As an educator, you must have heard of formative and summative evaluations. But, do you know what they are and how they differ from one another?
Formative and summative evaluations are two overlapping ways of assessing pupils. Both formative and summative evaluations complement each other while examining a learner’ progress. The end goal of both is to establish the strengths, weaknesses and developmental patterns of students. Formative and summative evaluations are designed so that each type of evaluation gives actionable insights to educationists.
A holistic assessment practice would combine the best features of both formative and summative evaluations, depending on how they can contribute toward the end goal. A combination of the two can improve educational attainment levels and maximize efficacy.
The Meaning Of Summative Assessments
Which are the most effective summative evaluations? Which formative evaluations are more creative? It appears that summative evaluation has a much greater online presence. Educators are liberally using online tools to track summative evaluations compared to formative evaluations.
Summative assessments are evaluative instead of diagnostic and help ascertain if the stated objectives of the course are being met. They help evaluate the performance of the learner against a predetermined benchmark. The stakes for such assessments are usually very high and have a high value point. These consist of clear instructions and grading rubric to see how much the student has understood and retained. Rubric is a tool that describes the instructor’s performance expectations from an assignment.
Summative assessments can be complemented with materials that help the teacher analyze results and take better actions for strategic learning. This strategy is also now also being incorporated in a number of e-learning modules.
Let’s dive deeper by examining the key differences between summative and formative evaluations, the different types of summative evaluations, the purpose of summative assessments and how summative evaluation is essential to learner development. We’ll gloss over the advantages and disadvantages of summative assessment, and finally review some examples.
Definition Of Summative Assessment
A simple definition of summative assessment is that it helps evaluate student learning, knowledge gained and proficiency at the end of an instructional course or learning program. The definition of summative assessment is better understood if we also understand the meaning of formative assessments. When both approaches are combined, chances of success are maximized.
Summative Assessment Meaning
The meaning of summative assessment is that it judges a student’s level of learning and academic prowess at the end of the year or term of learning. This is done by comparing the evaluation against a set, universal standard or benchmark that’s been established in advance.
Now that we’ve outlined the meaning of summative assessment, let’s view some examples.
Summative Assessment Examples
You can find many examples of summative assessment. Here we’ll list some summative assessment examples that are directly related to student performance. These are:
- Half-yearly, mid-term and end-of-term exams
- Unit tests or chapter tests
- Projects, assignments and creative portfolios
- Tests that are standardized and demonstrate the proficiency of a school. These are often used in admissions. Some of these summative assessment examples are SAT, GCSEs and A-Levels
Summative assessments are indispensable within the learning framework and every individual should acknowledge their profound importance in learning and development of an individual.
Types Of Summative Assessments
There can be several types of summative assessment. Some of these are:
- Teacher-designed quizzes and tests that include short essays, multiple-choice questions, short answers, matching activities and fill in the blanks
- Writing and analytical skills are tested through research papers, media reviews, articles, blogs, pamphlets and brochures
- Descriptive presentations for various audiences can include role play, drama, panel discussions, exhibitions, clay models, debates, musical pieces and dioramas
- Technical creations such as machines, blueprints, spreadsheets, computer programs, podcasts, web pages, collages and channels
- Kinesthetic practices such as aerobics and dance are a unique type of summative assessment
These different types of summative assessment should be designed to align with the goals and outcomes that are needed from these assessments.
Benefits Of Summative Assessment
There are a host of summative assessment benefits that can help students and teachers reap long-term rewards. These are:
1. Student Motivation
The importance of summative assessment is in its ability to keep students motivated to study throughout the year. Good grades can benefit students and encourage them to put in more effort. For example, SAT practice tests are usually associated with a higher-than-average point increase.
2. Applying Learning
Summative assessments and evaluations are not just about memorizing math multiplication tables. Well-designed assessments can help students apply these skills to the real world. Tests such as multiple-choice questions help students critically analyze what they have learnt and apply that knowledge.
3. Identifying Gaps In Learning
Another importance of summative assessments is that they identify any learning gaps and help bridge them. Most teachers conduct unit tests at the end of each chapter to understand how much students have retained and then progress to the next unit. The students who lag behind can be given extra coaching or encouragement to catch up with the rest of the class.
4. Identifying Teaching Gaps
Another important benefit of summative assessments is that they reveal teaching gaps. Teaching styles may not necessarily be perfect and sometimes teachers miss their mark. One purpose of summative assessment could be making the learning program more student-friendly. If all students are faring poorly, then the grading is probably not related to study time. Some ways by which gaps in teaching can be addressed are:
- Including visual aids in the program
- Excluding or including word problems
- Incorporating interesting and innovative teaching styles that facilitate better student assessment
5. Giving Valuable Insights
Summative assessments benefits also include giving evaluators necessary insights and feedback on student progress and performance. It can highlight what worked and what didn’t. The management can make informed and calculated decisions on which part of the curriculum needs tweaking. This makes it easier on both students and evaluators.The importance of summative assessments can’t be overlooked. Some summative assessments are so well-structured that they give valuable data to academicians at the national and global levels. The entire curriculum can be overhauled if need be. The average test scores of a particular school impact its overall grading. This also determines whether the academic institution will continue to be eligible for further funding or attract the same caliber of student.
How To Use Summative Assessment
The purpose of summative assessment is to enhance learning. The structured and standardized exams that form a part of the curriculum leave little room for innovation or imagination. However, there are other ways by which summative assessments can be made extremely interesting.
We are entering the virtual era where online platforms for student learning abound.Digital literacy can help to re-engage students and divert their attention from the conventional classroom formats. Dragging and dropping answers, MCQs and podcasts are just a few of the tools that can foster learning through summative assessments. Students should be allowed to express themselves comfortably.
Multi-modal summative assessments test the learners’ prowess in different ways. Teachers can get an accurate picture of how much the student has grasped. Final exams can be set in a format that prepares students for job applications and increases their vocational proficiency.
Ideally, a combination of formative and summative assessments is needed to get the best results.
Characteristics Of Summative Assessment
Summative assessments usually have a higher value or stakes compared to formative assessments. Here are some characteristics of summative assessments that you need to know:
- One purpose of a summative assessment is using rubric to lay out the expected criteria of performance for different grade ranges
- Questions have a clear design and meaning, allowing students to creatively express themselves
- Most summative assessments are structured in a way to assess comprehension. These give opportunities to students to consider courses as a holistic element, making broader connections and exhibiting specific skills
- The parameters of summative assessments are usually extremely well-defined. Such parameters include response time, grading method, time and date. This allows students with disabilities to adapt and attempt tests with the right support
- Blind grading techniques are also a part of summative assessments. These give unbiased feedback to students, eliminating the possibility of favoritism
While there are advantages and disadvantages of summative assessments, the pros outnumber the cons. Overall, a comprehensive summative assessment program gives the best insights into where someone stands compared to their peers. It’s a well established way of transforming the classroom environment.
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