Recently I was reading a post by Bo Adams from the Connected Principals Blog about a Ted Talk given by Pat Bassett. My instant connection to several of Bassett’s “Big Shifts” urged me to watch the video in entirety.
Bassett mentions how we are caught up in a world of summative assessments when we should be moving to one of formative assessment. In fact he refers to formative assessments as “the future.”
Bassett is correct; we are engulfed with a focus on Summative assessments. We live in world of high-stakes testing. I have heard teachers from all over mention how they are concerned with how their kids are going to perform on “the test”. Why wouldn’t they? It’s highly publicized how each state ranks compared to one another based off student performance on these evaluations. Even more so, the media shares how we rank internationally based on this information.
While both have a place in education, I feel it is necessary to understand the difference between formative assessment and summative assessment. Properly using the right assessment in your classroom will allow your students to perform better on the other one. This is how I try to keep the two straight.
Summative Assessment is an evaluation. The word “sum” can be found in its title. This is to remind us that can be the total learning. It is the state exam, end of course, SAT, or exam that students take in order to receive a grade.
Formative Assessments provide information “for” both sets of learners: the students and the teachers. It’s the information that helps the students understand where they are with their learning and where they need to go. They inform the teacher how to “form” the instruction to what the student needs. In other words, the information obtained from formative assessment tells us what/how we need to teach from that point.
Great learners use formative assessment regularly. I like that Bassett used the word “future” when describing formative assessment.
Ironic as it may be, if we just evaluate learning, we won’t have a future.