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Sunday / October 25

Formative vs. Summative Assessment [VIDEO]

“It took me years to realize that assessment, particularly what I do in the area of classroom assessment isn’t some stand-alone ‘other thing’ I am supposed to be doing as required by my school’s supervisor. Hello, why didn’t anyone tell me?” —Fourth-Grade Teacher

When we say assessment, it’s likely your mind comes up with a few examples right away. But did you first think of summative assessments or formative ones? Did you think of it as “another thing I’m supposed to do,” or did you think of it as something you naturally do every day that informs your teaching?

The first things that came to my mind were state assessments, benchmarks, end-of-unit tests, and final exams. These are all examples of summative assessments and the word assessment is typically more directly associated with these major summative tests, rather than the process of assessing—or evaluating—student thinking that teachers do in their classrooms every day to inform their instruction, known as formative assessment.

Take a look at the video below, taken from the Formative Assessments for Mathematics PD Resource Center by Francis “Skip” Fennell, Beth McCord Kobett, and Jonathan A. Wray, for a quick look at the differences between formative and summative assessments, how the two are connected, and how you can seamlessly integrate formative assessment into your classroom every day to guide your students to success:

In summary:

Formative assessments inform your daily planning and teaching and suggest your instructional “next steps.” Summative assessments summarize what is known or what has been learned and are taken at the end of a unit or marking period. Both are important in their own way, but remember: if you’re waiting until a unit test or an end-of-the-year exam to find out if your students are “getting it” or to figure out how you could improve your teaching, it’s already too late. You’ve missed some great opportunities to dig deep into what your students know and don’t, and how you can respond through your own lesson planning and teaching moves.

Formative assessment is critical to understanding where your students are in their learning every day and informs your planning and instruction so that you can guide your students to success when they have to take those important summative assessments.

How are you using formative assessments in your classroom? Comment below!

And don’t forget to sign up for a free trial of our Formative Assessments for Mathematics PD Resource Center:

Written by

Olivia is a Marketing Specialist for Corwin Classroom books, including topics like Literacy, Mathematics, and Teaching Essentials. When not working, you can usually find Olivia reading a good book, writing her own fiction, or planning her next international trip.

Latest comments

  • As a physical Education teacher I use formative assessment each and every day. I watch the movement patterns, fine and gross motor skills, on a continuous bases.

  • I observe the student’s performance on a task, ask a lot of questions as I walk around the student groups and also assess what needs to be done next by evaluating the results of exit tickets. This is how I use formative assessment.

  • I used formative assessment often with questions during the lessons and often at the end of class through exit questions.

  • I use formative assessment every day by using questions as I teach and seeing how many students can answer using their own words.

  • I am constantly walking around and helping students at their station and helping them work on that task. Taking notes as to who needs help and who is doing well.

  • Similarly, we use learning targets and success criteria to evaluate daily lessons and let students know if they are on target to succeed in the class.

  • When I am teaching and the student doesn’t understand or is not ready for that particular skill, I go back and reteach.Using formative assessment allow me to stop then as opposed to continuing on.

  • I use formative assessment by asking deeper type of questions as well as work with students one-on-one or small groups. I also give “students a short test, A Week-in-Review” formative assessment on Fridays to find out if they understood the content for that week.

  • I use formative assessment every day in the form of questioning about content or tasks or by observing the student perform a task. This is how I guide my instruction.

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