45 8.3 Formative and Summative Assessment

Formative Assessment

Assessment should be designed to inform the teacher and learner to accommodate the learner’s needs. Formative assessment occurs throughout a lesson or unit and may take a variety of forms. A teacher may determine what students know by question and answer formats, checklists, or paper and pencil assignments. Likewise, games such as Kahoot and Jeopardy may assist in similar data collection. The informed teacher can utilize the formative assessment results to re-engage or modify the teaching plans to meet the students’ individual needs.

Summative Assessment

The summative assessment is the evaluation that is given after a unit or lesson. It may determine student placement or level of knowledge and is often thought of as a grade determinant. Results of summative assessment are not used in lesson planning; rather, they are used to evaluate the mastery of the material. It can take a question and answer or paper and pencil approach like the formative assessment. Summative assessments also typically have one correct answer.

Formative Assessment Both Summative Assessment
They are assessments that we carry out to help inform the learning ‘in the moment.’ Formative assessment is continuous, informal, and should have a central and pivotal role in every classroom.

If used correctly, it will have a high impact on current learning and guide your instruction and teaching.

Are ways to assess pupils.

Must evaluate pupils effectively

Are used for student feedback

Assist in future lesson planning

There are different types of summative assessments that we carry out ‘after the event,’ often periodic (rather than continuous), and are often measured against a set standard.

Summative assessment can be thought of as helping to validate and ‘check’ formative assessment – it is a periodic measure of how children are, overall, progressing in their mathematics learning.


  • Quizzes
  • Talking in class
  • Creating diagrams or charts
  • Homework or class word
  • Exit Surveys

  • End of year assessments
  • Midterm or end-of-term exams
  • End of term portfolios
  • SATs

High-Stakes Assessments is one example of a summative evaluation in that it is used to determine a grade or placement. As American students falter compared to other industrialized countries, policymakers have shifted toward a great concentration on high-stakes testing to increase student standing. Unfortunately, this emphasis on high-stakes testing has not yielded any increase in scores (Michael Hout, 2012).

Global Assessment

According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Reading Literacy scores, United States students earned an average score of 497. In contrast, Singapore students earned the highest average, 535, and Lebanon students tied with Kosovo for the lowest average of 347.  This places United States students in the average range of reading. (Reading Literacy: Average Scores, 2015)

  1. Mathematics Literacy scores revealed an average of 470 for U.S. students compared to Singapore scores of 564 at the highest end and 328 from the Dominican Republic at the lowest end, placing United States students as below-average performers. (Mathematics Literacy: Average Scores, 2015)

Although students in the United States have demonstrated an interest and positive attitude toward science, the scores reveal a discrepancy between attitude and performance, with United States students scoring at an average of 496 as compared to a high of 556 (Singapore) and a low of Dominican Republic (332).

2015 Pisa Average Scores in Math, Reading and Science. They show the United States 24th in Reading and 25th in Science

Assigning Grades

If you return to the Think About and Discuss at the beginning of this chapter, you may realize that there is no one way to assess and that educators will agree upon. Ultimately, as a reflective educator, you will recognize that the intent of assessment should be to communicate to students and family members how closely learners have met the learning goals. How you choose to determine this is left to you or to the school in which you teach. Will you choose to assign letter grades, comments, or both? Will you give partial credit? Will opt not to use grades at times?

Will your grades be fairly assigned? Will you measure what the student knew initially and then measure the learning gain, or will you opt only to measure the latter?

How will the grades impact the motivation and social-emotional state of the learner?

Final Words

As you can see, the stroke of a pen can have lasting impressions on the student. Grades can classify learners. They can motivate or squelch desire. They can encourage or demean. They can be used to punish or to teach. How will you use grades as a means to plan and instruct for the benefit of all learners?


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Introduction to Education by Shannon M. Delgado and Sarah Mark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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