Formative Assessment

a collection of resources

What is Formative Assessment?

Formative Assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments are generally low stakes, which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:

  • draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
  • submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
  • turn in a research proposal for early feedback

What is Summative Assessment?

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

Summative assessments are often high stakes, which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

  • a midterm exam
  • a final project
  • a paper
  • a senior recital

What's the Difference?

Varying definitions of formative assessment have blurred the meaning of the term and caused confusion among educators. To determine whether a test is formative or summative we need to ask:

  • How are the results going to be used?  
  • Who is going to use them?

The purpose of summative assessment is to make a judgment after the learning process is finished,

  • to assign a grade,
  • measure program effectiveness,
  • or determine whether a school has met adequate yearly progress.

Formative assessment, on the other hand,

  • informs the teacher and learner about the status of learning during the instructional process,
  • allows adjustments to achieve greater learning.

A key ingredient of formative assessment is descriptive feedback that identifies the student's strengths and suggests what he or she needs to do to improve.

**Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

Educational Leadership Magazine. December 2007/January 2008|Volume 65|Number 4

Kahoot Time

Examples of Formative Activities




Exit/Admit Slips

Learning/Response Logs

Graphic Organizers

Peer/Self Assessments

Practice Presentations

Visual Representations

Kinesthetic Assessments

Indiviual Whiteboards

Four Corners

Constructive Quizzes

Think Pair Share

Technology to Assess for Learning