Summative and Formative assessment

testing, assessment, and evaluation

assessmentAssessment includes everything from nationwide accountability tests to local learners’ evaluations to everyday classroom quizzes. Some teachers contend that overuse of any kind of testing may hinder the very process of learning, claiming that we shouldn’t teach to the test but rather teach to the standards. While this is true, we can not deny the importance of testing in gathering information about learners. The more information we have about students, the clearer the picture we have about achievement or where gaps may occur. Hence the utility of summative and formative assessment.

Both formative and summative evaluations are equally of paramount importance and are an integral part of information gathering in any balanced assessment system. Teachers should not depend too much on one or the other. Otherwise, the reality of student achievement in your classroom becomes blurry.

Summative assessment

Learners are more likely to experience assessment carried out individually where they are expected to reproduce discrete language items from memory. This more formal type of testing would probably occur at the end of a semester or academic year or even at the end of a chapter or a unit. The results then are used to yield a school report and to determine what students know and do not know. This is known as summative assessment (or summative evaluation.) It does not necessarily provide a clear picture of an individual’s overall progress or even their full potential, especially if they are hindered by the fear factor of physically sitting for a test, but may provide straightforward and invaluable results for teachers to analyze. For example, it provides information on teaching and learning and whether the course teaches what it is supposed to teach. Common features are the following.

  • A summative assessment is given periodically.
  • It is a means to gauge, at a particular point in time, student learning relative to content standards.
  • Because it is spread out and occur after instruction every few weeks, months, or once a year, summative assessments are tools to help evaluate the effectiveness of programs, school improvement goals, alignment of curriculum, or student placement in specific programs.

Examples of summative assessment:

  • Nationwide assessments
  • District  assessments
  • End-of-unit or chapter tests
  • End-of-term or semester exams

Summative assessments occur a long way after learning and teaching take place to provide information at the classroom level and to make instructional adjustments and interventions during the learning process. Hence the need for a different kind of assessment, namely formative assessment.

Formative assessment

The alternative type of testing is referred to as ongoing or formative assessment. It is part of the instructional process. We can think of formative assessment as “practice.” We do not hold students accountable in school reports for skills and concepts they have just been introduced to or are learning. It provides a more positive experience for learners and can also be invaluable for us as teachers, to see if our lesson objectives have been attained and our overall goals have been achieved. It can also help us to assess student strengths and weaknesses and give us a strong indication as to which type of activities students like and dislike. Formative assessment is also called educative assessment and classroom assessment. Here are the main features of formative assessment.

  • Formative assessment is more valuable for day-to-day teaching when it is used to adapt the teaching to meet students’ needs.
  • It helps teachers to monitor their students’ progress and to modify the instruction accordingly.
  • It also helps students to monitor their progress as they get feedback from their peers and the teacher.
  • Students also find the opportunity to revise and refine their thinking by means of formative assessment.

In a nutshell, information gathering about students includes different kinds of evaluation: summative assessment which is an overall evaluation carried out at the end of term, chapter or unit, and formative assessment which is an ongoing evaluation. While the summative assessment is viewed as an assessment of learning, formative assessment can be seen as an assessment for learning.  Both forms of evaluation are important in teaching adjustments, in determining priorities and in putting learners’ needs and interests first.


2 thoughts on “Summative and Formative assessment”

  1. alane sofiane kissi

    thanks for information i am a new teacher for English as a foreign language in Algeria i would like to guide me to have good and new competences in teaching.
    i need some materials and advice.

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