Summative assessment for the unit “Holidays and Travel”
Summative Asseessment Task has been compiled for 7 grade students of 2020/12/06. It consists of Reading and Writing Strands. For the 2nd term period.
10 Summative Assessment Examples to Try This School Year
Written by Jordan Nisbet
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- Teaching Strategies
- A formative and summative assessment definition
- Difference between formative and summative assessment
- Pros and cons of summative assessment
- 9 effective and engaging summative assessment examples
- Helpful summative assessment strategies
When gauging student learning, two approaches likely come to mind: a formative or summative assessment.
Fortunately, feeling pressure to choose one or the other isn’t necessary. These two types of learning assessment actually serve different and necessary purposes.
Definitions: What’s the difference between formative and summative assessment?
Formative assessment occurs regularly throughout a unit, chapter, or term to help track not only how student learning is improving, but how your teaching can, too.
According to a WestEd article , teachers love using various formative assessments because they help meet students’ individual learning needs and foster an environment for ongoing feedback.
Take one-minute papers, for example. Giving your students a solo writing task about today’s lesson can help you see how well students understand new content.
Catching these struggles or learning gaps immediately is better than finding out during a summative assessment.
Such an assessment could include:
- In-lesson polls
- Partner quizzes
- Ed-tech games
- One-minute papers
- Visuals (e.g., diagrams, charts or maps) to demonstrate learning
- Exit tickets
So, what is a summative assessment?
Credit: Alberto G.
It occurs at the end of a unit, chapter, or term and is most commonly associated with final projects, standardized tests, or district benchmarks.
Typically heavily weighted and graded, it evaluates what a student has learned and how much they understand.
There are various types of summative assessment. Here are some common examples of summative assessment in practice:
- End-of-unit test
- End-of-chapter test
- Achievement tests
- Standardized tests
- Final projects or portfolios
Teachers and administrators use the final result to assess student progress, and to evaluate schools and districts. For teachers, this could mean changing how you teach a certain unit or chapter. For administrators, this data could help clarify which programs (if any) require tweaking or removal.
The differences between formative and summative assessment
While we just defined the two, there are five key differences between formative and summative assessments requiring a more in-depth explanation.
- Occurs through a chapter or unit
- Improves how students learn
- Covers small content areas
- Monitors how students are learning
- Focuses on the process of student learning
- Occurs at the end of a chapter or unit
- Evaluates what students learn
- Covers complete content areas
- Assigns a grade to students' understanding
- Emphasizes the product of student learning
During vs after
Teachers use formative assessment at many points during a unit or chapter to help guide student learning.
Summative assessment comes in after completing a content area to gauge student understanding.
Improving vs evaluating
If anyone knows how much the learning process is a constant work in progress, it’s you! This is why formative assessment is so helpful — it won’t always guarantee students understand concepts, but it will improve how they learn.
Summative assessment, on the other hand, simply evaluates what they’ve learned. In her book, Balanced Assessment: From Formative to Summative, renowned educator Kay Burke writes, “The only feedback comes in the form of a letter grade, percentage grade, pass/fail grade, or label such as ‘exceeds standards’ or ‘needs improvement.’”
Little vs large
Let’s say chapter one in the math textbook has three subchapters (i.e., 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3). A teacher conducting formative assessments will assign mini tasks or assignments throughout each individual content area.
Whereas, if you’d like an idea of how your class understood the complete chapter, you’d give them a test covering a large content area including all three parts.
Monitoring vs grading
Formative assessment is extremely effective as a means to monitor individual students’ learning styles. It helps catch problems early, giving you more time to address and adapt to different problem areas.
Summative assessments are used to evaluate and grade students’ overall understanding of what you’ve taught. Think report card comments: did students achieve the learning goal(s) you set for them or not?
😮 😄 😂 #reportcard #funny #memes #comics #samecooke #schooldays #music #classic #letsgo #gooutmore #showlove pic.twitter.com/qQ2jen1Z8k — Goldstar Events (@goldstar) January 20, 2019
Process vs product
“It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey”? This age-old saying sums up formative and summative assessments fairly accurately.
The former focuses on the process of student learning. You’ll use it to identify areas of strength and weakness among your students — and to make necessary changes to accommodate their learning needs.
The latter emphasizes the product of student learning. To discover the product’s “value”, you can ask yourself questions, such as: At the end of an instructional unit, did the student’s grade exceed the class standard, or pass according to a district’s benchmark?
In other words, formative methods are an assessment for learning whereas summative ones are an assessment of learning .
Now that you’ve got a more thorough understanding of these evaluations, let’s dive into the love-hate relationship teachers like yourself may have with summative assessments.
Perceived disadvantages of summative assessment
The pros are plenty. However, before getting to that list, let’s outline some of its perceived cons. Summative assessment may:
1) Offer minimal room for creativity
Rigid and strict assignments or tests can lead to a regurgitation of information. Some students may be able to rewrite facts from one page to another, but others need to understand the “why” before giving an answer.
2) Not accurately reflect learning
“Teaching to the test” refers to educators who dedicate more time teaching lessons that will be emphasized on district-specific tests.
A survey conducted by Harvard’s Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism asked teachers whether or not “preparing students to pass mandated standardized tests” affects their teaching.
A significant 60% said it either “dictates most of” or “substantially affects” their teaching. While this can result in higher scores, curriculum distortion can prevent students from learning other foundational subject areas.
3) Ignore (and miss) timely learning needs
Because summative assessment occurs at the end of units or terms, teachers can fail to identify and remedy students’ knowledge gaps or misconceptions as they arise.
Unfortunately, by this point, there’s often little or no time to rectify a student’s mark, which can affect them in subsequent units or grades.
4) Result in a lack of motivation
The University of London’s Evidence for Policy and Practice conducted a 19-study systematic review of the impact summative assessment and tests have on students’ motivation for learning.
Contrary to popular belief, researchers found a correlation between students who scored poorly on national curriculum tests and experienced lower self-esteem, and an unwillingness to put more effort into future test prep. Beforehand, interestingly, “there was no correlation between self-esteem and achievement.”
For some students, summative assessment can sometimes be seen as 'high stakes' testing due to the pressure on them to perform well. That said, 'low-stakes' assessments can also be used in the form of quizzes or practice tests.
Repeated practice tests reinforce the low self-image of the lower-achieving students… When test scores are a source or pride and the community, pressure is brought to bear on the school for high scores.
Similarly, parents bring pressure on their children when the result has consequences for attendance at high social status schools. For many students, this increases their anxiety, even though they recognize their parents as being supportive.
