect them in subsequent units or grades.
4) Result in a lack of motivation
The University of London’s Evidence for Policy and Practice conducted a 19-study systematic review of the impact summative assessment and tests have on students’ motivation for learning.
Contrary to popular belief, researchers found a correlation between students who scored poorly on national curriculum tests and experienced lower self-esteem, and an unwillingness to put more effort into future test prep. Beforehand, interestingly, “there was no correlation between self-esteem and achievement.”
For some students, summative assessment can sometimes be seen as 'high stakes' testing due to the pressure on them to perform well. That said, 'low-stakes' assessments can also be used in the form of quizzes or practice tests.
Repeated practice tests reinforce the low self-image of the lower-achieving students… When test scores are a source or pride and the community, pressure is brought to bear on the school for high scores.
Similarly, parents bring pressure on their children when the result has consequences for attendance at high social status schools. For many students, this increases their anxiety, even though they recognize their parents as being supportive.
5) Be inauthentic
Summative assessment has received criticism for its perceived inaccuracy in providing a full and balanced measure of student learning.
Consider this, for example: Your student, who’s a hands-on, auditory learner, has a math test today. It comes in a traditional paper format as well as a computer program format, which reads the questions aloud for students.
Chances are the student will opt for the latter test format. What’s more, this student’s test results will likely be higher and more accurate.
The reality is that curricula — let alone standardized tests — typically don’t allow for this kind of accommodation. This is the exact reason educators and advocates such as Chuck Hitchcock, Anne Meyer, David Rose, and Richard Jackson believe:
Curriculum matters and ‘fixing’ the one-size-fits-all, inflexible curriculum will occupy both special and general educators well into the future… Students with diverse learning needs are not ‘the problem’; barriers in the curriculum itself are the root of the difficulty.
6) Be biased
Depending on a school district’s demographic, summative assessment — including standardized tests — can present biases if a group of students is unfairly graded based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or social class.
In his presentation at Kansas State University, emeritus professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, Dr. W. James Popham, explained summative assessment bias:
This doesn’t necessarily mean that if minority students are outperformed on a summative test by majority students that the test is biased against that minority. It may instead indicate that the minority students have not been provided with the appropriate instruction…
An example of content bias against girls would be one in which students are asked to compare the weights of several objects, including a football. Since girls are less likely to have handled a football, they might find the item more difficult than boys, even though they have mastered the concept measured by the item.
Importance and benefits of summative assessment
Overall, these are valid points raised against summative assessment. However, it does offer fantastic benefits for teachers and students alike!
Summative assessment can:
1) Motivate students to study and pay closer attention
Although we mentioned lack of motivation above, this isn’t true for every student. In fact, you’ve probably encountered numerous students for whom summative assessments are an incredible source of motivation to put more effort into their studies.
For example, final exams are a common type of summative assessment that students may encounter at the end of a semester or school year. This pivotal moment gives students a milestone to achieve and a chance to demonstrate their knowledge.
In May 2017, the College Board released a statement about whether coaching truly boosts test scores:
Data shows studying for the SAT for 20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy. Out of nearly 250,000 test-takers studied, more than 16,000 gained 200 points or more between the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT…
In addition to the 115-point average score increase associated with 20 hours of practice, shorter practice periods also correlate with meaningful score gains. For example, 6 to 8 hours of practice on Official SAT Practice is associated with an average 90-point increase.
2) Allow students to apply what they’ve learned
It’s one thing to memorize multiplication tables (which is a good skill), but another to apply those skills in math word problems or real-world examples.
Summative assessments — excluding, for example, multiple choice tests — help you see which students can retain and apply what they’ve learned.
3) Help identify gaps in student learning
Before moving on to a new unit, it’s vital to make sure students are keeping up. Naturally, some will be ahead while others will lag behind. In either case, giving them a summative assessment will provide you with a general overview of where your class stands as a whole.
Let’s say your class just wrote a test on multiplication and division. If all students scored high on multiplication but one quarter of students scored low on division, you’ll know to focus more on teaching division to those students moving forward.
4) Help identify possible teaching gaps
In addition to identifying student learning gaps , summative assessment can help target where your teaching style or lesson plans may have missed the mark.
Have you ever been grading tests before, to your horror, realizing almost none of your students hit the benchmark you hoped for? When this happens, the low grades are not necessarily related to study time.
