Archive for December, 2012

You need both: Formative and Summative Assessments

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

As my first semester in graduate school comes to a close people have been asking me how things have gone this semester. When asked this question I feel that it is an appropriate time to share some of my knowledge with them. I tell them that throughout the semester I have written many reflections, filled out exit slips, and shown in a variety of ways to my professors that I understand the material as it forms in my mind. These are all examples of formative assessments. Formative assessments help the teacher know how a student is engaging with the material before and during the instructional period.

Upon sharing about grad school I also often mention that as the semester comes to a close it is a time to put all of my knowledge into practice for a variety of summative assessments. Summative assessments take the sum of all knowledge in a given unit or class and gauge the student’s overall understanding and practice of the information. Both formative and summative assessments should be used in any class(no matter the content area) to give the educator data on how the student is comprehending the material.

Formative assessments also help teachers with planning and differentiating the material (Woolfolk, 2010. p. 549). As I prepare to have my own social studies classroom in a couple of years I will use formative assessments to understand what level my students are on at the beginning of the year. Through using pre-tests and an inventory of prior knowledge I will be able to have a clearer picture of what I need to teach. Formative assessments will also be important as I instruct (not just beforehand) because I want to be able to know on a daily basis what my students are and are not learning. Through use of exit slips, homework assignments, and to improve literacy, writing breaks, I will use formative assessments every single day in the classroom. Especially with so much social studies content specific vocabulary I need to be prepared to constantly be checking on my students’ comprehension.

In any classroom summative assessment is also a key component of instructional time. Summative assessments are not only for the teacher’s benefit, but the students as well since it provides a “summary of accomplishment”(Woolfolk, 2010. p. 549). For social studies, my students will have an SOL test at the end of the year that will serve as a final summative assessment, but I would also like to use Unit tests, creative interactive projects, and group presentations as forms of summative assessments throughout the year. As we move into the new professional guidelines for teachers in Virginia, summative assessments are going to play even more of a major role due to standard seven and student progress. With standard seven in mind, using formative assessments often will aid me in helping my students prepare more effectively for summative assessments.

I am excited to be finished with my first semester of grad school and as I share about it with those around me I hope that I will continue to process and remember all of the valuable things that I have learned, not only about assessments but lesson planning, students’ learning styles, and classroom management.

Woolfolk, A. (2010). Educational psychology. (12 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.