Formative vs. Summative Assessments in the Classroom
In this article we focus on two important types of assessments, their connection to learning, and how best to use them in any classroom.
Building Knowledge of Assessments In Education
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Assessments guide learning, and so lesson plans must include references to them in order to be effective.
Watch our video below on the importance of lesson planning and the important points teachers need to consider when formulating an effective lesson plan.
In this article we discuss two common assessments used in the classroom ; formative and summative. Click to learn more about the types of assessment.
What role do assessments play in building language skills among students? Click here to learn more about the connection between language skills and assessments.
How can assessments work to enhance Math skills? Click to learn more about the connection between Math skills and assessments.
When we refer to the word classroom, we mean students and teacher in the traditional classroom setting. How can assessments be used in the classroom to build better connections between teachers and students? Click to read more on the relationship between assessments, teachers, and students in the classroom.
The online learning environment is very different to the traditional classroom environment. Methods of assessments need to change. Click to learn more about the changing relationships between assessments and the online classroom.
We will begin with the types of assessments that are well know in education.
The Purpose of Assessments
What is meant by the word assessment?
The root word is assess. It comes from the Latin word “sit by” and has evolved to mean “evaluate” or “judge” in today’s English language.
And this word judge is what seems to leave students frustrated sometimes when it comes to traditional forms of assessments given by teachers.
In this article we look to understand these meaning behind formative vs. summative assessments.
Therefore, teachers need to be cognizant of the type of assessment they use and when is the best time to use such assessments that don’t leave students frustrated.
These assessments are done with the purpose of having the teacher “form” an understanding towards students’ strengths and weaknesses.
Using this information the teacher can then provide feedback to students to help them succeed academically. They are informal and on-going.
Formative assessments are informal and are given at any point throughout lessons.
These assessments allow teachers to give students feedback on their understanding or work during the lesson.
As for the types of formative assessments; they are wide ranging from such examples as
- anecdotal notes made from observations
- questions and answers
- asking students to draw images to show understanding
- asking students to give topic ideas for projects
- responses to class work
- oral readings
- pop quizzes on a lesson
Portfolios are collection of students’ work that may be used to give feedback on students’ growth in learning.
Using a variety of formative assessments will helps teachers with lesson planning, and can make students feel more relaxed as they see the progress they are making as it happens.
With summative assessments, the root word of sum or “total” means that the intent of this assessment is to conclude a students’ overall understanding on a particular chapter or unit of study.
The most common type of summative assessments are:
- chapter or unit tests
- mid-term exams
- final exams
- final projects
- final presentations
These types of assessment are considered formal, and feedback is only offered in certain situations.
For example, if the teacher decides to offer it to the entire class, or to individual students who seek it out, or to the student who is at risk of failing the class.
Summative assessments often bring anxiety to students, especially when it comes to time to taking the test.
Teachers who have worked well with students during the formative assessments may find that the results of the summative assessments are much higher.
So it’s important for teachers to recognize the benefits of formative assessments and in giving regular feed back to their students.
Language Skills and Assessments
In assessing language skills, how should teachers begin?
There are four language skills students learn to master in their academic career; listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
In creating assessments for these language skills it’s important that teachers keep in mind ways to assess all four language skills in one lesson.
Passive vs. Active Skills
At EduKitchen we believe that language building begins with the passive skills and then transitions to the active skills.
Passive skills are ones in which the learner does not need to produce language, just to receive and understand the language.
Active skills, as the name implies, is when learners with produce language in order for others to receive and understand the language.
Building Language Skills
Listening is the first passive skill that we work on building from an early age. Assessments need to strengthen the listening skills of students.
For example, this can be done by asking students to follow directions, and to demonstrate what they heard.
Then teachers can assess through observations which students were able to demonstrate what they heard correctly.
Speaking is the first active skills students need to build as they continue to master their listening skills.