For example, you may need to adjust your teaching methods by:
- Including/excluding word problems
- Incorporating more visual components
- Innovative summative assessments (we list some below!)
5) Give teachers valuable insights
Credit: Kevin Jarrett
Summative assessments can highlight what worked and what didn’t throughout the school year. Once you pinpoint how, where and what lessons need tweaking, making informed adjustments for next year becomes easier.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes… and, for teachers, new students year after year. So although old students may miss out on changes you’ve made to your lessons, new ones get to reap the benefits.
This not only improves your skills as an educator, but will ensure a more enriching educational experience for generations of students to come.
6) Contribute positively to learning outcomes
Certain summative assessments also provide valuable data at district, national, and global levels. Depending on average test scores, this can determine whether or not certain schools receive funding, programs stay or go, curriculum changes occur, and more. Burke writes:
Summative assessments also provide the public and policymakers with a sense of the results of their investment in education and give educators a forum for proving whether instruction works – or does not work.
The seven aims of summative assessment
Dr. Nancy P. Gallavan, a professor of teacher education at the University of Central Arkansas, believes teachers can use performance-based summative assessments at any grade level.
However, in an article for Corwin , she suggests crafting yours with seven aims in mind:
- Accompanied with appropriate time and task management
- Achievable as in-class activities and out-of-class assignments
- Active involvement in planning, preparation, and performance
- Applicable to academic standards and expectations
- Appropriate to your students’ learning styles, needs, and interests
- Attractive to your students on an individual and group level
- Authentic to curricular content and context
Ideally, the assessment method should also measure a student’s performance accurately against the learning objectives set at the beginning of the course.
Keeping these goals in mind, here’s a list of innovative ways to conduct summative assessments in your classroom!
Summative assessment examples: 9 ways to make test time fun
If you want to switch things up this summative assessment season, keep reading. While you can’t change what’s on standardized tests, you can create activities to ensure your students are exhibiting and applying their understanding and skills to end-of-chapter or -unit assessments. In a refreshing way.
Why not give them the opportunity to express their understanding in ways that apply to different learning styles?
Note : As a general guideline, students should incorporate recognition and recall, logic and reasoning, as well as skills and application that cover major concepts and practices (including content areas you emphasized in your lessons).
1) One, two, three… action!
Write a script and create a short play, movie, or song about a concept or strategy of your choosing.
This video from Science Rap Academy is a great — and advanced — example of students who created a song about how blue-eyed children can come from two brown-eyed parents:
Using a tool such as iPhone Fake Text Generator , have students craft a mock text message conversation conveying a complex concept from the unit, or each chapter of that unit.
Students could create a back-and-forth conversation between two historical figures about a world event, or two friends helping each other with complex math concepts.
Have your students create a five to 10-minute podcast episode about core concepts from each unit. This is an exciting option because it can become an ongoing project.
Individually or in groups, specific students can be in charge of each end-of-chapter or -unit podcast. If your students have a cumulative test towards the end of the year or term, the podcast can even function as a study tool they created together.
Credit : Brad Flickinger
You can use online tools such as Record MP3 Online or Vocaroo to get your class started!
Creating a detailed infographic for a final project is an effective way for students to reinforce what they’ve learned. They can cover definitions, key facts, statistics, research, how-to info, graphics, etc.
You can even put up the most impressive infographics in your classroom. Over time, you’ll have an arsenal of in-depth, visually-appealing infographics students can use when studying for chapter or unit tests.
5) Compare and contrast
Venn diagrams are an old — yet effective — tool perfect for visualizing just about anything! Whether you teach history or social studies, English or math, or something in between, Venn diagrams can help certain learners visualize the relationship between different things.
For example, they can compare book characters, locations around the world, scientific concepts, and more just like the examples below:
6) Living museum
This creative summative assessment is similar to one, two, three… action! Individuals will plan and prepare an exhibit (concept) in the Living Museum (classroom). Let’s say the unit your class just completed covered five core concepts.
Five students will set up around the classroom while the teacher walks from exhibit to exhibit. Upon reaching the first student, the teacher will push an imaginary button, bringing the exhibit “to life.” The student will do a two to three-minute presentation; afterwards, the teacher will move on to the next one.
7) Ed-Tech games
Now more than ever, students are growing up saturated with smartphones, tablets, and video games. That’s why educators should show students how to use technology in the classroom effectively and productively.
