Summative Assessment

Summative assessment attempts to assess what students have learned from the instruction. It is usually, but not always, a major input into student grades.

Examples of summative assessment might include a final project, a test, or paper.

Because summative assessments must often be both quantifiable and comprehensive, they are also often accompanied by more complex grading rules. Many teachers use rubrics with formulas that translate into numerical equivalents.

If summative assessments are competency-based, they are often made repeatable, allowing students not demonstrating a competency at one point in the school year to revise work and resubmit. However, this can be complicated by group work.

One approach to summative assessment with growing popularity is the “portfolio” approach. In this approach the student is asked to sort through the various artifacts they have produced in a semester and make an argument that they demonstrate the required competencies.

Many people talk about “authentic” assessment. An assessment is authentic if skills are applied in a “real-world” context, rather than a simplified “academic” context. Authentic assessment is believed to be desirable when possible as it aims to test whether students can not only demonstrate knowledge, but apply it in a “real-world” context.

By way of analogy, football players might strength train at a gym, practice passing, and run obstacle courses. These activities provide them targeted practice and some formative assessment. But the authentic assessment is whether they can take all that training and play a good game with it. We don’t grade the player on how well they run the obstacle course — we grade them on how well they cut through the defense under pressure. Authentic assessment tries to evaluate the skill in a context that is integrated and complex, rather than reductive.

Examples of authentic assessment include:

  • performance of the skills, or demonstrating use of a particular knowledge
  • simulations and role plays
  • studio portfolios, strategically selecting items

(see Wikipedia for more)

Whatever your approach to summative assessment, it should match the activities and focus of the class up until that point. A class that spends 90% of its time on a class blog or creating YouTube videos should probably not be assessed via multiple choice test, and conversely a class that spends 90% of its time working textbook math problems. A good class might have a mix of methods, but the assessment should match the focus of the class.

Next: Your Assessment Plan Assignment

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