Assessment is a common practice in today’s classrooms. It usually takes place in predictable ways in traditional formats. A wide variety of assessment options are available, however, to meet the instructional needs of teachers and the learning needs of students.
Although tests and exams are not going to disappear from schools, student learning can be greatly enhanced when information from a wide variety of kinds of assessment is used to inform instruction, provide feedback, and evaluate products and performances. The kind of assessment that occurs before and during a unit of study is called formative assessment.
Several strategies of formative assessment give students and teachers the kinds of information they need to improve learning:
While formative assessments can give students and teachers information about how well they are doing while they are working on projects, at some point, most teachers are required to give a report on student learning at the end of a particular unit or on a particular project. Students also want and need to know how well they have done. This kind of assessment, done after the fact, is called summative assessment.
Summative assessments, like unit tests, can provide useful information if teachers and students take the time to look at them analytically. Teachers can find areas of weakness to address in more depth in future units and with future groups of students. Students can identify problem areas and set goals for future learning.