5) Be inauthentic
Summative assessment has received criticism for its perceived inaccuracy in providing a full and balanced measure of student learning.
Consider this, for example: Your student, who’s a hands-on, auditory learner, has a math test today. It comes in a traditional paper format as well as a computer program format, which reads the questions aloud for students.
Chances are the student will opt for the latter test format. What’s more, this student’s test results will likely be higher and more accurate.
The reality is that curricula — let alone standardized tests — typically don’t allow for this kind of accommodation. This is the exact reason educators and advocates such as Chuck Hitchcock, Anne Meyer, David Rose, and Richard Jackson believe:
Curriculum matters and ‘fixing’ the one-size-fits-all, inflexible curriculum will occupy both special and general educators well into the future… Students with diverse learning needs are not ‘the problem’; barriers in the curriculum itself are the root of the difficulty.
6) Be biased
Depending on a school district’s demographic, summative assessment — including standardized tests — can present biases if a group of students is unfairly graded based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or social class.
In his presentation at Kansas State University, emeritus professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, Dr. W. James Popham, explained summative assessment bias:
This doesn’t necessarily mean that if minority students are outperformed on a summative test by majority students that the test is biased against that minority. It may instead indicate that the minority students have not been provided with the appropriate instruction…
An example of content bias against girls would be one in which students are asked to compare the weights of several objects, including a football. Since girls are less likely to have handled a football, they might find the item more difficult than boys, even though they have mastered the concept measured by the item.
Importance and benefits of summative assessment
Overall, these are valid points raised against summative assessment. However, it does offer fantastic benefits for teachers and students alike!
Summative assessment can:
1) Motivate students to study and pay closer attention
Although we mentioned lack of motivation above, this isn’t true for every student. In fact, you’ve probably encountered numerous students for whom summative assessments are an incredible source of motivation to put more effort into their studies.
For example, final exams are a common type of summative assessment that students may encounter at the end of a semester or school year. This pivotal moment gives students a milestone to achieve and a chance to demonstrate their knowledge.
In May 2017, the College Board released a statement about whether coaching truly boosts test scores:
Data shows studying for the SAT for 20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy. Out of nearly 250,000 test-takers studied, more than 16,000 gained 200 points or more between the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT…
In addition to the 115-point average score increase associated with 20 hours of practice, shorter practice periods also correlate with meaningful score gains. For example, 6 to 8 hours of practice on Official SAT Practice is associated with an average 90-point increase.
2) Allow students to apply what they’ve learned
It’s one thing to memorize multiplication tables (which is a good skill), but another to apply those skills in math word problems or real-world examples.
Summative assessments — excluding, for example, multiple choice tests — help you see which students can retain and apply what they’ve learned.
3) Help identify gaps in student learning
Before moving on to a new unit, it’s vital to make sure students are keeping up. Naturally, some will be ahead while others will lag behind. In either case, giving them a summative assessment will provide you with a general overview of where your class stands as a whole.
Let’s say your class just wrote a test on multiplication and division. If all students scored high on multiplication but one quarter of students scored low on division, you’ll know to focus more on teaching division to those students moving forward.
4) Help identify possible teaching gaps
In addition to identifying student learning gaps , summative assessment can help target where your teaching style or lesson plans may have missed the mark.
Have you ever been grading tests before, to your horror, realizing almost none of your students hit the benchmark you hoped for? When this happens, the low grades are not necessarily related to study time.
For example, you may need to adjust your teaching methods by:
- Including/excluding word problems
- Incorporating more visual components
- Innovative summative assessments (we list some below!)
5) Give teachers valuable insights
Credit: Kevin Jarrett
Summative assessments can highlight what worked and what didn’t throughout the school year. Once you pinpoint how, where and what lessons need tweaking, making informed adjustments for next year becomes easier.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes… and, for teachers, new students year after year. So although old students may miss out on changes you’ve made to your lessons, new ones get to reap the benefits.
This not only improves your skills as an educator, but will ensure a more enriching educational experience for generations of students to come.
6) Contribute positively to learning outcomes
Certain summative assessments also provide valuable data at district, national, and global levels. Depending on average test scores, this can determine whether or not certain schools receive funding, programs stay or go, curriculum changes occur, and more. Burke writes:
Summative assessments also provide the public and policymakers with a sense of the results of their investment in education and give educators a forum for proving whether instruction works – or does not work.
The seven aims of summative assessment
Dr. Nancy P. Gallavan, a professor of teacher education at the University of Central Arkansas, believes teachers can use performance-based summative assessments at any grade level.
However, in an article for Corwin , she suggests crafting yours with seven aims in mind:
- Accompanied with appropriate time and task management
- Achievable as in-class activities and out-of-class assignments
- Active involvement in planning, preparation, and performance
- Applicable to academic standards and expectations
- Appropriate to your students’ learning styles, needs, and interests
- Attractive to your students on an individual and group level
- Authentic to curricular content and context
Ideally, the assessment method should also measure a student’s performance accurately against the learning objectives set at the beginning of the course.
Keeping these goals in mind, here’s a list of innovative ways to conduct summative assessments in your classroom!
Summative assessment examples: 9 ways to make test time fun
If you want to switch things up this summative assessment season, keep reading. While you can’t change what’s on standardized tests, you can create activities to ensure your students are exhibiting and applying their understanding and skills to end-of-chapter or -unit assessments. In a refreshing way.
Why not give them the opportunity to express their understanding in ways that apply to different learning styles?
Note : As a general guideline, students should incorporate recognition and recall, logic and reasoning, as well as skills and application that cover major concepts and practices (including content areas you emphasized in your lessons).
1) One, two, three… action!
Write a script and create a short play, movie, or song about a concept or strategy of your choosing.
This video from Science Rap Academy is a great — and advanced — example of students who created a song about how blue-eyed children can come from two brown-eyed parents:
Using a tool such as iPhone Fake Text Generator , have students craft a mock text message conversation conveying a complex concept from the unit, or each chapter of that unit.
Students could create a back-and-forth conversation between two historical figures about a world event, or two friends helping each other with complex math concepts.
Have your students create a five to 10-minute podcast episode about core concepts from each unit. This is an exciting option because it can become an ongoing project.
Individually or in groups, specific students can be in charge of each end-of-chapter or -unit podcast. If your students have a cumulative test towards the end of the year or term, the podcast can even function as a study tool they created together.
Credit : Brad Flickinger
You can use online tools such as Record MP3 Online or Vocaroo to get your class started!
Creating a detailed infographic for a final project is an effective way for students to reinforce what they’ve learned. They can cover definitions, key facts, statistics, research, how-to info, graphics, etc.
