Formative and Summative Assessment: What is the Difference?

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Assessments are crucial for both teachers and students. It may be addressed in a variety of ways and enables both participants to track their progress towards reaching learning objectives. One of the most beneficial and successful methods of acquiring data is through assessments. Using several methods of assessment, including pre-tests, observations, and exams, the data enables teachers to develop a picture of a variety of activities.  

With the use of assessments, instructors may ask and receive answers to crucial questions like Do learners genuinely comprehend the subject matter that is being taught? Are they progressing at all? There are several ways to assess students’ development, from quick in-person instructor observations to complex software tools that track a wide range of data points. Assessment methods such as interim, benchmark, diagnostic, and screening evaluations can all be used. Formative and summative assessments are found at the ends of each assessment spectrum. For more information on this, keep reading.

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What is Assessment?

Assessment is basically the process of gathering data. More specifically, it is the ways instructors gather data about their students’ learning as well as their teaching. That data provides a picture of a range of activities using different forms of assessment such as: pre-tests, observations, and examinations. Once the data is gathered, teachers can then evaluate their student’s performance. Hence, evaluation draws on one’s judgment to determine the overall value of an outcome based on the assessment data. It is in the decision-making process then, where we design ways to improve the recognized weaknesses, gaps, or deficiencies.

What is Formative Assessment?

It is possible to think of formative assessments as tools for tracking and assessing students’ progress and comprehension “during” the learning process. While learning is happening, throughout the instructional process, and while being assessed, feedback and information are provided. 

The nicest thing about formative evaluations is that they not only track kids’ development but also gauge your own as a teacher. Teachers may “renavigate” and put students back on the proper track to achieve their learning objectives with the aid of formative evaluations.

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor the student’s learning in order to provide ongoing feedback that can hence be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • help the students identify their weaknesses and strengths and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are lagging, struggling and hence address problems immediately

According to each student’s particular needs, this kind of evaluation also enables teachers to tailor their educational tactics and methodologies. Formative assessments enable teachers to customise their learning tactics while keeping in mind each student’s individual needs because every student processes information at a different rate. Even while formative evaluations frequently focus on the qualitative, they may be rigorous. Let’s examine the many categories of formative assessments.

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Type of Formative Assessments

  • Homework assignments and projects
  • Questions and answer sessions (both planned and spontaneous)
  • In-class activities and monitoring students’ involvement. (Like Quizzes and Games)
  • Observing non-verbal cues and feedback while giving a lecture
  • Peer-to-peer teaching- by observing how students explain the concepts in their own language and among their group. 

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What is Summative Assessment?

The teaching and learning process is summarised through summative assessment, which is conducted after the learning has been finished. At the end of a period of teaching, such as a unit course or programme, this sort of evaluation measures the learning, knowledge, competency, or achievement of the student.  

Summative evaluations can take many different forms, such as state or competitive tests, final high school exams, and projects that show the overall information an individual student has acquired over their academic journey. These kinds of assessments frequently employ quantitative data to provide outcomes in the form of a scale score, percentage, or grade and are typically matched with precise and generally accepted standards, benchmarks, and rubrics.   

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Type of Summative Assessment

  • Examinations
  • Portoflios
  • Performances
  • Student evaluation for the course and teaching effectiveness
  • Instructor self-evaluation
  • Term-end papers or submissions

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Difference between Formative and Summative Assessment

  • The formative assessment evaluation takes place during the learning process, while the sumative assessment evaluation takes place after it.
  • Summative assessments are used to determine how much a student has learned after a unit or lesson has been finished.
  • If formative assessments are used to gauge how well a student is learning during a course of study or whether the student needs help, then summative evaluations are used to gauge how much a student has learned overall and then you assign them grades. The grades tell you whether the student achieved the learning goal or not.
  • Formative assessments are thought of as evaluations for learning, whereas summative assessments are thought of as assessments of learning. This is one of the most often used methods to distinguish between formative and summative examinations.
  • Formative assessment includes little content areas whereas the summative assessment includes complete chapters.
  • The formative assessment takes the evaluation as a process while the summative assessment takes it as a product.
formative and summative assessment

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Summative assessment is similar to a grading process, but formative assessment is more like an instructive process. This is the main distinction between these two assessment methods. In order to measure students’ learning in relation to the subject standard and provide instructors with the information they need to go forward, a balanced assessment is based on both of these factors.


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What is an example of formative assessment?

Summary writing after an explanation of a chapter or a poem.
Organizing open-ended discussions

What is an example of a summative assessment?

Term-end or year-end examinations are often known as summative assessments. 

Is a worksheet a formative or summative assessment?

Worksheets are used for both formative and summative evaluations.

This was all about formative and summative assessment, Follow Leverage Edu for more interesting and informative articles on School Education.

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