Connecting Assessment and Learning — from by Spencer Benson


Formative assessments provide information on students’ levels of understanding or performance. Formative assessments are designed to facilitate learning and improving teaching, curriculum/course design, and learning progress. They are typically low stakes and inform the teacher and student about current understanding and practices, primarily to improve understanding and performance. Summative assessments are used to evaluate student knowledge, understanding, or performance. Generally, they involve tests to determine grades and rankings.

Many formative assessments facilitate learning and motivate students: the ubiquitous; “are there any questions?”, 1-minute papers, pop quizzes, on-line quizzes, clicker questions, muddiest point, jeopardy games, etc. Formative assessments are frequently low stakes and often assigned a few points to encourage students to complete them. Formative assessment “sans” points are unfortunately often ignored or not taken seriously. How do we adapt summative assessment that captures the developmental aspects of formative assessments?

Below are four suggestions that have been shown to provide for deeper learning. Two approaches are focused on getting students to think about the content in useful ways and two are designed to help students perform better on traditional assessments.