You can even put up the most impressive infographics in your classroom. Over time, you’ll have an arsenal of in-depth, visually-appealing infographics students can use when studying for chapter or unit tests.
5) Compare and contrast
Venn diagrams are an old — yet effective — tool perfect for visualizing just about anything! Whether you teach history or social studies, English or math, or something in between, Venn diagrams can help certain learners visualize the relationship between different things.
For example, they can compare book characters, locations around the world, scientific concepts, and more just like the examples below:
6) Living museum
This creative summative assessment is similar to one, two, three… action! Individuals will plan and prepare an exhibit (concept) in the Living Museum (classroom). Let’s say the unit your class just completed covered five core concepts.
Five students will set up around the classroom while the teacher walks from exhibit to exhibit. Upon reaching the first student, the teacher will push an imaginary button, bringing the exhibit “to life.” The student will do a two to three-minute presentation; afterwards, the teacher will move on to the next one.
7) Ed-Tech games
Now more than ever, students are growing up saturated with smartphones, tablets, and video games. That’s why educators should show students how to use technology in the classroom effectively and productively.
More and more educators are bringing digital tools into the learning process. Pew Research Center surveyed 2,462 teachers and reported that digital technologies have helped in teaching their middle and high school students.
Some of the findings were quite eye-opening:
- 80% report using the internet at least weekly to help them create lesson plans
- 84% report using the internet at least weekly to find content that will engage students
- 69% say the internet has a “major impact on their ability to share ideas with other teachers
- 80% report getting email alerts or updates at least weekly that allow them to follow developments in their field
- 92% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching
- 67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students
To make the most of EdTech, find a tool that actually engages your students in learning and gives you the insightful data and reports you need to adjust your instruction
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8) Shark Tank/Dragon’s Den
Yes, just like the reality TV show! You can show an episode or two to your class or get them to watch the show at home. Next, have students pitch a product or invention that can help change the world outside of school for the better.
This innovative summative assessment is one that’ll definitely require some more thought and creativity. But it’s important that, as educators, we help students realize they can have a huge positive impact on the world in which they live.
9) Free choice
If a student chooses to come up with their own summative assessment, you’ll need to vet it first. It’ll likely take some collaboration to arrive at something sufficient.
However, giving students the freedom to explore content areas that interest them most could surprise you. Sometimes, it’s during those projects they form a newfound passion and are wildly successful in completing the task.
We’re sure there are countless other innovative summative assessment ideas out there, but we hope this list gets your creative juices flowing.
With the exclusion of standardized state and national tests, one of the greatest misconceptions about summative assessments is that they’re all about paper and pencil. Our hope in creating this list was to help you see how fun and engaging summative assessments can truly be.
10) Group projects
Group projects aren't just a fun way to break the monotony, but a dynamic and interactive form of summative assessment. Here's why:
- Collaborative learning: Group projects encourage students to work as a team, fostering their communication and collaboration skills. They learn to listen, negotiate, and empathize, which are crucial skills in and beyond the classroom.
- Promotes critical thinking: When students interact with each other, they get to explore different perspectives. They challenge each other's understanding, leading to stimulating debates and problem-solving sessions that boost critical thinking.
- In-depth assessment: Group projects offer teachers a unique lens to evaluate both individual performances and group dynamics. It's like getting a sneak peek into their world - you get to see how they perform under different circumstances and how they interact with each other.
- Catering to different learning styles: Given the interactive nature of group projects, they can cater to different learning styles - auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Every student gets a chance to shine!
However, it's important to set clear instructions and criteria to ensure fairness. Remember, it's not just about the final product - it's about the process too.
Some interesting examples of group projects include:
- Create a Mini Documentary: Students could work together to research a historical event and create a mini documentary presenting their findings.
- Plan a Community Service Project: This could involve identifying a problem in the local community and creating a detailed plan to address it.
- Design a Mobile App: For a more tech-focused project, students could identify a problem and design an app that solves it.
Summative assessment strategies for keeping tests clear and fair
In addition to using the summative assessment examples above to accommodate your students’ learning styles, these tips and strategies should also help:
- Use a rubric — Rubrics help set a standard for how your class should perform on a test or assignment. They outline test length, how in-depth it will be, and what you require of them to achieve the highest possible grades.
- Design clear, effective questions — When designing tests, do your best to use language, phrases, and examples similar to those used during lessons. This’ll help keep your tests aligned with the material you’ve covered.
- Try blind grading — Most teachers prefer knowing whose tests they’re grading. But if you want to provide wholly unbiased grades and feedback, try blind grading. You can request your students write their names on the bottom of the last test page or the back.
- Assess comprehensiveness — Make sure the broad, overarching connections you’re hoping students can make are reasonable and fluid. For example, if the test covers measurement, geometry and spatial sense, you should avoid including questions about patterning and algebra.
- Create a final test after, not before, teaching the lessons — Don’t put the horse before the carriage. Plans can change and student learning can demand different emphases from year to year. If you have a test outline, perfect! But expect to embrace and make some changes from time to time.
- Make it real-world relevant — How many times have you heard students ask, “When am I going to use this in real life?” Far too often students assume math, for example, is irrelevant to their lives and write it off as a subject they don’t need. When crafting test questions, use culturally-relevant word problems to illustrate a subject’s true relevance.
Enter the Balanced Assessment Model
Throughout your teaching career, you’ll spend a lot of time with formative and summative assessments. While some teachers emphasize one over the other, it’s vital to recognize the extent to which they’re interconnected.
In the book Classroom Assessment for Student Learning , Richard Stiggins, one of the first educators to advocate for the concept of assessment for learning, proposes something called “a balanced assessment system that takes advantage of assessment of learning and assessment for learning.”
If you use both effectively, they inform one another and “assessment becomes more than just an index of school success. It also serves as the cause of that success.”
In fact, Stiggins argues teachers should view these two types of assessment as “in sync.”
They can even be the exact same thing — only the purpose and the timing of the assessment determine its label. Formative assessments provide the training wheels that allow students to practice and gain confidence while riding their bikes around the enclosed school parking lot.
Once the training wheels come off, the students face their summative assessment as they ride off into the sunset on only two wheels, prepared to navigate the twists and turns of the road to arrive safely at their final destination.
Conclusion: Going beyond the test
Implementing these innovative summative assessment examples should engage your students in new and exciting ways.
What’s more, they’ll have the opportunity to express and apply what they’ve learned in creative ways that solidify student learning.
So, what do you think — are you ready to try out these summative assessment ideas? Prodigy is a game-based learning platform teachers use to keep their students engaged.
