Assessment allows both instructor and student to monitor progress towards achieving learning objectives, and can be approached in a variety of ways. Formative assessment refers to tools that identify misconceptions, struggles, and learning gaps along the way and assess how to close those gaps. It includes effective tools for helping to shape learning, and can even bolster students’ abilities to take ownership of their learning when they understand that the goal is to improve learning, not apply final marks (Trumbull and Lash, 2013). It can include students assessing themselves, peers, or even the instructor, through writing, quizzes, conversation, and more. In short, formative assessment occurs throughout a class or course, and seeks to improve student achievement of learning objectives through approaches that can support specific student needs (Theal and Franklin, 2010, p. 151).
In contrast, summative assessments evaluate student learning, knowledge, proficiency, or success at the conclusion of an instructional period, like a unit, course, or program. Summative assessments are almost always formally graded and often heavily weighted (though they do not need to be). Summative assessment can and should be used in conjunction with formative assessment, and instructors can consider a variety of ways to combine these approaches.
Examples of Formative and Summative Assessments
|In-class discussions||Instructor-created exams|
|Clicker questions||Standardized tests|
|Low-stakes group work||Final projects|
|Weekly quizzes||Final essays|
|1-minute reflection writing assignments||Final presentations|
|Homework assignments||Final reports|