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Pros & Cons of Different Summative Assessments

by Amy Mezni | Sep 15, 2020 | Distance Learning , Teaching Strategies | 1 comment

When Should I Use Which Summative Assessment?

I think most teachers use summative assessments regularly, but that doesn’t mean that they are using the appropriate type of assessments for the scenario. 

For example, graded tests are an excellent way to assess your students. Still, you have to be careful to use multiple assessment types  because some students have test anxiety or struggle to show their knowledge in a test format.

In a similar vein, projects can be so much fun for students, but teachers have to be sure the projects are focused on high-level thinking skills and the unit’s standards goals – not just a “fun” activity. 

Use your discretion to determine which assessment is best for each topic.

How Do I Use Summative Assessments When Teaching Online?

So many of you are teaching online this year, and I’m sure you are trying to figure out how to make everything happen for your classroom. The good news is many of the summative assessments we use in a traditional classroom can be used online! 

A science fair or living museum is less practical in an online classroom, but you could have students present their “museum” in an online meeting. Also, you could do a debate or Socratic seminar in breakout rooms in Zoom or Google Meets. Your online students can easily do a book report or essay, and they could even be shared for their classmates to read and give feedback. 

Students can take an online test. One thing about online tests is that it can be very easy to cheat. I know my own children get around blockers by simply using both their phones and computers at the same time. My advice is to focus more on open-ended questions that require a written response – and then check responses with a program like TurnItIn, which looks for similarities. Consider using higher-level thinking questions that force students to analyze and apply what they have learned over multiple-choice questions.

If there is one thing we’ve been reminded of continually this year, it’s that teachers are some of the most creative professionals in the world. Get creative with how you will assess your students this year. 

Need help? Don’t hesitate to ask me or any of your teacher friends! We are all figuring this out together.

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Summative Evaluation Advantages and Disadvantages

What is summative evaluation in education.

A summative evaluation is one that takes place at the end of the evaluation cycle. It is a type of evaluation that judges the worth of the task by the end of program activities. The main focus of the summative evaluation is based on the outcome.

Summative evaluations can also be mentioned as assessments which measure the outcome of individuals or students to estimate. Similarly, in summative evaluation in education, we assess students what students have learned.

By this way, they equate it with a standard benchmark . Few examples of summative forms of evaluation are final exams, chapter test, and large-scale standardization test such as SAT.

Summative Evaluation Advantages Disadvantages

5 Significant Features of Summative Assessments:

Building up a summative assessment for analyzing is not that easy. To make your assessments effective enough, there are features that should go in line. They are,

Elements of Summative Evaluation:

While summative evaluation is an assessment done after the whole process is completed, the purpose of formative evaluation is to check whether your program is working effectively or not.

However, formative evaluation and summative evaluation are complementary. Here are a few elements you need to consider.

Usage of summative evaluation surely will be having a great impact on the assessment. Some of the top results will be change in,

Mid-term and long-term outcomes:

Building up a summative evaluation Feedback Loop:

Though this looks like a simple process but there are many internal factors that are tied to it, some of them are

Examples of summative assessments:

Summative Assessments are performed on a periodic basis to recognize and determine what students actually know and what they do not know. This can be done through standardized tests such as state assessments and others.

Some of the examples of summative evaluation or assessment are

Formative Assessment :

As mentioned earlier, formative assessment is the evaluation process which is done during the process, like improving the teaching technique, not limiting to only bookish knowledge, etc.

This is more like an instructional procedure. Some of the elements or the instructional strategies or techniques of formative evaluation are:

Compare and Contrast formative and summative assessment:

Here we will be discussing about the differences between formative and summative assessments.

1. Formative evaluation is an ongoing process, so it is performed during the process. Whereas summative evaluation is done only after the completion of the process.

2. With the help of formative evaluation, you will be able to help the student if he needs help during the process or any assistance. Whereas with summative evaluation we can understand how the student is performing and assigning the grades

3. The formative evaluation process helps in improving a student’s learning capacity or skill. Through summative evaluation, we can analyze the students’ achievements.

4. Formative evaluation deals with small areas of content as it an ongoing process. But summative evaluation deals with the whole project as it is performed after the completion.

5. The formative evaluation considers the assessment as a process. And summative evaluation is considered more of a product.

Advantages of Summative Evaluation:

There are numerous advantages when a summative evaluation is considered in the academic arena. A few of them are mentioned below.

1. To know if students have understood:

The summative evaluation follows certain strategies for evaluation by means of assignments, tests, projects and more. By these ways, the teacher can make out if the students have learned and understood the subject.

An assignment is said to be a summative one by the way it is utilized and not by the design of the test, assignment or by self-evaluation. By this way, the instructor can make out to what degree the students have understood with the materials that have been taught.