Sign up for a free teacher account and set an Assessment today!
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What are summative assessments?
Summative assessments are implemented at the end of a unit, set of units, or entire course to assess and evaluate the extent to which students have achieved the learning objectives (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) for that period of instruction. Summative assessments are typically higher stakes (higher point value) than formative assessments and tend to constitute a relatively larger proportion of a student’s grade. Whereas formative assessments provide feedback on student learning while learning is in progress, summative assessments primarily evaluate how much learning has occurred by the end of an instructional period.
What makes a summative assessment equity-minded?
Equity-minded summative assessments are:
- Relevant : Well-aligned with the learning objectives for that period of instruction. Some definitions also consider relevant assessments as those that reflect the goals, interests, or experiences of students (Artze-Vega et al., 2023).
- Authentic : Provide students with meaningful ways to demonstrate the knowledge or skills they have acquired. For example, this could involve applying course concepts to real-world problems, topics, or careers (Wiggins, 1990). Although all authentic assessments are also relevant, authentic assessments additionally aim to simulate tasks that students will encounter in their academic, professional, or personal lives.
- Rigorous : Set high expectations and encourage students to engage in cognitively demanding tasks. Designing rigorous assessments communicates the belief that all students, regardless of their background, have the potential to succeed on challenging tasks if given sufficient support. This actively counteracts the harmful practice of giving less instruction and fewer challenging tasks to minoritized students under the assumption that these students have limited capabilities (Artze-Vega et al., 2023).
- Transparent : Explicitly communicate both the purpose of the assessment and the criteria for success (e.g. using rubrics). Additionally, sample assignments or questions should be made available to students where possible. Furthermore, it is important to be transparent about policies related to grading, use of technology (Generative AI, Search Tools), and collaboration. Transparency helps students achieve the high expectations set by equity-minded assessments. It has also been shown to promote student motivation, sense of belonging, and increased retention rates, particularly among first generation, BIPOC, and international students (Winkelmes, 2023).
- Inclusive : Designed to mitigate cultural and other biases through the use of language and examples that are relevant to the diverse lived experiences of students in the classroom (Montenegro & Jankowski, 2020). Inclusive assessments also avoid the use of jargon and ambiguous language that could make the test difficult for students to understand (thereby also undermining transparency ). Additionally, inclusive assessments can involve giving students options and flexibility to choose from varied formats and types of assessments to demonstrate their learning.
Best practices when designing summative assessments
Although high-stakes summative assessments can be useful for encouraging students to synthesize knowledge over relatively broad periods of instruction, they are also more anxiety-inducing for students in comparison with lower-stakes assessments (Hembree, 1988; Wood et al., 2016; Silaj et al., 2021). Further, high-stakes summative assessments in most courses tend to take place later during the semester which can place multiple demands on students. In such situations, students may tend to procrastinate or manage time poorly resulting in bad performance on such high stakes exams. With this in mind, there are ways to design and implement summative assessments to reduce anxiety and prepare students to succeed, while still ensuring these assessments are rigorous and promote just and equitable learning outcomes. Some examples include:
- Breaking down summative assessments, such as major projects and papers, into smaller, more manageable steps. Being explicit in how students can seek feedback, can particularly benefit international and first-generation students who are getting acquainted with a new academic culture.
- Providing opportunities for revisions based on self, peer, or instructor feedback.
- Having students complete multiple low-stakes formative assessments (e.g., short quizzes) prior to a high-stakes summative assessment (e.g., exam).
- Scaffolding assignments to provide more guidance early on but progressively increase the level of independence later on in the assignment.
- Implementing course policies to allow students to drop their lowest grade or retake an exam.
- Invest time in class to teach students how to use AI tools like Chat-GPT or Co-pilot , reference managers , or search engines that can aid their performance through practice. This can reduce student anxiety around tackling summative assessments and also reduce the tendency to plagiarize or inappropriately use content produced by generative AI.
All these strategies allow summative assessments to set high expectations while simultaneously lowering the stakes and providing students with ample opportunities to practice, improve, and ultimately achieve those high expectations (Schrank 2016).
Artze-Vega, I., Darby, F., Dewsbury, B., & Imad, M. (2023). The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching , New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Instructional scaffolding to improve learning . Northern Illinois University.
Hembree, R. (1988). Correlates, causes, effects, and treatment of test anxiety . Review of Educational Research, 58 (1), 47–77.
Montenegro, E., & Jankowski, N. A. (2020, January). A new decade for assessment: Embedding equity into assessment praxis (Occasional Paper No. 42). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).
Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R., & Tomaš, Z. (2023). Chapter 4: Effective and Equitable Assignments and Assessments. Fostering International Student Success in higher education (pp, 61-87, second edition). TESOL Press.
Schrank, Z. (2016). An assessment of student perceptions and responses to frequent low-stakes testing in Introductory Sociology classes . Teaching Sociology , 44(2), 118–127.
Silaj, K. M., Schwartz, S. T., Siegel, A. L. M., Castel, A.D.(2021). Test anxiety and metacognitive performance in the classroom . Educational Psychology Review, 33 , 1809–1834.
Wiggins, G. (1990). The case for authentic assessment . Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 2 , 1–3.
Winkelmes, M. (2023). Introduction to Transparency in Learning and Teaching . Perspectives In Learning , 20 (1). Columbus, GA: CSUE Press.
Wood, S. G., Hart, S. A., Little, C. W., & Phillips, B. M. (2016). Test anxiety and a high-stakes standardized reading comprehension test: A behavioral genetics perspective . Merrill-Palmer Quarterly , 62 (3), 233–251.
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What are examples of summative assessments?
What are summative assessments in education.
Summative Assessments are—in simple words—the way educators determine what a student has learned. They are typically tests or cumulative assignments that provide teachers with insights into the overall success of their instructional methods. Summative assessments also reveal if students have or have not mastered the learning targets or standards. Additionally, summative assessments provide school administrators, districts, and other key decision makers with actionable data and insight into how successfully a curriculum or teacher performs.
Summative assessments must be created following specific guidelines, which are outlined in detail below. In brief, summative assessments must provide valid, reliable data points that can be compared across classrooms, across time, and across graders in order to measure student growth and teacher, district, or curriculum efficacy.
What does a summative assessment measure?
Summative assessments measure student learning along with teacher and curriculum effectiveness. Unlike formative assessments , which are often low-stake check-ins, summative assessments are typically high stakes, serving not only as the cumulation of a unit, semester, or school year, but also frequently serving as the key factor in a student’s grade or an administrator’s decision about a teacher or curriculum.
