A summative assessment takes place at the end of a unit or course of study. It assesses students’ level of knowledge, skill acquisition, and/or content understanding. There are many purposes to summative assessments in instruction, but the main goal of any assessment is to provide clear communication between student and teacher.
Not all summative assessments are created equal. Some types of summative assessments can tell a teacher much more than a standard test. The best practices for writing effective summative assessments include five important evaluative elements:
- Authenticity: The assessment reflects a range of real-world skills that are authentic outside of a classroom context.
- Reliability: The assessment provides similar results across classroom settings, groups of students, and daily conditions.
- Volume: Assessment has not been too regular in the past. Students who have test fatigue will not provide accurate results on any assessment.
- Validity: The assessment accurately reflects what students have been taught in the instruction period.
- Variety: The assessment prompts students to exhibit skills and demonstrate knowledge in more than one way.
The value and importance of summative assessment rely on having effective evaluation tools. Rubrics are a helpful way to communicate your expectations and to assess a range of skills and content knowledge.
Designed to be reliable and to assess a variety of skills, standardized tests are one way to determine what students know at the end of an instructional period. However, these tests have fallen out of favor with instructors in recent years. They increase testing volume and fatigue, may not reflect what students have been taught, and don’t always reflect real-world skills – making them poor assessment models.
It’s important to use summative assessments at every stage of education. While young children may not be capable of taking multiple-choice tests, there are other ways to measure growth and development milestones in early childhood. Psychomotor and affective skills are important at this stage in addition to cognitive skills.
Developmental assessments are, by nature, somewhat formative, as child development is a dynamic process. However, a teacher can assess specific knowledge and skills after focusing on them in a preschool or developmental unit.
One of the more straightforward forms of summative assessments for children is a performance task. If a teacher observes a child with a box of manipulatives, such as blocks or cotton balls, they can assess counting skills, number knowledge, fine motor skills, and pattern skills.
Social and emotional skills are an important part of early childhood education. After a unit on friendship and sharing, a teacher may assess how well small groups work together when creating, building, or solving a problem. Another form of assessment could include conflict resolution skills or gross-motor tasks.
Because much of early child development takes place during play, teachers can observe a standard playtime as either a formative or summative assessment. By incorporating an activity into playtime, such as phoneme awareness or number recognition, teachers can observe whether students have mastered a concept from previous instruction.
Developed by educator and psychologist Jean Piaget, the clinical interview prompts young children to reflect on their own learning process. Questions may include “How did you do that?” and “How would you encourage a friend?” The interviewer can assess verbal abilities and cognitive processes in a concentrated one-on-one context after focusing on positive self-talk in the classroom.
Elementary students start their education with basic skills that become more complex over the years. Depending on the classroom setting, summative assessments can either be straightforward tests or fun, creative projects. Here are some examples of summative assessments you might find in an elementary classroom.
Though not as engaging as other options, tests at the end of a unit or instructional period are a straightforward way to assess student skills and knowledge. All subjects can incorporate multiple-choice or problem-solving tests. They should still be authentic, reliable, and valid, with a variety of testing measures that do not increase testing volume too much.
Individual or group science projects are fun for students to complete and teachers to assess. They can be based on the unit of scientific study from the classroom or on independent research – both of which incorporate important application and evaluation skills.
Multimedia assessments are an authentic way to assess important content, speaking, and technology skills. Elementary students are surrounded by technology in their daily lives, but may not be able to use it to communicate effectively. A strong multimedia presentation project can prepare them for middle school, high school, and beyond.
By middle and high school, students can demonstrate their knowledge in innovative ways. Check out these examples of creative summative assessment ideas for secondary classrooms that vary in levels of complexity.
Writing essays is an important part of language arts, but communicating one’s ideas is a vital skill for any subject. Writing an argument essay, explaining a concept in an expository essay, or using descriptive prose in a narrative essay are examples of effective summative assessments. Research reports prompt students to use analysis and evaluation skills during the research process.
Middle and high schools enjoy speaking their minds in Socratic seminars. They must prepare arguments, anticipate counterarguments, and use classroom norms to discuss critical points with their peers. These types of summative assessments rely on teacher observation, as the process is primarily led by students.
Teachers use the time-honored final exam format to assess skills and knowledge at the end of a grading period. Exams can vary in their question variety, range of skills, and complexity. They effectively inform a teacher whether their instruction was successful or not during the year.
Although end-of-term portfolio projects require just as much work as final exams, they tend to be more popular with students. Portfolios provide students with an opportunity to reflect on their own work over the year. Strong portfolio projects incorporate a reflection writing aspect as well.
Formative assessments are another way to monitor student progress. Unlike summative assessments, formative assessments are informal, ongoing ways to check for understanding. Formative assessments include discussion questions, exit tickets, or reading quizzes. They do not assess a range of skills or knowledge like summative assessments do.