Saturday / June 22

How to Conduct Summative Assessments

How to Conduct Summative Assessments

Authentic Application of Data Analysis to Advance Your Practices

Do you want your students to make authentic and meaningful connections with the curricular goals and objectives? Are you a teacher who wants your students to increase their engagement with, become more responsible for, and take ownership of their own learning? Would you like to give your students more choices and encourage them to express their own voices to show their understanding? Wouldn’t it be ideal for your students to teach each other by exchanging their discoveries? Finally, what if your students assessed themselves and their peers with caring and critical feedback that actually makes a difference in learning and living?

Most likely, you are nodding your head rapidly and saying, “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”

Four Reasons to Conduct Summative Assessments:

Your summative assessments offer your students unlimited opportunities to achieve these outcomes.  Although most teacher give tests at the end of their units of learning, you can and should develop a variety of summative assessments that are performance-based. Here are four reasons:

  1. Engagement with, Responsibility for, and Ownership of Own Learning: During your instructions, as you describe the performance-based summative assessment….or even better….as you describe the process for selecting and/or co-constructing a performance-based summative assessment, you transfer the power to your students—both individually and members of a community of learners. Not only must your students apply the curricular goals and objectives to the summative assessment, your students must become attuned to time and task management. When your summative assessment is captivating, your students will find it challenging to avoid completing it.  And, when described carefully, your students actually will be excited and motivated to take charge and apply their own expertise, creativity, and perspective.

    With performance-based assessments you empower your students with invigorating and innovative opportunities to grapple with the curricular goals and objectives in ways that grab their attention AND make much more sense to them. The activities and assignments become relevant to the topics and issues reflective of the real world around them.

  2. Connections with Curricular Goals and Objectives: Performance-based summative assessments immediately communicate to your students the importance for and value of making a powerful connection with the curricular goals and objectives. Too often, students sit passively through their classes reading aloud, taking notes, completing the formative assessments satisfactorily, and looking like they are participating. However, your students’ interactions are superficial, their learning remains on the surface. As you reflect on your years as a student, you may realize that you were one of those students in some subject areas. You knew the way to put on a good show, but you did not truly learn or know.
    summative assessments
  3. Choices and Voices through Expression and Exchange: If you genuinely want your students to increase their engagement with, responsibility for, and ownership of their own learning, then you have to modify your practices of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. No longer are you the center of this Venn diagram. You must place the individual student at the center. When developing your performance-based summative assessments, select curricular goals and objectives that lend themselves to papers, projects, portfolios, and/or presentations. Incorporate instructional strategies that model and reinforce the array of papers, projects, portfolios, and/or presentations that you will feature. Then construct (or better yet: co-construct) the assessment techniques and tools, that establish the expectations and outcomes you and your students are seeking.
  4. Self-Assessment and Peer Assessment with Caring and Critical Feedback: Every assessment involves three purposes: (a) to establish expectations; (b) to measure outcomes; and (c) to provide feedback. [The term critical feedback means important information to guide and support growth.] For most performance-based summative assessments, rubrics are the most effective assessment. A rubric allows you to identify (or co-identify) expectations related to the knowledge, skills, and dispositions integrated into the performance-based summative assessment. It identifies the outcome related to a proficient, satisfactory, and less than satisfactory product. A rubric must include spaces for self-assessment with comments and teacher assessment with feedback. You might benefit from looking at a blog that explains how to use rubrics productively.
    Plus, you may want to include peer assessment. You will need to introduce the peer assessment process carefully…perhaps as a lesson all on its own to practice the procedures safely. Peer assessment must be conducted objectively and fairly. That means peer assessors must understand all of the expectations and possible outcomes so the peer can provide appropriate feedback. Ideally, peer assessment is used during the preparation and during the paper, project, portfolio, and/or presentation review. The feedback should personalize connections, reinforce achievements, and offer motivation. Feedback shared during the preparation can also include questions and suggestions. Again, you are highly encouraged to co-construct the rubric, especially guidelines for conducting the peer assessment with your students to increase their engagement, responsibility, and ownership with the assessment process.

