Basic Concepts Selected Response Constructed Response  


A. Formative vs. Summative Assessments
B. Setting Targets and Writing Objectives
C. Reliability and Validity


A. Formative vs. Summative Assessments

Classroom assessments can include a wide range of options -- from recording anecdotal notes while observing a student to administering standardized tests. The options can be roughly divided into two categories -- formative assessments and summative assessments.

Formative assessments are on-going assessments, reviews, and observations in a classroom. Teachers use formative assessment to improve instructional methods and student feedback throughout the teaching and learning process. For example, if a teacher observes that some students do not grasp a concept, she or he can design a review activity or use a different instructional strategy. Likewise, students can monitor their progress with periodic quizzes and performance tasks. The results of formative assessments are used to modify and validate instruction.

Summative assessments are typically used to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs and services at the end of an academic year or at a pre-determined time. The goal of summative assessments is to make a judgment of student competency after an instructional phase is complete. For example, in Florida, the FCAT is administered once a year -- it is a summative assessment to determine each student's ability at pre-determined points in time. Summative evaluations are used to determine if students have mastered specific competencies and to identify instructional areas that need additional attention.

The following table highlights some formative and summative assessments that are common in K12 schools.

Formative Assessments
Summative Assessments
Anecdotal records Final exams
Quizzes and essays Statewide tests (FCAT)
Diagnostic tests National tests
Lab reports Entrance exams (SAT and ACT)



Try This

  1. Reflect on these issues:
  • Which of the formative assessment strategies do you implement in your classroom?
  • Black and William (1998) recommend: "Frequent short tests are better than infrequent long ones." Do you agree? Why or why not?

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This course was developed in partnership between the Pinellas School
and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at USF.

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