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What Is Culminating Assessment? - Definition & Examples

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Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education

Culminating assessments are a specific form of assessment held at the end of a project or lesson unit to evaluate how much students have learned. Explore the definition and basics of culminating assessments, learn how to use culminating assessments at the end of projects and tasks, and study some examples. Updated: 12/07/2021

Assessment Basics

When Tammy began college three years ago, she thought assessments were cruel and unusual punishment. Throughout her progress towards her education degree, though, her opinion began to sway. Where she first thought assessments and testing were just a way for teachers to judge and rank students, she now realizes they are used for so much more.

In education, assessments are used to evaluate student understanding of a concept, monitor progress towards a goal, and determine effective teaching methods. A specific kind of testing, culminating assessments, are used at the end of projects or units and are typically tasks that ask students to apply and demonstrate knowledge and skills. Let's follow Tammy as she discusses culminating assessments with her fellow teachers during class.

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  • 0:04 Assessment Basics
  • 0:52 Using Culminating Assessments
  • 3:20 Comparing Projects & Tasks
  • 3:59 Lesson Summary
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Using Culminating Assessments

Tammy's Methods of Teaching class has come together to talk about culminating assessments. In particular, they want to know how to use them in classrooms when they become teachers so they can be authentic and intentional about their teaching practice.

The professor explains that new and more rigorous standards have led educators towards more diverse ways of determining whether a student understands concepts. Instead of an end-of-unit test with fill in the blanks and multiple-choice questions, teachers these days create tasks that students complete to apply the knowledge and skills they developed throughout the unit. Let's look at two ways this can work.

1. End-of-Unit Projects

To show understanding of key ideas and concepts at the end of a thematic unit or long-term lesson, a teacher may ask students to turn in a project. Because the project comes at the end of learning, it's called culminating. Culminating projects show a student's understanding of a topic or unit. It doesn't just pop up towards the end of learning, either. Teachers should explain throughout the unit that a culminating project is going to be due at the end.

Tammy remembers completing a culminating project in high school. Her class was working on a unit on careers. Tammy chose to observe several childcare centers and to show what she learned, she created a 3-D model of an exemplary center.

Her sister also did a culminating project in grade school. Her class was learning about the solar system, and the teacher arranged students into groups of four. The group was responsible for using math and science skills, like measurement and force and motion, to design a spaceship to explore Saturn. They had to act like reporters and present data on the planet as part of the assignment. Her sister had a lot of fun on the project but also worked hard to demonstrate her understanding of key skills.

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