Aims of Performance-based Summative Assessment:

Performance-based summative assessments can be used at any grade level and subject area in ways that are developmentally appropriate. Even young learners understand short phrases or pictures. Performance-based summative assessments can be used by one teacher or teams of teachers to integrate curricular content across several subject areas.  The overarching aims are to develop performance-based summative assessments that earn scores of A:

  1. Applicable to the academic standards and expectations
  2. Authentic to the curricular content and context
  3. Appropriate to the students’ learning styles, needs, and interests
  4. Attractive to your students as a group and as individuals
  5. Active involvement in the planning, preparation, and performance
  6. Achievable by your students as in-class activities and out-of-class assignments (alert to family and caregiver assistance)
  7. Accompanied with appropriate time and task management.

Performance-based Summative Assessment Ideas (A-Z*):

(Many of these ideas can be used as formative assessments too).

  • acrostics, advertisements, advice columns, agendas, animated stories, artifact replicas, artwork
  • blogs, blueprints, bookmarks, books, brochures, bulletin boards, bumper stickers, business cards
  • calendars, cartoons, collages, children’s and young people’s books, collections, commercials, constitutions, crossword puzzles
  • dances, databases, debates, demonstrations, designs, diaries, directions, diorama, documentaries, drawings
  • editorials, eulogies, experiments
  • fashion shows, files, fishbowl discussions, folders, foreign language words
  • games, graphic organizers
  • help wanted ads, historical portrayals of persons or events
  • illustrated time lines, infomercial, internet messages, internet searches, interviews, inventions, inventories
  • job applications, jokes, journal entries, journeys
  • K-W-L and K-W-H-L charts
  • legislative hearings, letters, learning logs, license plates
  • maps, menus, mobiles, mock trials, models, museums, musical compositions, musical presentations, musical scores
  • newscasts, notebooks
  • obituaries, oral histories, oral readings
  • pantomimes, photographic essays, pictures, plans, plays, podcasts, poems, political cartoons, posters, PowerPoints, problem solutions, problems, puppet shows
  • questions, questionnaires (with analyses of results), quilts
  • radio shows, readers’ theatres, recipes, role play activities
  • scale models, scientific reports, scrapbook pages, scripts, signs, simulations, slide shows, songs, speeches, steps to follow, storyboards, stories, story illustrations, surveys
  • tee-shirts, television programs, time capsules, think-alouds, toys, travel brochures, tiered time lines, treaties
  • unit summaries with illustrations
  • video documentaries, virtual field trips
  • web sites, wikis, word banks, word walls
  • xylographs (wood engravings) and other artistic renderings
  • yearbooks or similar documentaries
  • z-to-a or a-to-z alphabet-type lists

Gallavan, N.P. (2009). Developing performance-based assessments (p. 128). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kottler, E., & Gallavan, N. P. (2008). Secrets to success for social studies teachers (p. 77). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Review of the Assessment Cycle:

Most often, performance-based summative assessments pull together the major concepts of the unit of learning and the formative assessments allowing your students to build upon their new knowledge and share their discoveries. Ideally, you feature a paper, presentation, portfolio, and/or project into every unit of learning so your students increase their engagement, responsibility, and ownership of the learning. Plus, performance-based summative assessments are far more enlightening and fun than taking a test for most students.

As seen in the Assessment Cycle, summative assessments can be used to close a unit of learning (followed by the postassessment…the same instrument used for the preassessment).

summative assessments

Tests as Summative Assessments:

However, many school administrators require teachers to administer tests as summative assessments. When developing a test, you should include an array of selected answer and constructed response items. Please refer to their descriptions found in the first blog in this series.