More and more educators are bringing digital tools into the learning process. Pew Research Center surveyed 2,462 teachers and reported that digital technologies have helped in teaching their middle and high school students.
Some of the findings were quite eye-opening:
- 80% report using the internet at least weekly to help them create lesson plans
- 84% report using the internet at least weekly to find content that will engage students
- 69% say the internet has a “major impact on their ability to share ideas with other teachers
- 80% report getting email alerts or updates at least weekly that allow them to follow developments in their field
- 92% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching
- 67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students
To make the most of EdTech, find a tool that actually engages your students in learning and gives you the insightful data and reports you need to adjust your instruction
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8) Shark Tank/Dragon’s Den
Yes, just like the reality TV show! You can show an episode or two to your class or get them to watch the show at home. Next, have students pitch a product or invention that can help change the world outside of school for the better.
This innovative summative assessment is one that’ll definitely require some more thought and creativity. But it’s important that, as educators, we help students realize they can have a huge positive impact on the world in which they live.
9) Free choice
If a student chooses to come up with their own summative assessment, you’ll need to vet it first. It’ll likely take some collaboration to arrive at something sufficient.
However, giving students the freedom to explore content areas that interest them most could surprise you. Sometimes, it’s during those projects they form a newfound passion and are wildly successful in completing the task.
We’re sure there are countless other innovative summative assessment ideas out there, but we hope this list gets your creative juices flowing.
With the exclusion of standardized state and national tests, one of the greatest misconceptions about summative assessments is that they’re all about paper and pencil. Our hope in creating this list was to help you see how fun and engaging summative assessments can truly be.
10) Group projects
Group projects aren't just a fun way to break the monotony, but a dynamic and interactive form of summative assessment. Here's why:
- Collaborative learning: Group projects encourage students to work as a team, fostering their communication and collaboration skills. They learn to listen, negotiate, and empathize, which are crucial skills in and beyond the classroom.
- Promotes critical thinking: When students interact with each other, they get to explore different perspectives. They challenge each other's understanding, leading to stimulating debates and problem-solving sessions that boost critical thinking.
- In-depth assessment: Group projects offer teachers a unique lens to evaluate both individual performances and group dynamics. It's like getting a sneak peek into their world - you get to see how they perform under different circumstances and how they interact with each other.
- Catering to different learning styles: Given the interactive nature of group projects, they can cater to different learning styles - auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Every student gets a chance to shine!
However, it's important to set clear instructions and criteria to ensure fairness. Remember, it's not just about the final product - it's about the process too.
Some interesting examples of group projects include:
- Create a Mini Documentary: Students could work together to research a historical event and create a mini documentary presenting their findings.
- Plan a Community Service Project: This could involve identifying a problem in the local community and creating a detailed plan to address it.
- Design a Mobile App: For a more tech-focused project, students could identify a problem and design an app that solves it.
Summative assessment strategies for keeping tests clear and fair
In addition to using the summative assessment examples above to accommodate your students’ learning styles, these tips and strategies should also help:
- Use a rubric — Rubrics help set a standard for how your class should perform on a test or assignment. They outline test length, how in-depth it will be, and what you require of them to achieve the highest possible grades.
- Design clear, effective questions — When designing tests, do your best to use language, phrases, and examples similar to those used during lessons. This’ll help keep your tests aligned with the material you’ve covered.
- Try blind grading — Most teachers prefer knowing whose tests they’re grading. But if you want to provide wholly unbiased grades and feedback, try blind grading. You can request your students write their names on the bottom of the last test page or the back.
- Assess comprehensiveness — Make sure the broad, overarching connections you’re hoping students can make are reasonable and fluid. For example, if the test covers measurement, geometry and spatial sense, you should avoid including questions about patterning and algebra.
- Create a final test after, not before, teaching the lessons — Don’t put the horse before the carriage. Plans can change and student learning can demand different emphases from year to year. If you have a test outline, perfect! But expect to embrace and make some changes from time to time.
- Make it real-world relevant — How many times have you heard students ask, “When am I going to use this in real life?” Far too often students assume math, for example, is irrelevant to their lives and write it off as a subject they don’t need. When crafting test questions, use culturally-relevant word problems to illustrate a subject’s true relevance.
Enter the Balanced Assessment Model
Throughout your teaching career, you’ll spend a lot of time with formative and summative assessments. While some teachers emphasize one over the other, it’s vital to recognize the extent to which they’re interconnected.
