Common Assessments, Why Care Enough to Fight Through the Jargon!
Sep 10, 2012
Wow the jargon in K-12 is impressive. Current terminology in the assessment realm is deep and varied. I did a little research and I found these types of assessments. The list assessment of terminology would be great in a game of buzzword bingo (sometimes called BS bingo). How many teachers or administrators can define each of these types of assessments below? I couldn’t.
Here is the latest in assessment jargon:
- Cornerstone Assessment
- Authentic Assessment
- On-Demand Assessment
- Formative Assessment
- Summative Assessment
- Assessment Literacy
- Alternative Assessment
- Performance-Based Assessment
- Portfolio Assessment
- Holistic Assessment
- Multidimensional Assessment
How About Some Help from an Expert
To help let's go to the renowned expert on assessment Sally Brown Charlie Brown's little sister.
Formative and Summative Assessments
My Anticipatory Set (more jargon) for this blog is to focus on Summative and Formative Assessments. Which reminds me of a saying my one of my K-12 friends had “testing is bad but assessing is good”. But I am getting Off-Task (more jargon). First let me tell you the difference between Summative and Formative Assessments with a story and then we can zero in on the value and purpose of each.
Let’s say you are having your brand new in-laws over for Sunday dinner for your famous turnip soup. You gather the ingredients and begin to cook the soup. Every 30 minutes you taste the soup to see if it needs any adjustments (more salt, dash of cumin). Each of those taste tests would be a formative assessment. Perhaps you add some dill and you taste again. That would be another formative assessment.
You continue to taste test the soup making adjustments until it’s ready to be served to your in-laws. When they taste the turnip soup they will do a summative assessment on how good your turnip soup tastes. I have no doubt that you will be their favorite in-law based on summative assessment they made on the soup.
The Difference Between Summative and Formative
Let's start with summative assessment. Its purpose is to make an evaluation or judgment. Examples include: what grade should the student receive, how effective was the after school tutoring program, did the students in grade four make adequate yearly progress. Summative assessments are used to determine the extent of the student learning. They are used to measure what a student or group of students learned over a defined timeline often to determine if the program could be considered successful. Summative assessments have minimal impact on day to day learning but are very good for evaluation.
Formative assessment is used during the instructional process. It is often called checking for understanding. A good teacher is continuously formatively assessing to make adjustments to instruction. Formative assessments are used far more frequently and take on many different forms. A formative assessment is usually ungraded and used to provide students with descriptive feedback. Think of a football coach at practice he is continually assessing his players in technique and other factors to make them better players. He knows that what happens in these formative assessment sessions will lead to more improved players on game day. Providing descriptive feedback to students during these formative assessments is critical and is why they will lead to more student learning.
Saying a short quiz is a formative assessment may be true if you provide descriptive feedback to the student about improvement needs. Giving a quiz and grading it without descriptive feedback is just a small summative assessment.
Lots of Different Types of Assessments
There you have it there are lots of different types of assessments. Good teaching includes various assessing. So in short begin to build your own assessment. Start with good formative assessments. If you are interested in more assessment information, take a look at our Assessments Tools.