You want to develop a test that assesses the…

  1. major concepts and practices of the unit
  2. content presented and emphasized in class and materials
  3. student recognition and recall, logic and reasoning, skills and applications, productivity
  4. creativity and outlooks and dispositions

… in ways that are…

  1. visibly fair (whether the item is scored using an objective outcome or a subjective range)
  2. clearly stated (regarding instructions, content, and context)
  3. realistically achievable (by at least 85% of the class)

Item Analysis and Modification of Practices:

For all summative assessments (i.e., papers, projects, portfolios, presentations, and/or tests) your final tasks are to (a) analyze the items and (b) modify your practices. Look at the expectations, outcomes, and feedback for your performance-based summative assessments. Conduct an item analysis on the tests. That means, identify the items that most students answered or responded to incorrectly. (A review of item analysis can be found in the second blog in this series.)  Keep in mind that your assessments include all formative and summative assessments.

For any item that students do not answer or respond to correctly, you need to reflect on five parts of you the teaching, learning, and schooling:

  1. your curricular content: what you teach and expect students to learn
  2. your instructional strategies: how you teach and expect student to engage
  3. your assessment techniques and tools: how you monitor and measure student progress
  4. your in-class activities: what you expect your students to produce in class
  5. your out-of-class assignments: what you expect your students to connect and/or achieve out-of-class. Out-of-class assignments can be observations, connections, assignment completion, reading, review, etc. They do not need to be new tasks.

Seek ways to modify your practices so your students will make meaningful connections. Increase their engagement, responsibility, and ownership. Experience making choices and sharing their voices via expressions and exchange. Participate in the reciprocity of self- and peer-assessment to give and receive caring and critical feedback [important guidance and support].

Written by

Nancy P. Gallavan, Ph.D., is Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Central Arkansas where she specializes in classroom assessments and cultural competence in the Department of Teaching and Learning MAT Program, which she helped to start in 2006. The UCA MAT Program was recognized as the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education by the Association of Teacher Educators in 2010. Dr. Gallavan also serves as the UCA Academic Liaison to Institutional Diversity. Receiving university and college awards for her teaching, scholarship, and service, Dr. Gallavan has expertise in K-12 education, classroom assessments, curriculum development, cultural competence, social studies education, and teacher self-efficacy. With more than 120 peer-reviewed publications in journals, as chapters in books, and as books, Dr. Gallavan authored two versions of Developing Performance-Based Assessments, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2009. She also authored Navigating Cultural Competence: A Compass for Teachers, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2011. With Ellen Kottler, she co-authored Secrets to Success for Beginning Elementary School Teachers with Corwin Press in 2007 and Secrets to Success for Social Studies Teachers with Corwin Press in 2008. Most of these books have been republished in multiple languages. Her research agenda focuses on classroom assessments and teacher self-efficacy. Her chapter, “If you want your students to change, then you need to change: Mediating the sources and benefits of teacher self-efficacy with teacher candidates,” will be published in the Handbook of Research on Professional Development for Quality Teaching and Learning in 2016. Dr. Gallavan serves as the editor of the Arkansas Association of Teacher Educators Electronic Journal (ArATE EJ) and co-editor of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Annual Yearbook of Research. An active member of American Educational Research Association (AERA), Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME), and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), she is involved with the AERA Classroom Assessment Special Interest Group and serves as Chair of the ATE Commission of Online Teaching, Learning, and Schooling. Dr. Gallavan is a Past President and a Distinguished Member of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), a Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Chapter inaugural member, and a member of Phi Delta Phi (education honor society). Prior to joining the University of Central Arkansas, Dr. Gallavan was an Assistant/Associate Professor with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, specializing in social studies education and cultural competence. She began her career in education as an elementary school and middle level classroom teacher primarily in the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado. She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University); her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education from the University of Colorado, Boulder; her school administrator license from the University of Colorado, Denver; and her doctoral degree in Curriculum Leadership with a cognate in Cultural Competence from the University of Denver. At the University of Denver, she received the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Dissertation Award.

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