In the book Classroom Assessment for Student Learning , Richard Stiggins, one of the first educators to advocate for the concept of assessment for learning, proposes something called “a balanced assessment system that takes advantage of assessment of learning and assessment for learning.”
If you use both effectively, they inform one another and “assessment becomes more than just an index of school success. It also serves as the cause of that success.”
In fact, Stiggins argues teachers should view these two types of assessment as “in sync.”
They can even be the exact same thing — only the purpose and the timing of the assessment determine its label. Formative assessments provide the training wheels that allow students to practice and gain confidence while riding their bikes around the enclosed school parking lot.
Once the training wheels come off, the students face their summative assessment as they ride off into the sunset on only two wheels, prepared to navigate the twists and turns of the road to arrive safely at their final destination.
Conclusion: Going beyond the test
Implementing these innovative summative assessment examples should engage your students in new and exciting ways.
What’s more, they’ll have the opportunity to express and apply what they’ve learned in creative ways that solidify student learning.
So, what do you think — are you ready to try out these summative assessment ideas? Prodigy is a game-based learning platform teachers use to keep their students engaged.
Sign up for a free teacher account and set an Assessment today!
Pros and Cons of Summative Assessment
Are you curious about the pros and cons of summative assessment? Well, look no further!
In this article, we'll explore the benefits and drawbacks of this evaluation method.
We'll also discuss the importance of clear assessment criteria and how it impacts student motivation.
Additionally, we'll delve into the effectiveness of feedback in summative assessment and potential biases that may arise.
Finally, we'll provide strategies for finding the right balance between summative and formative assessment.
So, let's dive in and explore this topic together!
- Summative assessment provides a comprehensive overview of student knowledge and understanding.
- Limited feedback in summative assessment inhibits student learning and improvement.
- Clear assessment criteria are important for providing clarity on expectations and enhancing performance.
- Feedback in summative assessment plays a crucial role in student growth and development.
Benefits of Summative Assessment
You should consider the benefits of summative assessment when evaluating student progress.
Summative assessment, which is typically done at the end of a unit or course, provides a comprehensive overview of a student's knowledge and understanding. One major benefit is that it allows you to gauge the effectiveness of your teaching methods and curriculum. By analyzing the results of summative assessments, you can identify areas where students are excelling and areas where they may need additional support. This information can guide your future lesson planning and instructional strategies.
Another benefit of summative assessment is that it provides students with closure and a sense of accomplishment. It allows them to showcase what they've learned and how they've grown throughout the course. Summative assessments often take the form of tests or projects, which give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a meaningful way. This can boost their confidence and motivation to continue learning.
Furthermore, summative assessment provides a basis for grading and evaluating student performance. It helps you determine whether students have met the learning objectives and standards set for the course. With summative assessments, you can assign grades that accurately reflect a student's level of achievement. This information can be valuable for reporting to parents, tracking progress, and making informed decisions about student placement or advancement.
Drawbacks of Summative Assessment
One drawback of summative assessment is that it often provides limited feedback to students, leaving them with little opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
Additionally, the high-stakes nature of summative assessments can create immense pressure on students, leading to anxiety and potentially hindering their performance.
These drawbacks highlight the need for a more balanced approach to assessment that includes formative assessments and ongoing feedback to support student growth and learning.
Limited Student Feedback
Do not overlook the importance of receiving limited student feedback when discussing the drawbacks of summative assessment. While summative assessments provide a snapshot of a student's overall understanding and performance, the lack of detailed feedback can hinder their learning and growth.
Consider the following points:
- Limited feedback inhibits students from understanding their strengths and weaknesses, making it difficult for them to improve.
- Without specific feedback, students may struggle to identify areas where they need additional support or clarification.
- Limited student feedback can lead to a lack of engagement and motivation, as students may feel their efforts aren't being recognized or valued.
It is crucial to find ways to incorporate more comprehensive and timely feedback into summative assessment practices, ensuring that students have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and make meaningful progress in their academic journey.
Don't underestimate the detrimental effects of consistently experiencing high-stakes pressure during summative assessments. It's easy to overlook the toll it takes on your mental and emotional well-being. The pressure to perform well can lead to increased anxiety, which can hinder your ability to think clearly and perform at your best. Additionally, the weight placed on a single assessment can create a sense of unfairness, as your entire academic success is determined by one test or project. On the other hand, high-stakes assessments can motivate you to study harder and push yourself to excel. It can also provide a clear measure of your knowledge and skills. However, it's important to strike a balance and not let the pressure overwhelm you. Take care of your mental health and remember that your worth as a student is not solely defined by your performance on a single test.
