Glossary: Formative vs Summative Assessment

The difference lays mostly in how the results of the assessment are meant to be applied.

Formative Assessment (aka Instructionally Supportive):

Feedback on how a student is learning, as they are learning. Describes areas of relative strength/weakness within a student’s understanding of a topic so that future instruction can be iterated for this student.

eg. Asking a student to summarize their understanding of a lesson.

Summative Assessment (aka Administrative Accountability):

Post-mortem feedback on how well a student has learned a topic overall compared to a benchmark.

eg. Final exam / Standardized Tests.


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  1. […] who mentor student teachers in field practice) reported that a majority of those teachers conflated the formative and the summative practices despite having a reasonably robust understanding of formative assessment (Dixon & Williams, […]