Summative assessment is a method of evaluation designed to assess learning at the end of a defined period of learning. The focus is usually on the end result. Summative tests help identify mastery of specific content. This is necessary in identifying areas that need extra attention.
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Summative assessments are used to test the effectiveness of education programs (Kubiszyn, 2009). This is usually done at the end of a specified period. It may be at the end of an academic year, semester, academic unit, or a course. These assessments attempt to summarize learning results at the end of a specified period. Summative assessments are standardized.
Standardization is crucial because these tests are taken by students in more than one institution. The assessment may be lengthy. This depends on the time when they are given. For instance, if it comes at the end of an academic year, the volume of work to be evaluated may be large.
Summative assessments are often used to test the effectiveness of curricula. This is achieved through evaluation of overall changes in mastery of the concepts. If the effectiveness of a curriculum is low, an educator may suggest possible changes that can be made.
In contrast, formative assessment is an ongoing assessment of learning. It is a continuous process that is not done at any particular time. These assessments are done while the actual learning process is going on. The focus is on enhancing the learning process itself. Grades are not given a lot of weight. The day-to-day achievements are measured.
Formative assessments evaluate students’ understanding of content. Students are assessed for mastery of particular competencies. Those areas that need additional attention are identified. Through these assessments, instructions can be modified to meet students’ needs.
The assessment is short because it tests mastery of a specific content. These assessments are not standardized because they do not come at a pre-determined time. Teachers may also formulate assessments to meet the individual needs of their students.
Summative assessment plays a crucial role in evaluating of mastery of a curricula. It informs the changes that can be made in the curriculum. It is also used to evaluate learning that took place after completion of a course. Summative assessments are used to grade students at the end of a learning period.
Formative assessment is used to measure students’ progress in school. The outcome of the assessment can then be used to assist students to meet their learning goals and objectives. Students may be grouped on the basis of individual ability. The method and instruction may be modified to suit these groups.
An educator can use formative assessment to measure the effectiveness of a program as a whole. The educator then uses information obtained from this evaluation to modify the content to suit particular groups of students. A teacher should be able to use the assessments to design a system of instruction that involves students in their own learning. Students may also be involved in designing the assessment criteria.
Educators use summative assessment to improve learning through standardized assessments. Educators can also use the assessment to evaluate competencies at a particular point in time. This is important in reporting achievement trends.
Both summative and formative assessments are diagnostic tools. They are used to gauge whether learning occurred or not. Summative assessment is widely used but research evidence shows that formative assessment is more beneficial to learners than summative assessment.
Kubiszyn, T. (2009). Educational Testing and Measurement: Classroom Application and Practice (9th ed.). NY: John Wiley & Sons. doi:97804705.71880.