Formative and Summative Assessments in the ClassroomCatherine Garrison & Michael Ehringhaus
Assessment PracticesDefining Formative and Summative AssessmentsThe terms "formative" and "summative" do not have to bedifficult, yet the definitions have become confusing in thepast few years. This is especially true for formativeassessment.In a balanced assessment system, both summative andformative assessments are an integral part of informationgathering. Depend too much on one or the other and thereality of student achievement in your classroom becomesunclear.
Assessment PracticesSummative AssessmentsThese are given periodically to determine at a particularpoint in time what students know and do not know.Many associate summative assessments only withstandardized tests such as state assessments, but they arealso used at and are an important part of district andclassroom programs.Summative assessment at the district/classroom level is anaccountability measure that is generally used as part of thegrading process.
Assessment PracticesSummative AssessmentsThe list is long, but here are some examples of summativeassessments:• State assessments• District benchmark or interim assessments• End-of-unit or chapter tests• End-of-term or semester exams• Scores that are used for accountability for schools (AYP) and students (report card grades).
Assessment PracticesSummative AssessmentsThe key is to think of summative assessment as a means togauge, at a particular point in time, student learning relativeto content standards. Although the information that isgleaned from this type of assessment is important, it canonly help in evaluating certain aspects of the learningprocess.Because they are spread out and occur after instructionevery few weeks, months, or once a year, summativeassessments are tools to help evaluate the effectiveness ofprograms, school improvement goals, alignment ofcurriculum, or student placement in specific programs.
Assessment PracticesSummative AssessmentsSummative assessments happen too far down the learningpath to provide information at the classroom level and tomake instructional adjustments and interventions during thelearning process.It takes formative assessment to accomplish this.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsThese are essential parts of the instructional process. Whenincorporated into classroom practice, it provides theinformation needed to adjust teaching and learning whilethey are happening.In this sense, formative assessment informs both teachersand students about student understanding at a point whentimely adjustments can be made. These adjustments helpto ensure students achieve, targeted standards-basedlearning goals within a set time frame.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsAlthough formative assessment strategies appear in avariety of formats, there are some distinct ways todistinguish them from summative assessments.One distinction is to think of formative assessment as"practice." We do not hold students accountable in "gradebook fashion" for skills and concepts they have just beenintroduced to or are learning. We must allow for practice.Formative assessment helps teachers determine next stepsduring the learning process as the instruction approachesthe summative assessment of student learning.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsA good analogy for this is the road test that is required toreceive a drivers license.What if, before getting your drivers license, you received agrade every time you sat behind the wheel to practicedriving?What if your final grade for the driving test was the averageof all of the grades you received while practicing?
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsBecause of the initial low grades you received during theprocess of learning to drive, your final grade would notaccurately reflect your ability to drive a car.In the beginning of learning to drive, how confident ormotivated to learn would you feel? Would any of the gradesyou received provide you with guidance on what youneeded to do next to improve your driving skills?Your final driving test, or summative assessment, would bethe accountability measure that establishes whether or notyou have the driving
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsBecause of the initial low grades you received during theprocess of learning to drive, your final grade would notaccurately reflect your ability to drive a car.In the beginning of learning to drive, how confident ormotivated to learn would you feel? Would any of the gradesyou received provide you with guidance on what youneeded to do next to improve your driving skills?
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsYour final driving test, or summative assessment, would bethe accountability measure that establishes whether or notyou have the driving skills necessary for a drivers license—not a reflection of all the driving practice that leads to it.The same holds true for classroom instruction, learning, andassessment.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsAnother distinction that underpins formative assessment isstudent involvement. If students are not involved in theassessment process, formative assessment is not practicedor implemented to its full effectiveness.Students need to be involved both as assessors of theirown learning and as resources to other students.There are numerous strategies teachers can implement toengage students.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsIn fact, research shows that the involvement in andownership of their work increases students motivation tolearn.This does not mean the absence of teacher involvement.To the contrary, teachers are critical in identifying learninggoals, setting clear criteria for success, and designingassessment tasks that provide evidence of student learning.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsOne of the key components of engaging students in theassessment of their own learning is providing them withdescriptive feedback as they learn.In fact, research shows descriptive feedback to be the mostsignificant instructional strategy to move students forward intheir learning.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsDescriptive feedback provides students with anunderstanding of what they are doing well, links toclassroom learning, and gives specific input on how toreach the next step in the learning progression.In other words, descriptive feedback is not a grade, asticker, or "good job!"A significant body of research indicates that such limitedfeedback does not lead to improved student learning.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsThere are many classroom instructional strategies that arepart of the repertoire of good teaching.When teachers use sound instructional practice for thepurpose of gathering information on student learning, theyare applying this information in a formative way.In this sense, formative assessment is pedagogy andclearly cannot be separated from instruction.It is what good teachers do.