Teachers who incorporate mastery learning into their instructional process rely heavily on summative assessments to measure whether or not a student has mastered the content taught. When they have finished their units, teachers offer a summative—or cumulative—test, project, or essay to determine if students have reached the key learning targets. If a student does not reach a predetermined score (80%, according to most mastery learning models), teachers adjust what content comes next and often provide strategic interventions to provide students with the time needed to truly master the content. In this way, summative assessments can be thought of as formative, in that teachers inform next steps based on summative results.
Why are summative assessments used in education?
Summative assessments are highly valued in education due to the valuable data they provide. Unlike formative assessments, which are typically more subjective and rarely designed to be used across classrooms or schools for comparative purposes, summative assessments are created for validity and reliability.
Validity in summative assessments—or the ability of an assessment to actually measure what it is supposed to measure—ensures that teachers can be confident that students have or have not mastered the key learning objective. Additionally, valid summative assessments mean that educators and administrators are able to trust the summative assessment’s data about whether or not a teacher or curriculum performed as expected. A summative assessment’s validity ensures that decisions are made according to the true learning targets and not some side topic that may have unintentionally found its way into the assessment.
Reliability in summative assessments—or the ability of an assessment to reproduce consistent outcomes across time and setting regardless of grader—ensures that teachers and administrators are making decisions using accurate data, not outlying data. This is especially important in situations where a teacher’s salary or a controversial curriculum hangs in the balance.
Many educators have found that online tools allow them to more effectively gather and analyze data for validity and reliability, and to measure trends over time. Additionally, online tools allow teachers to quickly spot anomalies so they know which students need enrichment or intervention.
How do you write a summative assessment?
Summative assessments must be written according to a few specific guidelines.
First, in order to ensure a summative assessment is valid, teachers must:
- Determine the key learning objectives or standards that they will teach.
- Decide on what format will best showcase whether or not that objective or standard has been met. In some cases, a multiple choice test might work best; in others, teachers may need to choose something more along the lines of an essay or project.
- Ensure that students understand the learning objectives, the method of the summative assessment, and the grading scale or rubric. Students are far more likely to not only perform better on summative assessments but also to engage and take ownership in their learning when they clearly understand what they are being asked to do and why.
- Plan and teach curriculum that closely aligns with the learning objectives and parallels the summative assessment.
Second, in order to ensure a summative assessment is reliable, teachers must:
- Create a comprehensive grading plan—or rubric—to ensure data is consistently and correctly gathered.
- Ensure classroom instruction and curriculum follows the same plan across classrooms or year over year, depending on how the teacher is planning to use the data from the summative assessments.
- Decide on how the summative assessment will be given in order to ensure consistent results across classrooms or time. Does it always need to be given at a specific time of day or of year? Does the classroom need to be set up a certain way? Does the teacher provide specific prompts or help during the assessment?
- Create and execute the summative assessment according to the predetermined guidelines. Many teachers find it helpful to bring their summative assessments to their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for help in spotting questions that could take away from the test’s validity or reliability.
- Grade the summative assessment according to the predetermined guidelines. Many teachers find it helpful to bring in “blind graders”—fellow staff or other experts to grade the assessments without any background knowledge of students or classroom instruction.
Third, teachers should take time to analyze the results of their summative assessment. Did students master the learning targets or standards ? Did this unit drive their understanding and comprehension forward? Or will they need intervention and help before moving on to the next unit or goal? Teachers should then make decisions about how to proceed.
Fourth, teachers should report findings to the stakeholders—students, parents, administrators, and the like. Students are far more likely to improve their learning when they receive descriptive feedback—clear, exact descriptions of what a student got right or wrong, and more importantly, why they made certain mistakes and how to correct them.
Finally, many teachers find it valuable to bring the results of their summative assessments back to their PLCs. While there, teachers find support in analyzing data, understanding results, and creating intervention plans .
How do summative assessments fit in with the 5 types of assessment?
There are five foundational types of assessments:
- Diagnostic assessments , or pre-assessment, which teachers use to gauge students’ pre-knowledge and zone of proximal development. These typically occur once at the beginning of a unit.
- Formative assessments , which teachers use to determine where student knowledge is at mid-unit. These typically occur frequently throughout the unit.
- Summative assessments , which teachers use to determine student growth at the end of a unit. These typically occur once at the end of a unit.
- Interim assessments , which districts use to measure specific grades across schools. These typically occur once a year.
- Benchmark assessments , which bigger bodies (e.g. states) use to measure overarching student growth and school effectiveness. These typically occur once a year.
Typically, teachers create their diagnostic assessments to mirror their summative assessments in order to easily compare the results of a summative assessment to its unit’s diagnostic assessment. This allows teachers to quickly and easily see if students grew in the desired knowledge during the unit.
Additionally, many teachers work to align the majority of their formative assessments with their summative assessments. For example, teachers may use questions similar to the questions found on the summative assessments as exit tickets throughout the unit. They do this to tap into the “testing effect” of formative assessments: by allowing students to “test” themselves in a low-stakes environment, they are enabling students to recall up to 67% more of what they’ve learned on the final summative assessment than students would have via other study methods.
While summative assessments are not always interim and benchmark assessments, these two categories would fall under the same umbrella as summative assessments, as both teachers and administrators use interim and benchmark assessments to not only determine what students have learned, but to make decisions about staffing, curriculum, or school success.
While there is no one right summative assessment, it is important that teachers use or create summative assessments that will provide valid, reliable data across classrooms or year over year. For example, many teachers use:
- Curriculum Tests : Although a teacher may tweak the test created by the curriculum here or there to align with their state or district’s learning targets, using the curriculum test provides a large degree of validity and reliability, and teachers can easily use the same test (with the same tweaks) in every class for as long as they use that curriculum.
- Rubrics : It is essential that teachers create strong, detailed rubrics when they choose to use writing assignments or final projects. Although it may take the teacher a few rounds with their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and iterations in classrooms, eventually teachers should land on a rubric that they can use year over year for reliable data.
- Multiple Choice Tests : These are perhaps the easiest summative assessments to use in terms of gathering and comparing data. However, it can be easy to create multiple-choice questions that don’t align well with the learning objectives, which compromises the validity of the test. Teachers do well to bring their multiple-choice tests to PLCs to get peer feedback on their summative assessments before bringing them to their class.
Again, it’s important to note that regardless of what type of assessments teachers choose to use, these assessments should be used to gauge student learning and make critical decisions about how to enhance the learning process so students receive the best learning opportunities possible.
