Table of Contents

4.0 Defining Formative and Summative Assessment

Assessment plays an important role in guiding instructional practice. In Powerful Social Studies for Elementary Students (2013), researchers of the use of assessment for elementary teachers of social studies, promote goal-oriented assessment and give the following definition:

Goal-Oriented Assessment: The teacher uses a variety of formal and informal assessment methods to monitor progress toward learning goals. The assessments the teacher selects come in a range of formats to provide students multiple and varied opportunities to demonstrate understanding of content and skills taught, and to provide the teacher feedback on the effectiveness of the curriculum and instruction."

—Brophy, Alleman, and Halvorsen, 2013

To better understand assessment practices and tools, it is important to differentiate between formative (sometimes considered informal) and summative (sometimes considered formal) assessment.

Formative Assessment

The Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers (FAST) group adopted the following definition of formative assessment:

Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students' achievement of intended instructional outcomes" (2008)

Time to Read

Download and read the guide "What is Formative Assessment?" to help you develop formative assessments in the future

Summative Assessment

The purpose of summative assessment is to gather evidence of student achievement after instruction has been completed. These assessments are used to determine the extent to which students have achieved mastery on specified learning outcomes at a given point in time.