Formative and summative evaluation

How can you tell the difference between formative and summative evaluation? Formative and summative evaluation are not the same thing. In fact, they are quite different in their purposes, goals, and outcomes. As confusing as they may seem at first glance, though, formative and summative evaluations are not too difficult to understand once you know what to look for.

Definitions of Formative and Summative Evaluation

Evaluation is a process that judges the value or quality of something. There are two main types of evaluation: formative and summative.

Formative evaluation happens during the creation of something, usually with the intention of improving it. It’s like getting feedback on a rough draft of a paper before you turn in the final version.

Summative evaluation happens after something is completed, and its purpose is mostly to judge how successful it was.

For example, if you have been learning French for six months, then at the end of your course you would do a test to see how much French knowledge you have gained over time.In this case, the test is a summative evaluation. If you take a vocabulary quiz every day as part of your learning plan, then when you take an exam, that exam becomes a formative evaluation because it helps identify areas where more study may be needed.

The Value of Summative Evaluation

Summative evaluations are important because they provide data that can be used to improve instruction and student learning. When used correctly, summative evaluations can help identify areas of strength and weaknesses, set goals, and measure progress. 

For example, if a teacher wants to find out how well students understand fractions, she might ask them to solve problems involving fractions on a pretest or posttest. The results of these tests would then be compared with the initial test (a pre-test) to see if there was an improvement in performance. These tests could also be administered on a regular basis so that teachers know what skills need more attention in future lessons.

Summative evaluations can also be administered more than once during a course or a semester. This type of comprehensive summative assessment allows teachers to see how students are doing over time. If a teacher notices that one particular group of students is struggling, she can pinpoint when they started having problems. That way, she can focus on interventions early on so students don’t fall too far behind.

Uses of formative evaluations

Formative evaluations are usually used during the early stages of product development in order to get feedback from potential users. This type of evaluation can help you fine-tune your product before it goes to market. Additionally, formative evaluations can be used to assess student learning in classrooms or employee training programs. Finally, they can also be used as a quality assurance tool. These types of evaluations tend to measure whether a product is meeting its objectives and, if not, what adjustments need to be made.

Uses of summative evaluation

You might use a summative evaluation at the end of a project, program, or course to gauge whether objectives were met. It’s a way of looking at the big picture and determining if you were successful. Summative evaluations are often used for high-stakes decisions, like whether or not to continue funding a program. If you notice that students have shown improvement on their test scores over time, then this is a good sign that the program has been effective. 

However, it can be difficult to make inferences about effectiveness from only one measure of performance, such as test scores. For example, when designing programs that help low-income families become more financially literate, there may be some aspects of the program that seem to work well but others that don’t show any signs of success. In this case, formative assessments (assessments taken throughout the process) may help identify which parts need improving so that they eventually become part of a more successful overall program.