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Summative Assessment and Feedback
Summative assessments are given to students at the end of a course and should measure the skills and knowledge a student has gained over the entire instructional period. Summative feedback is aimed at helping students understand how well they have done in meeting the overall learning goals of the course.
Effective summative assessments
Effective summative assessments provide students a structured way to demonstrate that they have met a range of key learning objectives and to receive useful feedback on their overall learning. They should align with the course learning goals and build upon prior formative assessments. These assessments will address how well the student is able to synthesize and connect the elements of learning from the entirety of the course into a holistic understanding and provide an opportunity to provide rich summative feedback.
The value of summative feedback
Summative feedback is essential for students to understand how far they have come in meeting the learning goals of the course, what they need further work on, and what they should study next. This can affect later choices that students make, particularly in contemplating and pursuing their major fields of study. Summative feedback can also influence how students regard themselves and their academic disciplines after graduation.
Use rubrics to provide consistency and transparency
A rubric is a grading guide for evaluating how well students have met a learning outcome. A rubric consists of performance criteria, a rating scale, and indicators for the different rating levels. They are typically in a chart or table format.
Instructors often use rubrics for both formative and summative feedback to ensure consistency of assessment across different students. Rubrics also can make grading faster and help to create consistency between multiple graders and across assignments.
Students might be given access to the rubric before working on an assignment. No criteria or metric within a summative assessment should come as a surprise to the students. Transparency with students on exactly what is being assessed can help them more effectively demonstrate how much they have learned.
Types of summative assessments
Different summative assessments are better suited to measuring different kinds of learning.
Examinations are useful for evaluating student learning in terms of remembering information, and understanding and applying concepts and ideas. However, exams may be less suited to evaluating how well students are able to analyze, evaluate, or create things related to what they've learned.
A presentation tasks the student with teaching others what they have learned typically by speaking, presenting visual materials, and interacting with their audience. This can be useful for assessing a student's ability to critically analyze and evaluate a topic or content.
With projects, students will create something, such as a plan, document, artifact, or object, usually over a sustained period of time, that demonstrates skills or understanding of the topic of learning. They are useful for evaluating learning objectives that require high levels of critical thinking, creativity, and coordination. Projects are good opportunities to provide summative feedback because they often build on prior formative assessments and feedback.
With a portfolio, students create and curate a collection of documents, objects, and artifacts that collectively demonstrate their learning over a wide range of learning goals. Portfolios usually include the student's reflections and metacognitive analysis of their own learning. Portfolios are typically completed over a sustained period of time and are usually done by individual students as opposed to groups.
Portfolios are particularly useful for evaluating how students' learning, attitudes, beliefs, and creativity grow over the span of the course. The reflective component of portfolios can be a rich form of self-feedback for students. Generally, portfolios tend to be more holistic and are often now done using ePortfolios .
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Nicole Messier, CATE Instructional Designer February 7th, 2022
WHAT? Heading link Copy link
Summative assessments are used to measure learning when instruction is over and thus may occur at the end of a learning unit, module, or the entire course.
Summative assessments are usually graded, are weighted more heavily than other course assignments or comprise a substantial percentage of a students’ overall grade (and are often considered “high stakes” assessments relative to other, “lower stakes” assessments in a course), and are required assessments for the completion of a course.
Summative assessments can be viewed through two broad assessment strategies: assessments of learning and assessments as learning.
- Assessment of learning (AoL) provides data to confirm course outcomes and students the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in the learning objectives.
- Assessment as learning (AaL) provides student ownership of learning by utilizing evidence-based learning strategies, promoting self-regulation, and providing reflective learning.
A summative assessment can be designed to provide both assessment of learning (AoL) and assessment as learning (AaL). The goal of designing for AaL and AoL is to create a summative assessment as a learning experience while ensuring that the data collected is valid and reliable.
Want to learn more about these assessment strategies? Please visit the Resources Section – CATE website to review resources, teaching guides, and more.
Summative Assessments Heading link Copy link
Summative assessments (aol).
- Written assignments – such as papers or authentic assessments like projects or portfolios of creative work
- Mid-term exam
Although exams are typically used to measure student knowledge and skills at the end of a learning unit, module, or an entire course, they can also be incorporated into learning opportunities for students.
Example 1 - Exam Heading link Copy link
Example 1 - exam.
An instructor decides to analyze their current multiple-choice and short-answer final exam for alignment to the learning objectives. The instructor discovers that the questions cover the content in the learning objectives; however, some questions are not at the same cognitive levels as the learning objectives . The instructor determines that they need to create some scenario questions where students are asked to analyze a situation and apply knowledge to be aligned with a particular learning objective.
The instructor also realizes that this new type of question format will be challenging for students if the exam is the only opportunity provided to students. The instructor decides to create a study guide for students on scenarios (not used in the exam) for students to practice and self-assess their learning. The instructor plans to make future changes to the quizzes and non-graded formative questions to include higher-level cognitive questions to ensure that learning objectives are being assessed as well as to support student success in the summative assessment.
This example demonstrates assessment of learning with an emphasis on improving the validity of the results, as well as assessment as learning by providing students with opportunities to self-assess and reflect on their learning.
Written assignments in any form (authentic, project, or problem-based) can also be designed to collect data and measure student learning, as well as provide opportunities for self-regulation and reflective learning. Instructors should consider using a type of grading rubric (analytic, holistic, or single point) for written assignments to ensure that the data collected is valid and reliable.
Summative Assessments (AaL) Heading link Copy link
Summative assessments (aal).
- Authentic assessments – an assessment that involves a real-world task or application of knowledge instead of a traditional paper; could involve a situation or scenario specific to a future career.
- Project-based learning – an assessment that involves student choice in designing and addressing a problem, need, or question.
- Problem-based learning – similar to project-based learning but focused on solutions to problems.
- Self-critique or peer assessment
Example 2 - Authentic Assessment Heading link Copy link
Example 2 - authentic assessment.
An instructor has traditionally used a research paper as the final summative assessment in their course. After attending a conference session on authentic assessments, the instructor decides to change this summative assessment to an authentic assessment that allows for student choice and increased interaction, feedback, and ownership.
First, the instructor introduced the summative project during the first week of class. The summative project instructions asked students to select a problem that could be addressed by one of the themes from the course. Students were provided with a list of authentic products that they could choose from, or they could request permission to submit a different product. Students were also provided with a rubric aligned to the learning objectives.
Next, the instructor created small groups (three to four students) with discussion forums for students to begin brainstorming problems, themes, and ideas for their summative project. These groups were also required to use the rubric to provide feedback to their peers at two separate time points in the course. Students were required to submit their final product, references, self-assessment using the rubric, and a reflection on the peer interaction and review.
