What Is the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment?

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The difference between formative and summative assessment can be difficult to understand for teachers. Forming assessments that help students learn in real-time is crucial, but it’s also something we do throughout our coursework as opposed to at the end of each unit like with final exams which serve more purposes than just evaluating what has been learned up until this point

Summative assessment is a way for teachers to see how well their students have mastered the material throughout an entire unit or semester. It can also help them determine if those same children are ready enough before moving onto something new, giving summative more than just instructional purposes as well

Because summative assessment can carry high stakes, such as program admission or final grades, it is important to have the assessment be valid and reliable. Multiple-choice items should be written carefully and written and oral responses should have clear rubrics and consistent evaluation to give accurate, reliable measures of student achievement.


The differences between formative assessments and higher-stakes tests are not always clear. One important thing, however, is “although low-stakes exams do not carry as much weight with educators in comparison to their high-stakes counterparts,” says David Bain of HMH. “They’re changing the trajectory for students.” teachers make instructional decisions based on these kinds of test results so it’sLaurentiu Carol Drummond

Both forms of assessment have effective uses but can leave gaps in our overall understanding if not used wisely and in conjunction with one another.

“With formative assessment, you stand a much better chance of getting a clear picture of what the students learned that day or week, but you won’t be able to determine what they will retain over time from that particular assessment,” says Robert A. Southworth, Jr., EdD, president of The SchoolWorks Lab. “With summative assessment, you can see what they retained, but at that point, it is too late to change your teaching and correct the past. Ideally, both forms of assessment should be combined into an integrated system that can deliver learning data all along the way.”



Top 3 Formative Assessment Examples


  • Make an ad

You can always count on a child’s invention to get the job done. They’re so creative and resourceful, they’ll come up with anything you need in no time at all!

The creative process of making something out of the materials you are given helps students apply what they learn in a real-world setting. This will make it easier for them to remember how important these skills are later on down the road when there may not be an instructor teaching directly over their head anymore!


  • Idea comparisons

Instruct students to lay out the main ideas of a new concept they learned. Then, have them compare that concept to another to see where they agree and disagree.

The game is a fun way to help students remember their previous knowledge by applying it in new situations.


  • Misconceptions

After you introduce a concept to students, introduce a popular misconception about it. Have students discuss why the misconception is false and where it may have started.

This exercise makes the student think critically about what they just learned, while also showing them how to debunk misinformation.


Top 3 Summative Assessment Examples


  • In-depth reports

Instruct students to choose a topic that resonated with them in class and report in-depth on it. This is a great opportunity for students to take an idea and run with it under your supervision.

Student reports should be creative, passionate, and thorough. They’re an opportunity for students to show what they know about the subject at hand – these reports must showcase your engagement in class!


  • Cumulative, individual projects

The students are given a task that will allow them to apply what they learned in the previous session.

Creating a cross-section of the human heart, designing a diet, or creating a protective egg drop vessel are all fun ways students can show off their knowledge in any practical application class.


  • Personal evaluation papers

Require students to apply principles from your class to their personal lives. These papers are excellent fits for psychology, nutrition, finance, business, and other theory-based classes.

It’s a great way to get students engaged in their learning by exploring new angles and spending time reflecting on what they have learned. Plus, it’s just fun!



Formative or Summative Assessments?

Many new teachers have this question — are formative or summative assessments more important?

In a perfect world, they’re equally important. Formative assessments let students show that they’re learning, and summative assessments let them show what they’ve learned.

The SATs are a great example of high-value summative assessment tests. These one or two-day events provide an opportunity for students to measure their knowledge against what they have learned in school so far, which can help them plan future study sessions more effectively and therefore improve performance on standardized assessments (such as the ACT).

The American public education system values standardized exams such as The test quite highly because these contribute towards measuring student achievement over time; this means that teachers will know how much each individual should continue studying based on previous successes with certain topics instead of just guessing work like before.

For teachers to implement both formative and summative assessments properly, they need a system that can accommodate them. This means finding ways in which these different types of exams work together so as not only to give students an accurate representation of what’s being learned but also to allow educators insight into why certain things may be happening concerning his or their classroom climate thus far.


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