Unlike formative assessment, which is assessment for learning, "[s]ummative assessment is the assessment of learning at a particular time point and is meant to summarize a learner's skills and knowledge at a given point of time. Summative assessments frequently come in the form of chapter or unit tests, weekly quizzes, end-of term tests, or diagnostic tests" (California Department of Education, 2014, p. 85). According to Burns and colleagues (n.d.), these assessments provide for accountability.
According to Guskey (2007), some students will demonstrate mastery of concepts on an initial formative assessment. These students are ideal candidates for enrichment activities while others are engaged in corrective activities. "Rather than being narrowly restricted to the content of specific instructional units, enrichment activities should be broadly construed to cover a wide range of related topics" (p. 32). As with corrective activities, students should have some freedom to choose an activity that interests them. Teachers might consider having students produce a product of some kind summarizing their work. This enhances the experience so that students don't construe the time spent as busy work.
In , Releah Lent (2012) noted that performance-based assessments take many forms. They might include project exhibits, oral presentations, debates, panel discussions on open-ended questions, lab experiments, multimedia presentations, demonstrations of experiments or solutions to problems. Learners might conduct interviews, create visual displays (e.g., graphs, charts, posters, illustrations, storyboards, cartoons) or photo essays, construct models, or contribute to blogs, wikis or other electronic projects (Lent, 2012, p. 137). [Note: You will find more about performance tasks in CT4ME's section on .]
Quality Performance Assessments are multi-step assignments with clear criteria, expectations and processes that measure how well a student transfers knowledge and applies complex skills to create or refine an original product. (p.1)
Traditional assessments might include multiple choice, true/false, and matching. Alternative assessments take the form of short answer questions, essays, electronic or paper-based portfolios, journal writing, oral presentations, demonstrations, creation of a product, student self-assessment and reflections, and performance tasks that are assessed by predetermined criteria noted within rubrics. Self and peer assessments can be both formative and summative in nature, and help students to take responsibility for and to become critical of their own work.
The RAFT method is a particularly useful formative assessment writing strategy for checking understanding. According to Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (2014) in their , RAFT prompts ask students to consider the role of the writer (R), the audience (A) to whom the response is written, the format (F) of the writing, and the topic (F) of the writing. For example, to determine if students understand characteristics of triangles, one such prompt might be:
To illustrate, students might write their understanding of vocabulary or concepts before and after instruction, or summarize the main ideas they've taken away from a lecture, discussion, or assigned reading. They can complete a few problems or questions at the end of instruction and check answers. Teachers can interview students individually or in groups about their thinking as they solve problems, or assign brief, in-class writing assignments (Brown, 2002, Examples of Formative Assessment section).
Using assignment essays for assessment supports student learning better than the traditional examination system. It is considered that course-work assignment essays can lessen the extreme stress experienced by some students over ‘sudden-death’ end of semester examinations:
However, per the California Department of Education (2014), "Not every form of assessment is appropriate for every student or every topic area, so a variety of assessment types need to be provided for formative assessment. Some of these could include (but is not limited to) graphic organizers, student observation, student interviews, journals and learning logs, exit ticket activities, mathematics portfolios, self and peer-evaluations, short tests and quizzes, and performance tasks" (p. 85).
Additionally, Jones et al. (2004, pp. 36-37) propose that assignment essays can be used to assess student learning mid-course and so provide them with helpful feedback before they are subjected to the exam experience. Exams only provide students with a mark rather than specific feedback on their progress. Therefore, setting assignment essays for a substantial part of student assessment is a much fairer approach than one-off examination testing.
Sometimes a good example of what you are trying to achieve is worth a 1000 words of advice! When you are asked to write an essay, try to find some samples (models) of similar writing and learn to observe the craft of the writer. You can use the samples as a basis for working out how to write in the correct style.
However, for teachers to design an appropriate "optimally effective" formative assessment, they should have knowledge of an associated learning progression. "A learning progression is a carefully sequenced set of building blocks that students must master en route to mastering a more distant curricular aim. These building blocks consist of subskills and bodies of enabling knowledge" (Popham, 2007, online para. 2), which are typically constructed using backward analysis. Popham (2007) pointed out important issues related developing learning progressions. It's comforting to know that "with few exceptions, there is no single, universally accepted and absolutely correct learning progression underlying any given high-level curricular aim." Following less-is-more advice, "learning progressions should contain only those subskills and bodies of enabling knowledge that represent the most significant building blocks." However, isolating those building blocks takes time and "requires rigorous cerebral effort."
Homework is one method for students to take responsibility for their learning. It also falls into the category of formative assessment, as it "typically supports learning in one of four ways: pre-learning, checking for understanding, practice, and processing" (Vatterott, 2009, p. 96). However, educators have varying opinions on homework ranging from how much to assign to what kind (e.g., acquisition or reinforcement of facts, principles, concepts, attitudes, or skills), for whom, when to assign it, and whether or not it should be graded.