This example demonstrates an authentic assessment as well as an assessment of learning (AoL) and assessment as learning (AaL). The validity and reliability of this summative assessment are ensured using a rubric that is focused on the learning objectives of the course and consistently utilized for the grading and feedback of the summative project. Data collected from the use of grading criteria in a rubric can be used to improve the summative project as well as the instruction and materials in the course. This summative project allows for reflective learning and provides opportunities for students to develop self-regulation skills as well as apply knowledge gained in an authentic and meaningful product.
Another way to create a summative assessment as a learning opportunity is to break it down into smaller manageable parts. These smaller parts will guide students’ understanding of expectations, provide them with opportunities to receive and apply feedback, as well as support their executive functioning and self-regulation skills.
WHY? Heading link Copy link
We know that summative assessments are vital to the curriculum planning cycle to measure student outcomes and implement continuous improvements. But how do we ensure our summative assessments are effective and equitable? Well, the answer is in the research.
Validity, Reliability, and Manageability
Critical components for the effectiveness of summative assessments are the validity, reliability, and manageability of the assessment (Khaled, 2020).
- Validity of the assessment refers to the alignment to course learning objectives. In other words, are the assessments in your course measuring the learning objectives?
- Reliability of the assessment refers to the consistency or accuracy of the assessment used. Are the assessment practices consistent from student to student and semester to semester?
- Manageability of the assessment refers to the workload for both faculty and students. For faculty, is the type of summative assessment causing a delay in timely grading and feedback to the learner? For students, is the summative assessment attainable and are the expectations realistic?
As you begin to design a summative assessment, determine how you will ensure the assessment is valid, reliable, and manageable.
Feedback & Summative Assessments
Attributes of academic feedback that improve the impact of the summative assessment on student learning (Daka, 2021; Harrison 2017) include:
- Provide feedback without or before grades.
- Once the grade is given, then explain the grading criteria and score (e.g., using a rubric to explain grading criteria and scoring).
- Identify specific qualities in students’ work.
- Describe actionable steps on what and how to improve.
- Motivate and encourage students by providing opportunities to submit revisions or earn partial credit for submitting revised responses to incorrect answers on exams.
- Allow students to monitor, evaluate, and regulate their learning.
Additional recommendations for feedback include that feedback should be timely, frequent, constructive (what and how), and should help infuse a sense of professional identity for students (why). The alignment of learning objectives, learning activities, and summative assessments is critical to student success and will ensure that assessments are valid. And lastly, the tasks in assessments should match the cognitive levels of the course learning objectives to challenge the highest performing students while elevating lower-achieving students (Daka, 2021).
HOW? Heading link Copy link
How do you start designing summative assessments?
Summative assessments can help measure student achievement of course learning objectives as well as provide the instructor with data to make pedagogical decisions on future teaching and instruction. Summative assessments can also provide learning opportunities as students reflect and take ownership of their learning.
So how do you determine what type of summative assessment to design? And how do you ensure that summative assessment will be valid, reliable, and manageable? Let’s dive into some of the elements that might impact your design decisions, including class size, discipline, modality, and EdTech tools .
Class Size and Modality
The manageability of summative assessments can be impacted by the class size and modality of the course. Depending on the class size of the course, instructors might be able to implement more opportunities for authentic summative assessments that provide student ownership and allow for more reflective learning (students think about their learning and make connections to their experiences). Larger class sizes might require instructors to consider implementing an EdTech tool to improve the manageability of summative assessments.
The course modality can also influence the design decisions of summative assessments. Courses with synchronous class sessions can require students to take summative assessments simultaneously through an in-person paper exam or an online exam using an EdTech tool, like Gradescope or Blackboard Tests, Pools, and Surveys . Courses can also create opportunities for students to share their authentic assessments asynchronously using an EdTech tool like VoiceThread .
When designing a summative assessment as a learning opportunity for major coursework, instructors should reflect on the learning objectives to be assessed and the possible real-world application of the learning objectives. In replacement of multiple-choice or short answer questions that focus on content memorization, instructors might consider creating scenarios or situational questions that provide students with opportunities to analyze and apply knowledge gained. In major coursework, instructors should consider authentic assessments that allow for student choice, transfer of knowledge, and the development of professional skills in place of a traditional paper or essay.
Undergraduate General Education Coursework
In undergraduate general education coursework, instructors should consider the use of authentic assessments to make connections to students’ experiences, goals, and future careers. Simple adjustments to assignment instructions to allow for student choice can help increase student engagement and motivation. Designing authentic summative assessments can help connect students to the real-world application of the content and create buy-in on the importance of the summative assessment.
Summative Assessment Tools
EdTech tools can help to reduce faculty workload by providing a delivery system for students to submit work as well as tools to support academic integrity.
Below are EdTech tools that are available to UIC faculty to create and/or grade summative assessments as and of learning.
Assessment Creation and Grading Tools Heading link Copy link
Assessment creation and grading tools.
- Blackboard assignments drop box and rubrics
- Blackboard quizzes and exams
Assessment creation and grading tools can help support instructors in designing valid and reliable summative assessments. Gradescope can be utilized as a grading tool for in-person paper and pencil midterm and final exams, as well as a tool to create digital summative assessments. Instructors can use AI to improve the manageability of summative assessments as well as the reliability through the use of rubrics for grading with Gradescope.
In the Blackboard learning management system, instructors can create pools of questions for both formative and summative assessments as well as create authentic assessment drop boxes and rubrics aligned to learning objectives for valid and reliable data collection.
Academic Integrity Tools
- SafeAssign (undergraduate)
- iThenticate (graduate)
- Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitoring
Academic integrity tools can help ensure that students are meeting academic expectations concerning research through the use of SafeAssign and iThenticate as well as academic integrity during online tests and exams using Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitoring.
Want to learn more about these summative assessment tools? Visit the EdTech section on the CATE website to learn more.
Additional guidance on online exams is available in Section III: Best Practices for Online (Remote Proctored, Synchronous) Exams in the Guidelines for Assessment in Online Environments Report , which outlines steps for equitable exam design, accessible exam technology, and effective communication for student success. The framing questions in the report are designed to guide instructors with suggestions, examples, and best practices (Academic Planning Task Force, 2020), which include:
- “What steps should be taken to ensure that all students have the necessary hardware, software, and internet capabilities to complete a remote, proctored exam?
- What practices should be implemented to make remote proctored exams accessible to all students, and in particular, for students with disabilities?
- How can creating an ethos of academic integrity be leveraged to curb cheating in remote proctored exams?
