The formative and summative assessment disambiguator

Assessment for learning

Assessment of  learning

Also known as…

Formative assessment

Summative assessment

Purposes

To  diagnose student difficulties in reaching learning objectives; To identify student strengths that can be built upon; To inform future learning and teaching. To measure and summarise student achievement of learning objectives in the form of grades; To inform selection procedures for, e.g. promotion, entrance to higher education, employment.

Formality

Formal or informal (ad hoc)

Formal

Timing

Prior to / During school term

During / At end of school term

Consequences

Low-stakes

High-stakes

Perspective

Forward-looking

Backward-looking

Feedback

Specific, qualitative feedback in the form of evaluative comments on performance or   highlighted descriptors on a criteria marking scheme.  Students are provided with constructive and concrete advice on how to improve, time and opportunities for further development and practice. Scores   may be given to show students the result they would have achieved in a ‘real’ test, but the scores do not contribute to grades. Students should absorb teachers’ comments fully before seeing scores. Feedback is optional. If the students are going to do a similar test/exam in future,   then feedback could serve a formative purpose. If the test/exam content is the last time they will be tested on this, then of course no feedback, just grades. If the summative assessment is criterion-referenced, then students can refer to the   criteria marking scheme to understand what the grade implies about their   capabilities, but there is nothing they can do to change their grade.

Feedback providers

Self / Peers / Teacher

Teacher / Examiner

Understanding learning goals

Enhances student understanding of learning objectives, criteria, standards, etc. Merely checks student ability to meet learning objectives

Motivation

Positive

Negative

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