Summative Assessment in Schools | Definition, Examples & Ideas

Summative Assessment Definition

The definition of summative assessment is any method of evaluation performed at the end of a unit that allows a teacher to measure a student's understanding, typically against standardized criteria. The purpose of summative assessment is to gauge students' comprehension of the material presented at the end of a particular unit of work, and is often measured with a grade or percentage, depending on the subject.

In contrast to the informal nature of formative assessments, summative assessments require clear expectations and timelines to be set to give students the best opportunity to succeed. Teachers use rubrics, or assessment criteria, to ensure students understand what to expect in any such test. The results of summative assessments are usually significant, used to determine whether a student passes a unit or even a class.

Summative Assessment Examples

Examples of summative assessments may include:

  • Written Assessment: Students will be tasked with writing an original piece, such as a narrative or analytical essay.
  • Performance Assessment: With this type, students will be required to do an activity or task that will showcase their abilities.
  • Standardized Assessment: Students will take an exam created for a given curriculum and will be measured against existing rubric, shared with the students throughout the course.
  • Oral Assessment: Students will craft and deliver an oral piece, such as a speech or presentation.

Teachers can also utilize this summative assessment in the field of social work and apply it to students in their classroom. It illustrates how social workers can utilize summative assessments to determine if an intervention was successful for a client. The same concept can be applied to determining if a teacher's instructional method is successful for students.

For assessments in a learner-centered classroom, teachers are not solely responsible for students' learning and performance. Instead, students share in the process and take an active role in their education.

Formative vs. Summative Assessment

The primary difference between formative and summative assessments is the time period in which they are given. While summative assessment is given upon completion of a unit, formative assessment is ongoing.

The goal of formative assessment is to help teachers determine any gaps in student knowledge and areas where they can improve, allowing teachers to alter their lesson planning accordingly.

Another key difference is that summative assessments are often graded material, while formative assessments can range from student or peer assessment to teacher assessment or general observation.

In contrast to a learning-centered environment, a competency-based classroom is rooted in student understanding. It is more important for students to grasp a concept than to meet a grade by a certain time in the school year.

Learning how to design effective assessments for students is difficult and can require some creativity, especially when considering the wide range of learners and individual needs in a classroom. What is effective for one student may not work for another, and while the traditional exam format is the most common way to test students in an official capacity, it does not necessarily provide the best gauge of student knowledge and ability.

Applying a range of formative and summative assessments is an important aspect of modern teaching, giving students the opportunity to perform at their best and providing teachers with the knowledge and understanding to improve the learning experience for their students, and ultimately their own teaching practice.

Additional Summative Assessment Ideas

As well as the examples above, teachers can also incorporate more creative methods into their teaching. Here are some additional summative assessment ideas that go beyond the traditional quiz or written report:

  • Classroom or school-wide scavenger hunt on the material presented
  • Crossword puzzle incorporating math problems or vocabulary words
  • Classroom or school-wide science fair

Teachers select summative assessment strategies that best suit their students and the material covered in the curriculum. Assessment strategies chosen will have clearly defined parameters in order to effectively test students' knowledge and/or skills.

Selecting and using a range of student assessment methods helps to engage all types of learners and lets each student demonstrate their skills. For example, a few summative assessment ideas for music students include having them take a test, play together in a mini-performance, or even make a music video!

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