BEFORE: What is summative assessment?


What is summative assessment and what’s it for?

Summative assessment is a type of assessment that happens at the end of a programme or unit of study. Often the focus is on achieving an outcome or determining the level of understanding. This might include a mark or grade against an expected standard.

Sometimes, you might hear tutors talk about doing a post-assessment. In the same way that a pre-assessment is another way of talking about a diagnostic test, this is another way of talking about a summative assessment.  

Now’s a good time to compare summative and formative:

Summative Assessment Formative Assessment
When does it happen? At the end of a learning activity, unit of study or programme. During a learning activity, unit of study or programme.
What’s the goal? To make a decision To improve learning and teaching
What kind of feedback? A final judgement, e.g. a mark, grade or credit A return to the teaching and learning material

The TEC Assessment tool is sometimes used as a summative assessment

If you teach a longer programme, you might be required to use the TEC assessment tool two or three times across the length of the course.

The first time you use it, you’re gaining diagnostic information. The second time, you’re measuring progress – so it’s formative assessment. Or if the second time is the last time, it’s summative.

Some longer programmes might use the Assessment Tool three times. The third and final assessment is summative.

What else…?

Summative assessments can be spread through your programme as well. In this way, a pre-assessment and matching post-assessment can act like bookends around smaller chunks of learning.

This is often more appropriate for shorter courses where you don’t have time to use the TEC Assessment tool again (or even at all).

Here’s how this approach would work:

  1. TEST: Create a contextualised assessment for your trade, vocational teaching or ESOL context. Base it on the actual needs of your learners and the demands of what you have to teach. Use it as a pre-assessment and gather some diagnostic information.
  2. TEACH: Based on what you learn about your learners’ knowledge and skills, do some teaching with your learners over a period of time making sure you target the gaps you’ve identified and prioritised.
  3. TEST: Use the same test again as a post-assessment. This test-teach-test approach means that the assessment process wraps itself around the teaching. It doesn’t have to be at the end of the programme.

A short post-assessment as part of this test-teach-test approach counts as summative to that short unit of learning.

But it’s also formative to the programme or some bigger course of study. So you’re ticking both boxes.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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