Importance of Clear Assessment Criteria
You need to carefully go through the assessment criteria to ensure that you understand the expectations. This is crucial because clear assessment criteria play a vital role in guiding your learning journey and helping you achieve your goals.
Here are some key reasons why understanding assessment criteria is important:
- Provides clarity: Clear assessment criteria outline the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities you need to demonstrate. By understanding these criteria, you'll have a clear understanding of what's expected of you and can focus your efforts accordingly.
- Enhances performance: When you know what's being assessed, you can tailor your preparation and study strategies to meet the criteria. This helps you to perform at your best and achieve higher grades or outcomes.
- Enables self-assessment: Understanding the assessment criteria empowers you to evaluate your own progress and identify areas for improvement. By using the criteria as a guide, you can assess your work against the desired standards and make necessary adjustments.
Impact on Student Motivation
Stay engaged in the learning process to boost your motivation and maximize your academic performance. The impact of student motivation on academic success is a topic of great importance. When you're motivated, you're more likely to actively participate in class, complete assignments on time, and strive for excellence. On the other hand, when your motivation wanes, it can have a negative effect on your academic performance. Lack of motivation may lead to procrastination, decreased effort, and even a decline in grades.
There are several factors that can influence your motivation as a student. One of the main factors is the relevance of the material being taught. When you understand the importance of what you're learning and how it can be applied in real-life situations, you're more likely to stay motivated. Additionally, the teaching methods used by your instructors can also impact your motivation. Engaging and interactive lessons that encourage active participation can help maintain your interest and enthusiasm.
Another factor that can affect your motivation is the feedback and support you receive from your teachers. When you receive positive feedback and recognition for your efforts, it can boost your confidence and motivate you to continue working hard. Conversely, if you receive little to no feedback or if it's overly critical, it can demotivate you and make you question your abilities.
Effectiveness of Feedback in Summative Assessment
As you analyze the effectiveness of feedback in summative assessment, consider how it can impact your understanding and improvement in academic performance. Feedback plays a crucial role in the learning process, providing students with valuable insights into their strengths and areas for improvement. By receiving feedback on your performance in summative assessments, you can gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter and identify areas where you need to focus your efforts.
This feedback can also serve as a guide for future learning, helping you make necessary adjustments and improve your academic performance.
Here are three reasons why feedback in summative assessment is important:
- Identifying strengths and weaknesses: Feedback allows you to recognize your strengths, which can boost your confidence and motivation. It also highlights areas where you may need additional support or practice, helping you prioritize your learning goals.
- Clarifying misconceptions: Feedback can address any misunderstandings you may have about the content or concepts covered in the assessment. It provides an opportunity for you to ask questions and seek clarification, ensuring that you have a solid foundation before moving on to more advanced topics.
- Promoting growth mindset: Effective feedback encourages a growth mindset by emphasizing effort, perseverance, and improvement. It helps you view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as obstacles to success.
Potential Bias in Summative Assessment
Make sure to look out for any potential bias that may arise in summative assessment, as it can impact the fairness and accuracy of the results. Summative assessments are designed to evaluate students' learning and achievement at the end of a unit, course, or program. While they provide valuable information about students' performance, it's important to be aware of the potential bias that can influence the outcomes.
One source of bias in summative assessment is the design of the assessment itself. If the assessment questions or tasks are culturally biased or favor certain groups of students, it can lead to unfair outcomes. For example, if a math test includes word problems that are only relatable to a specific cultural experience, it may disadvantage students from different backgrounds.
Another potential bias in summative assessment is related to the scoring process. If the scoring criteria aren't clear or consistent, it can introduce subjectivity and bias into the evaluation. Different teachers or examiners may interpret the criteria differently, leading to inconsistent results.
Furthermore, bias can also occur when students' prior performance or background information is taken into account. If a student's past achievement or personal circumstances are considered in the assessment, it may unfairly influence the outcome. For instance, if a teacher assumes that a student from a disadvantaged background is less capable, it can result in lower expectations and biased grading.
To minimize potential bias in summative assessment, it's essential to use a variety of assessment methods, ensure clear and fair scoring criteria, and provide training for teachers and examiners to make unbiased judgments. It's important to recognize and address bias to ensure that summative assessments provide accurate and equitable evaluations of students' learning and achievement.
