Formative vs Summative Assessments

What is the difference between the two and how do they both help students and teachers learn?

Formative and Summative Assessment are two types of assessments that can be used to measure the learner’s progress throughout the course.

Formative assessment is a method of assessing student's knowledge, skills and understanding in real time through continuous feedback, whereas Summative Assessment is an end-of-course assessment that looks at how much of the instructional unit was learned as a whole. 

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is a part of the teaching and learning process. Formative assessments are used when a learner is beginning a learning activity or unit. The purpose of these assessments is to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully complete the task or assignment. 

Focusing on formulating knowledge, understanding and skills as well as improvements in learning, this type of assessment can be formal (such as an exit ticket or short daily quiz) or informal (such as asking students to explain what they've learned during an activity, or before a unit to gauge prior knowledge ).  The goal of this type of assessment can be likened to a "temperature check", giving the teacher and the student a real-time understanding at any point in the lesson cycle of how much the student understands the new content and can apply that knowledge.  The teacher can then make adjustments to the lesson based on the student's mastery of the content at that point. 

Summative Assessment

Summative assessments, on the other hand, are used at the conclusion of a learning activity or unit.  This is usually a formal assessment, such as a unit test, designed to measure whether or not a learner has mastered the lesson objectives and expected learning outcomes. Summative assessments can range from unit tests created by teachers for a class to district assessments designed to measure overall campus performance in a subject, all the way to annual state standardized testing.  All of these assessments can be used to provide feedback to learners, teachers, and campus stakeholders about student mastery of learning objectives. 

Assessments That Work Together

Both formative and summative assessments provide valuable feedback to teachers, students and stakeholders.  While summative assessment gives an overall view of student mastery of a unit, group of units, or course of study, the formative assessment provides an "as it is happening" view of student learning, allowing the teacher and student to make adjustments to the lesson in real time. 

Need Some Help? We're Here For You!

Propello's team of education experts can help you incorporate effective formative and summative assessments designed to give students, teachers and districts the feedback needed to take learning to the next level.  Contact our team to learn more about how Propello help learning soar.