Formative and Summative Assessments Help Teachers and Students

Many teachers believe that they must grade all student work, but it isn't so. Try a new technique for grading and student/parent feedback. Teach better.

The accuracy of student evaluation is open to question due to the practice of grade pollution ­— i.e., including unnecessary and improper data as assessments. According to the essay writing service reddit, unnecessary and improper factors that affect grades might include:

   Points added for turning in forms or other administrative material;

   Points deducted for being late to class and other disciplinary matters;

   Participation grades;

   Grades for worksheets and similar classwork;

   Homework grades;

   Arbitrary grade adjustments.

Formative and Summative Assessments are the Keys to Student Evaluation

Summative assessments are given to determine what students know about legitimate learning standards. These include periodic statewide assessments, but also include properly designed teacher tests and quizzes that assess progress in a unit, chapter, etc. These are for grading.

Summative assessments might include shorter quizzes as long as they are tightly aligned with standards and would stand alone as short tests. Avoid true-false and matching quizzes as summative assessments, although they make good formative tools. Also, do not use pop quizzes as assessments — they violate the principle of testing what has not been taught.

Special activities like essays or science projects can be summative as well. Students should receive rubrics to help them properly direct their efforts. Formative activities should be provided to help them learn how to complete the activities on their own.

Formative assessments are part of instruction. Formative assessments provide students and teachers with information about the progress of teaching and learning. It may be thought of as offering opportunities to practice a diagnosis. Grades are not appropriate because teachers should be making adjustments as they gain information about teaching methods and students are forming concepts and learning.

Regrettably, many teachers have fallen into the trap of grading formative work because “if I don’t grade it, they won’t do it.” But since students differ in learning styles and abilities, they will require different amounts and different kinds of practice, consequently forcing all students to practice in the same way is difficult to justify.

Teachers can use Summative and Formative Assessments and Reduce Work

Summative assessments are generally not a problem in instruction, as they are usually an important part of a grade. The hard part is making good assessments. This typically means that the test items are straightforward and “trick” questions are forbidden. Also, test items must reflect accurately what students have been taught.

Test banks from published material should be used with great caution even if you go paperless because they may use different grammar or syntax than the teacher used to teach. Standards and examples may not agree with the teacher’s methods of explaining them. Teachers should make their tests and quizzes and learn to make them appropriately challenging and fair.

Keep a separate column or location to record the results of formative assessments. Do not include them in the final evaluation. The information recorded in the grade book may simply be check marks or a color code, but periodically — and perhaps randomly — the teacher may wish to collect and thoroughly correct perhaps ten percent of the class. This will give an idea of what students are doing and it will help the teacher assess the formative assessments.

Students are responsible for keeping all formative assessments in a separate file so that they can use them to study. The file can be kept as a portfolio in class until a few days before the test. The portfolio should be counted as a formative assessment and checked for content.

If teachers have clearly explained to teachers and students the role of formative assessments and they see the connection between completing non-graded work and the results of summative assessments, they will be more likely to use formative assignments as opportunities to study. Parents must be a part of this process. Teachers must keep them informed about whether or not students are completing formative assessments — it is an indication of whether or not students are studying.

Using Assessments to Improve Teaching and Student Learning

For students who aren't using formative assessments, the consequences will likely be self-induced lower grades on summative assessments. If students are performing well and are not completing formative assessments, then they are learning by paying attention or have an advantage in intelligence. No artificial penalty is required for perhaps missing homework, although teachers might want to begin to individualize instruction by offering different types of assignments to students who differ substantially in achievement abilities.

If students are satisfactorily completing formative assessments and performing poorly on summative assessments, there may be a reason to fine-tune their formative assessments — especially if they seem to struggle during the learning process. In either case, teachers should assess their assessments — formative and summative.

Now the diagnostic role of formative assessments is clearer ­— they are tools for improving teaching and for giving the teacher a better view of how students learn. Since teaching and learning are subject to a degree of instability during the formative phase, these assessments are valuable, but not as part of a student’s grade. According to, the reevaluation of both types of assessments and how students are progressing becomes an opportunity for continuous growth for teachers and students.

Formative and Summative Assessments Lead to Better Use of Instructional Time

If teachers no longer spend hours correcting formative assessments, they can put more time into analyzing how individual students learn, improving their teaching skills, conferring with students and parents, and improving assessment skills.

There is no need to record dozens of scores for each student and invent some way to generate a grade. Grades can be produced by ten or fewer tests and quizzes — summative assessments. Teachers must be dedicated to creating summative assessments of high quality. There is a reason why true/false and matching items don’t appear on standardized tests — they have little value in the assessment of learning. Teachers should use these and similar items as formative assessments and assess summative assessments.

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