Strategies for Balancing Summative and Formative Assessment
You should consider implementing a variety of assessment strategies to effectively balance summative and formative assessment. Assessments play a crucial role in evaluating students' progress and understanding.
By combining summative and formative assessment, you can gather comprehensive data about your students' learning and make informed instructional decisions. Here are three strategies to help you strike the right balance:
- 1. Use a mix of assessment types : Incorporate both summative assessments, which evaluate learning at the end of a unit or course, and formative assessments, which provide ongoing feedback during the learning process. This will give you a holistic view of your students' progress.
- 2. Provide timely feedback : Promptly provide feedback on both summative and formative assessments. This will help students understand their strengths and areas for improvement, and allow you to address any misconceptions or gaps in understanding.
- 3. Engage students in self-assessment : Encourage students to reflect on their own learning and assess their progress. This helps them take ownership of their learning and develop metacognitive skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does summative assessment affect students' long-term learning and retention of information.
Summative assessment, like tests and exams, can impact your long-term learning and retention of information by providing a snapshot of your knowledge and highlighting areas for improvement. However, it may also create stress and focus on memorization rather than deeper understanding.
What Are Some Potential Ways to Minimize Bias in Summative Assessment?
To minimize bias in summative assessment, you can use various strategies. For instance, ensure clear assessment criteria, provide diverse examples, and implement blind grading. These methods can help promote fairness and accuracy in evaluating student performance.
How Can Teachers Ensure That Students Understand the Assessment Criteria Before the Summative Assessment?
To ensure students understand the assessment criteria before the summative assessment, you can provide clear explanations, examples, and rubrics. This will help them know what is expected and how they will be evaluated.
Are There Any Specific Strategies or Techniques That Can Enhance the Effectiveness of Feedback in Summative Assessment?
There are several strategies and techniques that can enhance the effectiveness of feedback in summative assessment. By providing clear and specific feedback, using rubrics, and allowing for student self-assessment, you can improve the overall impact of the assessment process.
What Are Some Common Challenges Faced by Educators When Trying to Balance Summative and Formative Assessment in the Classroom?
Balancing summative and formative assessment can be like walking a tightrope. You must navigate the challenges of time constraints, finding the right mix of assessments, and ensuring both are meaningful for student learning.
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The Pros and Cons of Summative Assessment: A Critical Analysis
Summative assessment is a type of assessment that evaluates a student’s learning at the end of a unit or course, usually through exams or projects. It is often used to determine a student’s overall performance and assign a grade or score. While summative assessment has been a common practice in education for many years, it is not without its pros and cons. This article critically analyzes the benefits and drawbacks of summative assessment and aims to provide educators, education professionals, and stakeholders with a balanced understanding of this type of assessment.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Pros of Summative Assessment
1. provides a measure of student achievement.
One of the primary benefits of summative assessment is that it provides a measure of student achievement. It allows educators to determine whether students have achieved the learning objectives and outcomes set out for a particular course or unit. This information can be used to make informed decisions about student progress, placement, and future educational opportunities.
2. Helps identify areas of improvement
Summative assessment can also help identify areas of improvement for both students and educators. By analyzing student performance, educators can identify areas where students may be struggling and provide targeted support and interventions. This information can also be used to improve teaching practices, curriculum design, and assessment strategies.
3. Motivates students to learn
Summative assessment can be a powerful motivator for students to learn. The knowledge that their performance will be evaluated and that it will impact their grades or scores can incentivize students to put in extra effort and engage more deeply with the course material.
4. Provides a basis for accountability
Summative assessment can also provide a basis for accountability. It allows educators to demonstrate to stakeholders, such as parents, administrators, and policymakers, that students are achieving the intended learning outcomes. This information can be used to support decisions around resource allocation, policy development, and educational reform.
Cons of Summative Assessment
1. limited feedback for students.
One of the drawbacks of summative assessment is that it provides limited feedback for students. Since summative assessment is typically done at the end of a unit or course, there may not be an opportunity for students to receive feedback and make improvements during the learning process. This can limit their ability to learn and grow from their mistakes.
2. Encourages a focus on grades rather than learning
Summative assessment can also encourage a focus on grades rather than learning. Students may prioritize achieving a high score or grade over actually learning and understanding the course material. This can lead to a shallow understanding of the content and limit their ability to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts.