Assessment PracticesFormative AssessmentsThe distinction lies in what teachers actually do with theinformation they gather.How is it being used to inform instruction?How is it being shared with and engaging students?Its not teachers just collecting information/data on studentlearning; its what they do with the information they collect.
Assessment PracticesInstructional strategies that can be used formatively.Criteria and goal setting with students engages them ininstruction and the learning process by creating clearexpectations.In order to be successful, students need to understand andknow the learning target/goal and the criteria for reaching it.
Assessment PracticesInstructional strategies that can be used formatively.Criteria and goal setting…Establishing and defining quality work together, askingstudents to participate in establishing norm behaviours forclassroom culture, and determining what should be includedin criteria for success are all examples of this strategy.Using student work, classroom tests, or exemplars of whatis expected helps students understand where they are,where they need to be, and an effective process for gettingthere.
Assessment PracticesInstructional strategies that can be used formatively.Observations go beyond walking around the room to see ifstudents are on task or need clarification.Observations assist teachers in gathering evidence ofstudent learning to inform instructional planning.This evidence can be recorded and used as feedback forstudents about their learning or as anecdotal data sharedwith them during conferences.
Assessment PracticesInstructional strategies that can be used formatively.Questioning strategies should be embedded in lesson/unitplanning.Asking better questions allows an opportunity for deeperthinking and provides teachers with significant insight intothe degree and depth of understanding.Questions of this nature engage students in classroomdialogue that both uncovers and expands learning.
Assessment PracticesInstructional strategies that can be used formatively.Questioning strategies…An "exit slip" at the end of a class period to determinestudents understanding of the days lesson or quick checksduring instruction such as "thumbs up/down" or "red/green"(stop/go) cards are also examples of questioning strategiesthat elicit immediate information about student learning.Helping students ask better questions is another aspect ofthis formative assessment strategy.
Assessment PracticesInstructional strategies that can be used formatively.Self and peer assessment helps to create a learningcommunity within a classroom.Students who can reflect while engaged in metacognitivethinking are involved in their learning.When students have been involved in criteria and goalsetting, self-evaluation is a logical step in the learningprocess.With peer evaluation, students see each other as resourcesfor understanding and checking for quality work againstpreviously established criteria.
Assessment PracticesInstructional strategies that can be used formatively.Student record keeping helps students better understandtheir own learning as evidenced by their classroom work.This process of students keeping ongoing records of theirwork not only engages students, it also helps them, beyonda "grade," to see where they started and the progress theyare making toward the learning goal.All of these strategies are integral to the formativeassessment process, and they have been suggested bymodels of effective middle school instruction.
Assessment PracticesBalancing AssessmentAs teachers gather information/data about student learning,several categories may be included.In order to better understand student learning, teachersneed to consider information about the products (paper orotherwise) students create and tests they take,observational notes, and reflections on the communicationthat occurs between teacher and student or amongstudents.
Assessment PracticesBalancing AssessmentWhen a comprehensive assessment program at theclassroom level balances formative and summative studentlearning/achievement information, a clear picture emergesof where a student is relative to learning targets andstandards.Students should be able to articulate this shared informationabout their own learning. When this happens, student-ledconferences, a formative assessment strategy, are valid.
Assessment PracticesBalancing AssessmentThe more we know about individual students as theyengage in the learning process, the better we can adjustinstruction to ensure that all students continue to achieve bymoving forward in their learning.
Assessment PracticesThe Formative Classroom Youtube Video
References• Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2003) Assessment for Learning: Putting it into practice. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.• Butler, D.L. & Winnie, P.H. (1995) Feedback and self-regulated learning: a theoretical synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 65(3), 245-281.• Sadler, D.R. (1998) Formative assessment: revisiting the territory. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 77-84.