Formative/Summative Assessment

What We Know NowDescription:

For­ma­tive assess­ment is an assess­ment designed and used FOR learning.


Assess­ments gen­er­ally fall into two cat­e­gories: for­ma­tive and sum­ma­tive. The goal of for­ma­tive assess­ment is to mon­i­tor stu­dent learn­ing to pro­vide ongo­ing feed­back that can be used by stu­dents to enhance and improve their learn­ing and by instruc­tors to improve their teach­ing. More specif­i­cally, for­ma­tive assess­ments help stu­dents iden­tify their strengths and weak­nesses and tar­get areas that need work. They help teach­ers rec­og­nize where stu­dents are strug­gling so they can address prob­lems imme­di­ately. In con­trast, the goal of a 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 used to deter­mine grades.

Considerations and Implications:

Both types of assess­ments are impor­tant. We still need to give grades. We still have large scale sum­ma­tive assess­ments like the WKCE, and in the future, the SBAC assess­ments. How­ever, as we move from a focus on teach­ing to a focus on learn­ing, for­ma­tive assess­ments become vital. In the tra­di­tional teaching-​assessment model, we admin­is­ter a pretest and then teach, teach, teach, teach. At the end there is a post-​test after which we assign grades. In a revised instruction-​assessment model, we still admin­is­ter a pretest, but it becomes for­ma­tive. The results are ana­lyzed and used to iden­tify the level of knowl­edge and under­stand­ing that already exists as well as mis­con­cep­tions that need to be addressed. The results are used to develop dif­fer­en­ti­ated instruc­tion plans to meet the needs of all stu­dents. Once the teach­ing has taken place, another for­ma­tive assess­ment is used to mon­i­tor stu­dent learn­ing and inform teach­ing plans and strate­gies to con­tin­u­ally improve the stu­dent learn­ing that is tak­ing place. This sec­ond model, uti­liz­ing for­ma­tive assess­ments, can help us in imple­ment­ing the RtI model that effec­tively iden­ti­fies the needs of all learn­ers, and helps us pro­vide them with exactly the right strate­gies to max­i­mize their learn­ing potential.


James Popham, Trans­for­ma­tive Assess­ment, ASCD.

Don Viegut, Com­mon For­ma­tive Assess­ments, Cor­win.

Thom Hahn, WASCD Board of Directors

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