3. Can be stressful for students
Summative assessment can also be stressful for students. The knowledge that their performance will be evaluated and impact their grades or scores can create a high-pressure environment that may not be conducive to learning. This can lead to anxiety, which can negatively impact student performance.
4. May not accurately reflect student learning
Finally, the summative assessment may not accurately reflect student learning. Since it is done at the end of a unit or course, it may not capture the full range of a student’s abilities and knowledge. Additionally, it may not take into account other factors that may impact student performance, such as test anxiety, cultural biases, or other external factors.
In conclusion, summative assessment has both pros and cons. While it provides a measure of student achievement, helps identify areas of improvement, motivates students to learn, and provides a basis for accountability, it also has limitations in terms of providing feedback, encouraging a focus on grades, creating stress, and accurately reflecting student learning. Educators and education professionals should carefully consider these pros and cons when deciding to use summative assessment in their teaching practice. It is important to use a variety of assessment types, including formative assessment, to provide a more comprehensive picture of student learning.
Formative assessment, which focuses on providing ongoing feedback to students during the learning process, can help to address some of the limitations of summative assessment. It can provide students with more opportunities to learn and improve, and can help to reduce test anxiety and stress. Additionally, formative assessment can help educators to identify areas of improvement and adjust their teaching practices to better meet student needs.
Ultimately, the decision to use summative assessment should be based on a careful consideration of the benefits and drawbacks, as well as an understanding of the specific context and needs of the students. By using a variety of assessment types and focusing on providing ongoing feedback and support, educators can help to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn and succeed.
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What are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Summative Assessment
Back to: Measurement and Evaluation in Education B.ed Notes, M.A Notes, IGNOU Notes and Graduation Notes
Advantages of Summative Assessment
There are various advantages to using a summative evaluation in the academic setting. Some of them are listed below.
- To determine if pupils have understood: A summative evaluation employs specific evaluation procedures such as assignments, examinations, projects, and so on. The instructor can tell if the pupils have learnt and grasped the material in several ways. The manner an assignment is used determines whether it is summative or formative, not the design of the exam, assignment, or self-evaluation. This allows the instructor to determine how well the pupils comprehended the topic that was delivered.
- They determine achievement: Summative assessments are often completed at the end of any teaching period. As a result, rather than being described as diagnostic, summative evaluation is seen as evaluative. The underlying significance is that this evaluation is utilised to determine learning development and achievement. They are also used to assess the efficacy of educational initiatives. Another significant advantage is that they are used to track progress toward objectives and goals. Furthermore, summative assessment is used to make course placement decisions.
- They create academic records: Summative evaluation findings are recorded as scores or grades in students’ academic records. 1 They can take the form of test results, letter grades, or report cards and be utilised in the college admissions process. Summative assessment is a significant element in the grading system for many schools, districts, and courses.
- Provides opportunity: The availability of summative evaluation is a motivation since it supports individuals and allows them to create a learning environment. This is a learning evaluation that is based on the outcome.
- Boosts individuals: When the summative evaluation result is good, it is termed a boosting factor. This form of review boosts confidence and also serves as a springboard for specific behaviour changes at the workplace or institution.
- Weak areas can be identified: Using summative assessment findings, trainers and instructors can identify weak areas where outcomes are consistently poor. Alternative approaches can be used to enhance the outcomes in this manner. New training can be implemented for future events with the goal of success.
- Training success may be measured: This form of evaluation aids in measuring the success of training techniques and programmes. They are compared and rated to others.
- They are evaluation tools: Summative evaluations are considered evaluation tools because they can evaluate the usefulness of any programme, they work towards the improvement of the school or institution, they aid in curriculum alignment, and they assist students in being placed in the appropriate programmes. They are quite helpful since they provide a lot of information in the classroom. Another significant advantage of summative evaluation is that it assists in making instructional changes and interventions during the learning process.
- Summative design: The summative design is used as an assessment approach in instructional design. Summative assessment provides useful information depending on the effectiveness of the intervention. During the conclusion, the value or worth of the intervention is assessed using summative evaluation.
- Measures educator performance: The supervisor might assess the educational staff or the teacher using summative evaluation. This assessment may be used to assess the performance of all teachers and instructors. Summative assessment meets the school’s demand for teacher accountability. The evaluation is carried out using a form that includes a checklist and a few brief narratives. Professionalism, classroom atmosphere, planning, instruction, and preparation are all evaluated.