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Ten Formative and Summative Assessment Examples to Inspire You

Practical Formative and Summative Assessment Examples to Inspire Your Practice

At this point, you’ve likely straightened out your understanding of formative and summative assessment.  If not, have no fear, formative and summative assessment are often confused by rookie and veteran educators alike.  So before we move forward, let’s get some clarity on formative and summative assessment definitions.

Formative and Summative Assessment: Definitions First

We’ve taken a close look at a variety of definitions for “formative assessment” (check out our analysis here), and ultimately landed on the following definition to guide our understandings:

“Formative assessment is every purposeful exchange between teacher and student that checks for understanding, and that is used to adjust and enhance learning.”

Similarly, summative assessment also strives to check for student understanding, but it doesn’t play a role in adjusting instruction to enhance learning.  We like think the “soup” metaphor does a great job of clarifying the difference between formative and summative assessment.

Consider a chef in the kitchen of his restaurant, preparing a soup.  He tastes the soup, and determines that it needs a pinch of salt. He stirs in the salt, then tastes it again.  Better, but it’s missing some pepper. He adds two twists from the peppermill, tastes it again, and then adds two more twists.  This process is formative assessment.  Then, the chef ladles his soup into a bowl and it’s served to a guest sitting at a table.  Now, it’s summative.  


Formative and Summative Assessment: Five Formative Assessment Examples To Inspire You

Ten Formative and Summative Assessment Examples to Inspire YouFormative assessments can feel burdensome when they’re considered out of context, or when they’re presented to teachers as “another thing to develop and implement” — but, the truth is, that’s all very silly.  Formative assessments are the stuff of good teaching, and they’re happening continuously throughout any well taught classroom, whether or not the teacher in that room is labeling these practices “formative assessment.”  The list that follows is intended to showcase some snazzy 21st century implementations of formative assessment — great to put into practice immediately, or to inspire your own ideas moving forward!

(1) Cups and Colors.  Use a color coded system, such as paper cups that resemble a traffic light, to empower your students to relay their level of understanding or comfort with the content and skills that are presently being focused on.

(2) Backchannel Chats.  Ask students to engage in a backchannel conversation on a digital medium — anything from to using a class hashtag, from a chat feature in your school’s LMS to a running Google Doc.  This backchannel can provide huge insights into students’ understandings in realtime.

(3) Parking Lot.  The old school version of the “parking lot” looks like a space on the wall or bulletin board reserved for students’ questions and/or brief reflections, posted using post-it notes.  Padlet is a great digital tool that recreates this experience, but in a virtual space. That means students can be prompted to engage in these reflective practices more often, and you can access that formative information in a super-timely manner.

(4) Plickers.  If you haven’t tried Plickers yet, you’re going to be absolutely thrilled to give this tool a whirl.  In short, Plickers enables you to give students paper markers (printable and free) that they can hold up in one of four different directions to indicate their response — i.e. multiple choice responses A, B, C, and D.  As the teacher, you can then use their app (downloaded to your phone) to scan the room with your phone’s camera — and, in realtime, see how they answered the question at hand. Students will literally light up red or green on your screen (talk about instant data analysis) and, simultaneously, their responses can be automatically recorded into your recordbook.  

(5) FlipGrid.  FlipGrid allows students to post short videos (up to five minutes) that can later be viewed by their teacher and peers, replied to (in video form) by their teacher and peers, and even scored using customized, embedded rubrics.  This is a great way to get into students’ heads — during class, at home, and anywhere where video might provide an instructional advantage — for formative assessment purposes!


Formative and Summative Assessment: Five Summative Assessment Examples To Inspire You

What follows is a list of summative assessment examples to evoke some inspiration in the way we think about and implement summative assessments.  Summative assessment often get a bad rap — mostly because school leaders who champion formative assessment have a tendency to paint summative assessment as an opposing sort of force.  The truth is, formative and summative assessment are complementary in nature. When formative assessments speak to the learning process, summative assessments serve the purpose of checking to see whether students have ultimately learned.  (In considering the metaphor of the chef and the soup… the whole point is that the soup is, eventually, served!)

All of that being said, summative assessments don’t have to be “strictly” summative (i.e. they can borrow from principles of formative assessment), and they don’t have to exist in the forms of painful exams and tests.  A chef serving soup to a guest in his or her restaurant is an authentic summative assessment — whereas a chef’s soup being tested by a critic, while still a feasible possibility, is less organic.  So, with that in mind, let’s stir up our inspiration with some summative assessment examples.

(1) The Redo.  Rather than simply administering a unit exam and moving on the following day (a strictly summative assessment example), consider offering students the opportunity to learn from their performance on that test, and consider how students’ performances might be used to adjust your instructional game plan.  Can students retake the test? (Why not?) Are some students doomed if you move on to the next unit immediately?  (Probably!) How can you save those students’ souls?! (An exaggeration, sure, but you get the picture.)

(2) The Student Authored Exam.  Now there’s a controversial summative assessment example.  But, consider this: the point of a summative assessment is to check for students’ overall understanding: Did they master the content?  Did they master the concepts? How deep are their understandings?  Sure, a formal exam can shed some light on these questions… but, if you take a look at an exam that I create on any given subject matter, you’ll be able to size up my understanding with equal efficiency.

(3) Performance Tasks.  Consider how the theoretical knowledge that’s applied to a traditional exam might be reimagined in a practical, real-world context.  Ask yourself, “What kind of performance would showcase students’ understanding of these skills?  Of students’ mastery of these standards?” Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that students should be asked to “do a skit” instead of factoring polynomials… rather, it means that students should be asked to showcase their ability to factor polynomials in a more performance-oriented context (e.g. economic cost analyses, roller coaster design, etc.).

(4) Authentic Problems.  Ask students to solve an authentic problem that’s pertinent to the curriculum, standards, and skills being studied — or, ask students to engage in a project that showcases their mastery of the curriculum, standards, and skills.  This summative assessment example is inquiry-centric, but it promises to engage learners as they can connect to the content in a manner that is meaningful to their own lives — rather than a flat and painstaking exam.

(5)  Presentations & Portfolios.  Ask students to develop a presentation or portfolio that showcases their knowledge.  This particular summative assessment example can be combined with many of the aforementioned summative assessment examples, e.g. assigning a weeklong problem-based scenario that culminates with a presentation of all the steps that were taken along the process of trying to solve that problem (regardless of whether or not it was actually solved).  Likewise, portfolios provide a great way to consider a body of work in a summative fashion, rather than an exam-driven snapshot on the last day of school.

If you’re looking to take a much deeper dive, we’ve developed an AWESOME online course that promises to bring you to the “cutting edge” with regard to student engagement and pedagogy.  Our course, Modern Mastery PD, hones in on student centered learning, the neuroscience of student engagement and motivation, gamification and game-based learning, gold standard educational technology integration, and more.  You can learn more here, or enter your email address below for more information and special offers!

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