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[Assessment Literacy Video Series] Formative and Summative Assessments

[Assessment Literacy Video Series] Formative and Summative Assessments

Our assessment literacy video series aims to demystify, unpack, and connect assessment concepts and principles to help you make more sense out of your assessment data. Maybe you’re just learning the ropes of some of the more complicated metrics reported in educational assessments, or perhaps you’re hoping to see how an assessment concept applies to Edmentum’s suite of assessment programs. Either way, let our top-notch research team of former educators and subject-matter experts be your guide.

There are lots of different ways to assess student learning, and establishing some common vocabulary provides a framework for identifying the most appropriate ways to use assessment as a part of quality instruction. Two of the most common types are formative assessment and summative assessment. Let’s break those down!

Think of formative assessment as informing instruction and summative assessment as a summary of learning.

What are formative assessments?

Formative assessments are really part of formative instruction. The goal of formative assessments is to inform instruction along the way so that teachers can react in real time by modifying instruction, including how the material is being taught and which students are receiving extra help or extra challenge. Formative assessments can take on many variations, from informal checks for understandings, such as asking students to verbally respond to questions during lessons, to more formal contexts, such as quizzes in the middle of a unit or diagnostic tests prior to teaching.

What are summative assessments?

For summative assessments, the goal is to determine if the student met the learning targets specified in a particular amount of time, such as a unit test or an end-of-grade test. Summative assessments include content students have learned over many weeks or months or, in some cases, even more than one year, such as a high school exit exam. Because summative assessments are given after instruction has occurred rather than during instruction, the results provide information about how the student is doing for accountability and more formal monitoring progress. For example, parents can see whether their student met grade-level expectations based on an end-of-grade proficiency test.

Sometimes, the same test could be summative or formative depending on how it is used. For example, an educator might give a pretest at the beginning of a unit as a formative assessment and then administer a similar version of that test as a summative assessment at the end of the unit.

Instruction is most effective when including both formative and summative assessments, and Edmentum products use both!

Assessments in Exact Path

In Exact Path, our personalized learning program, students complete a diagnostic assessment at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to determine where students are ready to learn. Exact Path also includes smaller formative assessments, such as Progress Checks, that are used to inform what content the student receives next in the learning path.

Assessments in Study Island

Study Island takes a different approach to summative and formative assessments by focusing on standards proficiency and state summative test preparation. Study Island has a test mode for formative assessment before and during instruction, a Test Builder for educators to build their own unit tests and semester exams as summative assessments, and Benchmark assessments that can be given three to four times a year.

Assessments in Courseware

Courseware, our fully customizable digital curriculum, includes both formative and summative assessments too. Each unit begins with a formative pretest, and formative assessment questions are sprinkled throughout tutorials to allow students to check their own understanding. As final summative measures, students complete a unit test and an end-of-semester test.

Next time you need to assess student learning, think about whether a formative or summative assessment is most appropriate, and choose your assessment accordingly!

Interested in more assessment literacy topics? Check out our Edmentum Assessment Literacy video series, and continue to follow along on the blog as we dig deeper, making you assessment experts along the way! Want to learn more about Exact Path? Get more information about our award-winning program on our website.

audra.kosh's picture

Dr. Audra Kosh began her career in education as an eighth-grade math teacher. After transitioning out of the classroom to pursue her passion for research, Audra completed a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences with a focus on educational measurement and mathematics education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now working as a Research Scientist at Edmentum, Audra does psychometric analyses and assessment research for Edmentum’s suite of assessments.

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