Conducted before or during the course in order to improve or adjust the course material, formative assessment provides students with feedback (immediate, if possible) so that they can adjust their own learning performance. Formative assessment methods may include both informal (non-graded performance) and formal methods (graded performance such as quizzes and other assignments). In addition, formative assessment is most effective when faculty actively reflect on the results of these assessments. They should be conducted in the context of “a number of students have this misconception; in what ways can I improve my lesson going forward to correct this AND revise my approach in anticipation of future courses to avoid this?” Some examples of formative assessment are:
- A brief paper where students provide an overview of the lesson for the instructor’s feedback and/or peer feedback. Students then reconstruct their papers based on this feedback.
- Paraphrasing for a particular audience (for example, “explain the concept of relativity to your grandmother”).
- Generate an essay question based on integrating the materials from multiple chapters.
- Fill in locations on a map.
These methods occur at the end of a unit of instruction, a term, or a course. Summative assessment determines the extent to which a student has demonstrated the learning outcomes for the purpose of making some kind of judgment or decision. It utilizes formal assessment methods, tests, quizzes, papers, and projects. Summative assessment falls into two categories – objective and performance:
Typically thought of as paper/pencil tests, objective assessments utilize items (multiple-choice, true/false, matching, short answer items) that have only one correct answer. These are effective and efficient in measuring knowledge and comprehension levels of cognitive outcomes, but rarely assess high levels of cognitive outcomes. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning is useful for setting outcomes.
When creating, developing, and grading an automated quiz or test, consider the following:
- Review learner outcomes and item banks from your adopted text.
- Follow guidelines for objective items.
- Create item pools around key concepts—avoid trivial recall.
- Determine feedback: score only, correct answer only, or correct answer with suggestions for remediation.
Performance assessments require students to complete a performance task that is then evaluated using predefined criteria. Performance assessments are able to measure higher levels of cognitive outcomes, such as application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Performance assessments may include essays, term papers, group work, products, projects, presentations, exhibitions, demonstrations, and portfolios. Depending on the type of task, performance assessments may encourage student creativity, active learning, cooperation among students, and the utilization of a variety of resources.