Formative vs. summative assessment

It is important that teachers use different types of assessment in their classroom in order to promote learning. There is so much more to assessments than delivering an end-of-unit exam or preparing for any other test. Assessments helps shape the learning process at all points and gives insights into a learner’s learning. In light of this, it is important for teachers to understand the difference between two types of assessment: formative assessment and summative assessment.

Formative assessment

Formative assessment is carried out throughout a course or project to aid learning. Only because learners made it to the end of a unit test, does not mean they have  mastered the skills, so formative assessment is not about assigning grades to learners. 

Formative assessments helps teachers understand a learner’s learning while they teach and adjust their teaching strategies accordingly. It helps teachers to track how knowledge is growing and changing in learners in real-time. Some examples of formative assessment include: Student portfoliosClass discussions, regular quizzes and virtual classroom tools like Mentimeter (consult this written tutorial on how to use Mentimeter).

  Listen to the below audio by Dylan William, British Educationalist and
  professor of Educational Assessment. Get a better understanding of
  the concept formative assessment and answer the following question:

             'Why is it important to include formative assessment?'

  Start listening by clicking on the headphone icon below. Take your study
  notebook to write down your answers. (Reference: audio 3)
  Download this audio clip.Audio player: Formative%20assessment.mp3

Summative assessment

Summative assessment is generally carried out at the end of the course or project, semester or unit. It is evaluative and primarily used to assign learners a course grade. Typically summative assessment occurs at the end of an educational activity and is designed to judge the learner’s overall performance.

Summative assessment can also be engaging for learners and useful for your teaching. Try creating assessments that differ from the standard tests, like recording a podcast, writing a script or short play or develop an independent study project. No matter what type of summative assessment you give your students, keep some best practices in mind: 

  • Keep it real-world and relevant.

  • Make questions clear and instructions easy to follow.

  • Give a rubric so learners know what is expected of them.


  Definition of assessment                                                                            Assessment for learning 

Last modified: Friday, 21 August 2020, 12:09 PM