In our last blog post – The Difference Between Summative and Formative Assessments – Post One – we reviewed some differences between these two types of assessment. Namely, summative assessments certify learning and formative assessments guide learning. In this post, we’ll share some ways that teachers can use the data from these assessments in the classroom.
While there are many summative assessment methods, including some that we shared in the last post, the summative assessments that most come to mind are the high-stakes state tests that are used for accountability purposes. They often happen late in the instructional process to validate (or certify) learning so the use of summative assessment data in the classroom is more for guidance – assigning grades, promotion or graduation to the next level, credit for courses, etc. As Melissa Spadin and Jenny Peirson note in their recent post, summative assessment also is valuable to teachers for the transparency into standards it provides, so that all involved have a shared understanding of what students should know by the time they reach the end of the school year or unit. In the classroom each day, though, formative assessment data can be especially valuable to teachers looking to move student learning forward.
Catherine Garrison and Michael Ehringhaus in their AMLE article, Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom share a number of fantastic formative instructional strategies that teachers can use, including:
- Criteria and goal setting. This can, and should, be done with students to set expectations of what their work should look like and how to get there. When students participate in their own learning and goal setting, they will have a better picture of where they are in their learning, where they need to be, and how they can get to that point.
- Classroom and student observations. Gathering evidence of student learning is essential for teachers to be able to plan effective instruction. There are numerous ways that teachers can gather evidence and observe where students are in their learning. NWEA has a popular blog that shares 65 digital tools and apps that teachers can use to support formative instructional practices, and most of them are free.
- Questioning strategies. Asking better questions gives students an opportunity for deeper thinking, while giving teachers better insight into student understanding. Asking higher-order questions also expands learning and teaches students themselves how to ask better questions.
- Self and peer assessment. Student self-evaluation is a natural evolution of goal setting and a next step in the learning process. Peer evaluation helps students see each other as resources for understanding and helps to create a “learning community within the classroom.”
- Student record keeping. Keeping track of their own learning, helps students better understand their own learning – where they started and the progress they are making toward their established goals.
As Catherine Garrison and Michael Ehringhaus conclude in their article:
When a comprehensive assessment program at the classroom level balances formative and summative student learning/achievement information, a clear picture emerges of where a student is relative to learning targets and standards.