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Assessment 101: Formative / Summative

Formative vs Summative Assessment

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment is given throughout the learning process. The main objectives are to measure students’ progress through learning objectives or course topics and provide feedback to students. Formative assessment can be used to inform, adjust, and focus teaching in the classroom.

Summative Assessment
Summative assessment is given at the end of the semester or the end of a specific topic. The main objective is to record the level of knowledge about the given topic or topics after they have received adequate instruction. Summative assessment can be used to inform student promotion or readiness for topic advancement.

formative vs summative


Formative is used to check the students' understanding and to plan subsequent instruction.

The information gained from formative assessments guides the next steps in instruction and helps teachers and students consider the additional learning opportunities needed to ensure success.

Formative assessment information must be fed forward into an instructional model that allows for responsiveness to student need.

Formative assessments include:
Journal entries or discussion board posts
Spot check questions


Summative assessment of learning provides teachers and students with information about the attainment of content knowledge.

Summative assessments often result in grades that have a high point value.

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

Summative assessments include:
Final speech or presentation
Final project
Midterm exam
Final research paper

Some content modified from Med Kharbach, "A Visual Chart on Summative vs Formative Assessment."

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