- What are exam design strategies to minimize cheating in an online environment?
- What tools can help to disincentive cheating during a remote proctored exam?
- How might feedback and grading strategies be adjusted to deter academic misconduct on exams?”
GETTING STARTED Heading link Copy link
The following steps will support you as you examine current summative assessment practices through the lens of assessment of learning (AoL) and assessment as learning (AaL) and develop new or adapt existing summative assessments.
- The first step is to utilize backward design principles by aligning the summative assessments to the learning objectives.
- To collect valid and reliable data to confirm student outcomes (AoL).
- To promote self-regulation and reflective learning by students (AaL).
- Format: exam, written assignment, portfolio, performance, project, etc.
- Delivery: paper and pencil, Blackboard, EdTech tool, etc.
- Feedback: general (how to improve performance), personalized (student-specific), etc.
- Scoring: automatically graded by Blackboard and/or EdTech tool or manual through the use of a rubric in Blackboard.
- The fourth step is to review data collected from summative assessment(s) and reflect on the implementation of the summative assessment(s) through the lens of validity, reliability, and manageability to inform continuous improvements for equitable student outcomes.
CITING THIS GUIDE Heading link Copy link
Citing this guide.
Messier, N. (2022). “Summative assessments.” Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence at the University of Illinois Chicago. Retrieved [today’s date] from https://teaching.uic.edu/resources/teaching-guides/assessment-grading-practices/summative-assessments/
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Heading link Copy link
Academic Planning Task Force. (2020). Guidelines for Assessment in Online Learning Environments .
McLaughlin, L., Ricevuto, J. (2021). Assessments in a Virtual Environment: You Won’t Need that Lockdown Browser! Faculty Focus.
Moore, E. (2020). Assessments by Design: Rethinking Assessment for Learner Variability. Faculty Focus.
Websites and Journals
Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education website
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. Taylor & Francis Online Journals
Journal of Assessment in Higher Education
REFERENCES Heading link Copy link
Daka, H., & Mulenga-Hagane, M., Mukalula-Kalumbi, M., Lisulo, S. (2021). Making summative assessment effective. 5. 224 – 237.
Earl, L.M., Katz, S. (2006). Rethinking classroom assessment with purpose in mind — Assessment for learning, assessment as learning, assessment of learning. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Crown in Right of Manitoba.
Galletly, R., Carciofo, R. (2020). Using an online discussion forum in a summative coursework assignment. Journal of Educators Online . Volume 17, Issue 2.
Harrison, C., Könings, K., Schuwirth, L. & Wass, V., Van der Vleuten, C. (2017). Changing the culture of assessment: the dominance of the summative assessment paradigm. BMC Medical Education. 17. 10.1186/s12909-017-0912-5.
Khaled, S., El Khatib, S. (2020). Summative assessment in higher education: Feedback for better learning outcomes
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Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year. Generally speaking, summative assessments are defined by three major criteria:
- The tests, assignments, or projects are used to determine whether students have learned what they were expected to learn. In other words, what makes an assessment “summative” is not the design of the test, assignment, or self-evaluation, per se, but the way it is used—i.e., to determine whether and to what degree students have learned the material they have been taught.
- Summative assessments are given at the conclusion of a specific instructional period, and therefore they are generally evaluative, rather than diagnostic—i.e., they are more appropriately used to determine learning progress and achievement, evaluate the effectiveness of educational programs, measure progress toward improvement goals, or make course-placement decisions, among other possible applications.
- Summative-assessment results are often recorded as scores or grades that are then factored into a student’s permanent academic record, whether they end up as letter grades on a report card or test scores used in the college-admissions process. While summative assessments are typically a major component of the grading process in most districts, schools, and courses, not all assessments considered to be summative are graded.
Summative assessments are commonly contrasted with formative assessments , which collect detailed information that educators can use to improve instruction and student learning while it’s happening. In other words, formative assessments are often said to be for learning, while summative assessments are of learning. Or as assessment expert Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s summative assessment.” It should be noted, however, that the distinction between formative and summative is often fuzzy in practice, and educators may have divergent interpretations and opinions on the subject.
Some of the most well-known and widely discussed examples of summative assessments are the standardized tests administered by states and testing organizations, usually in math, reading, writing, and science. Other examples of summative assessments include:
- End-of-unit or chapter tests.
- End-of-term or semester tests.
- Standardized tests that are used to for the purposes of school accountability, college admissions (e.g., the SAT or ACT), or end-of-course evaluation (e.g., Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams).
- Culminating demonstrations of learning or other forms of “performance assessment,” such as portfolios of student work that are collected over time and evaluated by teachers or capstone projects that students work on over extended periods of time and that they present and defend at the conclusion of a school year or their high school education.
While most summative assessments are given at the conclusion of an instructional period, some summative assessments can still be used diagnostically. For example, the growing availability of student data, made possible by online grading systems and databases, can give teachers access to assessment results from previous years or other courses. By reviewing this data, teachers may be able to identify students more likely to struggle academically in certain subject areas or with certain concepts. In addition, students may be allowed to take some summative tests multiple times, and teachers might use the results to help prepare students for future administrations of the test.
It should also be noted that districts and schools may use “interim” or “benchmark” tests to monitor the academic progress of students and determine whether they are on track to mastering the material that will be evaluated on end-of-course tests or standardized tests. Some educators consider interim tests to be formative, since they are often used diagnostically to inform instructional modifications, but others may consider them to be summative. There is ongoing debate in the education community about this distinction, and interim assessments may defined differently from place to place. See formative assessment for a more detailed discussion.
While educators have arguably been using “summative assessments” in various forms since the invention of schools and teaching, summative assessments have in recent decades become components of larger school-improvement efforts. As they always have, summative assessments can help teachers determine whether students are making adequate academic progress or meeting expected learning standards, and results may be used to inform modifications to instructional techniques, lesson designs, or teaching materials the next time a course, unit, or lesson is taught. Yet perhaps the biggest changes in the use of summative assessments have resulted from state and federal policies aimed at improving public education—specifically, standardized high-stakes tests used to make important decisions about schools, teachers, and students.
While there is little disagreement among educators about the need for or utility of summative assessments, debates and disagreements tend to center on issues of fairness and effectiveness, especially when summative-assessment results are used for high-stakes purposes. In these cases, educators, experts, reformers, policy makers, and others may debate whether assessments are being designed and used appropriately, or whether high-stakes tests are either beneficial or harmful to the educational process. For more detailed discussions of these issues, see high-stakes test , measurement error , test accommodations , test bias , score inflation , standardized test , and value-added measures .