For example the teacher can ask for students to repeat back the directions given, comment on the direction given, or ask any questions they have as to the directions given.
Reading is the second passive skills that builds on having students continue to master speaking skills since now learners relate sounds to words, and so they are able to understand words as they pronounce or listen to them being pronounced.
Writing is the second active skill and the last skill to be mastered as it builds on all three of the previous skills.
This active skills is generally the hardest skills for students to master as it requires more knowledge than the previous skills in building understanding through communication.
A fun and challenging exercise teachers can do with students to assess both passive and active skills is to divide the students into two groups and ask one group to give directions to either (1) a location, or to (2) build a recipe or (3) an object, and have the other group use their passive skills to assess how well the directions were given to accomplish the task.
Math Skills and Assessments
How can assessments work to enhance math skills?
When students understand how assessment work in building skills, especially problem solving skills, then students will gain confidence when faced such assessments during math lessons.
Math assessments are more defined in that they provide its own form of feedback without the teacher.
How the teacher uses formative assessments in math makes a world of difference for students.
When assessing students knowledge on math topics, teachers should have students communicate their answers in full showing how they got their answer each step of the way.
Teachers and students can then see where mistakes were made along the way, rather than just using the answer as the assessment.
One thing students appreciate is when math teachers recognize their efforts along the way to formulating the answer, and even receiving part marks for starting the answer correctly and helping their students to see where they made their mistakes along the way, instead of giving a complete zero on the question because the final answer is wrong.
Of course, the right answer to math questions is important, but in order for students to connect more to the subject and reduce anxiety, especially with summative assessments, how students get the answers using problem solving strategies matters much more.
Assessments In The Classroom
How can assessments be used in the classroom to build better connections between teachers and students?
One thing is for sure, students do not want to be stuck doing worksheets all day, so how can teachers make assessment beneficial for students?
Variety and pace are the keys.
Since formative assessments are so informal and on-going, students need not be aware of just how often they are being assessed.
When teachers assess students quickly and often, teachers build stronger connections to their students by helping to guide their learning through their feedback.
If teachers are slow to offer feedback or don’t offer enough, students may feel lost or disconnected to the subject they are learning and therefore are unable to find the success they are seeking.
Therefore, teachers should not underestimate the value of assessments in helping students be their best.
Assessments In The Online Classroom
The online learning environment is very different to the traditional classroom environment. Methods of assessments need to change. This is one struggle online teachers seemed to have little to no control over.
Why was there such a struggle? The online environment made cheating much more convenient and harder to recognize.
Teachers in the online classroom found they had less control as to what their students are doing while at home, and so when they ask a question, how can they be sure this question won’t be shared with others through their mobile phones to help get answers to questions?
So then the question remains, how should formative and summative assessments change in the online classroom?
The answer is to have more open-ended questions over closed-ended questions. What are open-ended questions? These are questions that begin with “how” or “why”, and are known as thinking questions.
In this case the teacher assess how the students were able to interpret the main points. Closed-ended questions have direct answers and begin with “what”, “where”, and “when”.
Open-ended questions are harder to cheat from than closed-ended questions.
You may ask, how does it work to give open-ended questions in subjects such as Math. Popular questions usually provide the answer and ask, is this the correct answer? Or they may ask, how did so-and-so come to reach this answer.
In the end, if students are going to cheat they will try regardless if it’s in the in-person class or in the online class. In order to minimize this from happening in either classroom, teachers need to emphasize to students the consequences for anyone caught cheating before beginning the actual assessments.
One other strategy that works in trying to stop students from cheating during an online assessment is to create the assessment with “how easy is it to cheat” in mind!
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Assessments in education help guide policy decisions, and are meant to improve on teaching and learning strategies. There is no one size fits all type of assessment as learners have different preferred styles of learning.
Effective assessments, whether they be formative or summative in nature, always do one thing, and that is to motivate and inspire students to be the best they can be with their abilities.
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