Summative Assessment

What is summative assessment?

Summative Assessment is the opportunity for students to show what they know and demonstrate what they can do with that knowledge independently and in novel contexts. It’s a moment for celebrating all of the learning your students have done and can do! Their work provides evidence that they are proficient: that they have met the learning goal. Summative assessments can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Tests and essays, obviously. But also performance tasks, projects, presentations, performances… really any format that allows students to show evidence that they meet the learning goal.

Why it’s important: 

Students and teachers need a clear path forward. If the learning goal is the destination, summative assessment is the way they show that they have arrived and to determine where they might head next. 

In summative assessment, students demonstrate the knowledge/understandings/skills they gained during the learning experience in a clear way. What’s important is that they demonstrate their learning, but they don’t necessarily all have to do it in the same way. How they show their learning is an opportunity to give students choice, which will make the work feel personally meaningful and engaging. Your learning goals provide criteria that set high expectations for all learners, and this criteria (and only this criteria) is used to assess the evidence they provide.  Meaningful instruction and formative assessment have allowed you and your learners to forge pathways that meet their learning needs and allow them to practice skills and develop understandings. The summative assessment measures what matters; it allows learners to demonstrate the particular skills and knowledge defined by the learning goal(s).

One thing to keep in mind when designing summative assessments is equal access to the demonstration of learning. Summative assessments or performance tasks should be done in class and individually to create an equitable learning environment. For example, you wouldn’t want to give a summative assessment as a take home project because not all students might have access to a quiet space to work, the resources necessary to do the assessment, or the support that might be needed. 

How it fits into the proficiency-based education ecosystem:

Summative Assessments are the opportunity for students to show what they know and can do.  They are the key to students providing evidence of proficiency on the learning goals, and they are designed with clear criteria that align with those learning goals.  Alignment is also important as we design meaningful instruction that gives students multiple chances to learn and practice skills and knowledge.  Formative assessments not only give us feedback for tweaking our instruction, they also serve as guideposts along the way toward the summative: they let us know when our students are ready to provide evidence of proficiency on the summative assessment. Students may be ready for the summative assessment at different times. 

What summative assessment looks like in practice: 

Let’s say a teacher has been designing instruction and learning experiences to meet the NGSS science proficiency. Students who demonstrate understanding can: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms (MS-LS1-5). Through lab experiences, inquiry-based assignments, and practice, students have been given formative feedback and direct instruction regularly. The teacher feels that the class is ready to show what they know and can do through a summative assessment. 

As the learners progress through cycles of meaningful instruction and formative assessment they begin to demonstrate their readiness for summative assessment. Flexible pacing allows students to arrive at the summative assessment at different times. If the student is not meeting proficiency on a summative assessment, see meaningful instruction toolkit for guidance here. 

The teacher (perhaps with the help of students) uses the learning goals to define what proficiency looks like:

  • I can create a scientific explanation of how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
  • I can identify and describe my evidence to support my explanation (students’ own investigations, observations, reading material, archived data) including:
    • environmental factors
    • genetic factors
    • changes in growth of organism as factors change
  • I can use multiple and valid resources to support my explanation. 
  • I can describe my reasoning and connect ideas, factors and evidence. 

The teachers and students use these learning goals as guideposts and embed some student choice within the summative assessment. This can be a choice of the product students are creating, or choice in the way the proficiency will be expressed. For example, students could:

  • Choose a science current event (like this one) that connects to these concepts, and describe a scientific explanation of how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms and connects to the relevant article. 
  • Present your work. Use video, writing, speaking/audio, visual representations, or some combination of these to share your reasoning. Your final product could be an infographic, a sketchnote, a video PSA, a magazine article, etc.
  • To increase motivation and relevance, be sure your student’s summative assessments have an authentic audience, and that they are creating them for that audience. 

How do I know if I’m on the right track with summative assessment?

Use the scale below to assess your current practice, then find resources to support your growth in the Summative Assessment Toolbox.

Summative Assessment Learning Scale
I design summative assessments that are connected to my learning goals. I design summative assessments that encourage learners to create evidence that demonstrates proficiency on learning goals.  I design summative assessments that encourage learners to create evidence that demonstrates proficiency on learning goals in a variety of ways.

I design summative assessments where students have authentic and meaningful opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.

I design summative assessments that provide students the opportunity to exercise their voice and choice and remove barriers to success so that all students can succeed. 

I offer students the opportunity to complete summative assessments when they have demonstrated readiness and to revise/reassess if necessary. 

I co-design design summative assessments with learners that encourages them to create multiple forms of evidence that demonstrates proficiency on learning goals in a variety of ways and connects to larger themes and ideas. 

 

Toolbox:

Learning Goal If you are curious about …. Explore these resources. 
I design summative assessments that encourage learners to create evidence that demonstrates proficiency on learning goals.  What are some examples of performance tasks? 5th grade Social Studies assessment from TRSU
How can I design summative assessments or improve my summative assessments so learners can demonstrate proficiency on learning goals?  Summative Assessment Design Guide

Performance Assessment Quality Criteria 

I design summative assessments that encourage learners to create evidence that demonstrates proficiency on learning goals in a variety of ways.

I design summative assessments where students have authentic and meaningful opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.

I design summative assessments that provide students the opportunity to exercise their voice and choice and remove barriers to success so that all students can succeed. 

I offer students the opportunity to complete summative assessments when they have demonstrated readiness and to revise/reassess if necessary. 

What does high-quality summative assessment look like in action?  The crucial role of practice in a proficiency-based environment 
How can I design and implement summative assessments in project-based learning? Assessment in Project-Based Learning

How do you measure success with project-based learning?

How can I provide students with opportunities to collect evidence of proficiency? Phys Ed 2.0 
How can I design summative assessments that allow students to exercise voice and choice? Flexible pathways in proficiency-based learning

Voice+choice=a better math classroom

I co-design design summative assessments with learners that encourages them to create multiple forms of evidence that demonstrates proficiency on learning goals in a variety of ways and connects to larger themes and ideas.  How can I co-design summative assessments with my learners? Negotiated curriculum at the unit level

 

 

What do you think?