2. They determine achievement:

The usual procedure is that summative evaluations are done at the end of any instructional period. Thus, summative evaluation is considered to be evaluative in nature rather than being mentioned as diagnostic.

The real meaning is that this evaluation is made used to find out the learning growth and attainment. They are also utilized to estimate the effectiveness of educational programs. Another key advantage is that they are utilized to measure the improvement towards objectives and goals. Moreover, course-placement decisions are also made with summative evaluation.

3. They make academic records:

The results of summative evaluations are ones that are recorded as scores or grades into the students’ academic records. They can be in the format of test scores, letter grades or report cards which can be used in the college admission process. Many schools, districts, and courses consider summative evaluation as a major parameter in the grading system.

4. Provides opportunity:

The presence of summative evaluation is a motivator as it assists the individuals and offers them an opportunity to develop a learning environment. This is an evaluation meant for learning and is based on the outcome.

5. Boosts individuals:

The outcome of the summative evaluation is considered as a boosting factor when it’s positive. With this type of evaluation, confidence is boosted and also they act as a springboard to certain behavior change at a workplace or institution.

6. Weak areas can be identified:

With the help of summative evaluation results, trainers and instructors can find out weak areas where the results are steadily low. By this way, alternative methods can be utilized in order to improve the results. New training can be followed for future events focusing on success.

7. Training success can be measured:

This type of evaluation helps in determining the success of methods used for training programs. They are equated with others and evaluated.

8. They are tools for evaluation:

Summative evaluations are considered as tools, as they have the capability to evaluate the usefulness of any program, they work towards the improvement of the school or institution; they help in aligning curriculum and also helping students to get placed in the appropriate programs.

They assist a lot as they offer a lot of information in the classroom level. The other best advantage of summative evaluation is that they help in making instructional adjustments and interventions during the process of learning.

9. Instructional design:

The summative design is utilized as an evaluation technique in the course of instructional design. Depending on the intervention efficiency summative evaluation offers beneficial information. The value or worth of the intervention is judged by means of summative evaluation during the conclusion.

10. Measures educator performance:

With the help of summative evaluation, the supervisor can measure the educational faculty or the instructor. The level of performance of all the teachers, instructors can be measured by means of this evaluation. The school needs for teacher’s accountability is met by means of summative evaluation.

The evaluation is carried out with a form which has a checklist and few occasional narratives. Evaluation is also done on professionalism, classroom climate, planning, instruction, preparation and more.

11. Gains a better understanding:

When the summative evaluation is considered at organizational levels, they take place at project implementation times and most often by the end of the project. They can also be referred to as ex-post evaluation. This type of evaluation is linked with quantitative methods of data collection and more objective ones. They are associated with the evaluation drivers of accountability.

Hence to gain a better understanding of the project, summative evaluation utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methods. This also helps individuals understand why and what has occurred.

By employing qualitative methods for data collection, there is always a clear view of unintended consequences and ways for improvement.

12. Benefits for projects:

By following summative evaluation in organizations, the individuals can find out if their project has reached their goals and objectives planned for. The evaluation also helps to quantify changes in resource and also make use of attributable to the project. By this way, the impact of the project can be identified.

The evaluation assists in comparing the impact of various projects which leads to result based decisions for further spending allocations. The evaluation also paves a way for a better understanding of the changes that take place in the project, they assist in finding out what would work and what does not.

The reason for the same can also be found out. By all these parameters more knowledge is gained which helps in enhancing future project implementation and designs.

Disadvantages of Summative Evaluation:

With all the advantages mentioned, there are few disadvantages which need to be focused on before opting for a summative evaluation. Few of them are mentioned below.

1. Demotivates individuals:

It is mentioned that summative evaluation motivates individuals so that they put in more effort for their studies. When student motivation and its impact is reviewed, the evidence for policy and practice information and a coordinating center at the University of London found the relation that sustained between self-esteem and standardized tests.

It was found that there prevailed lower self-esteem by students who performed in a poor manner. This, in turn, led them to put in less effort towards their studies and for their future academic progress.

2. Rectification is late:

The main disadvantages of summative evaluation are that since it focuses on output at the end, in case there are hindrances or difficulties, the learning process at the end can be tough. There is no chance to recover as the results are at the end. This is not an accurate reflection when learning is considered.

3. Disruptive:

Since it is being a single test at the end of the complete session of academics, it makes almost all individuals anxious and disruptive. They face the summative evaluation with nervousness and fear.

4. No remedy:

Nothing is done to identify hindrances or challenges well in advance in a summative evaluation. Instructional issues are not identified until they blow up and become critical.

5. Not accurate reflection of learning:

When a summative evaluation is considered, it focuses mainly on the performance of the teachers as they teach to the test. A simple example is that when any state-level test focuses mainly on analogies and anagrams, students are interested in focusing and working on those exercises for hours. By this way, they divert from reading and writing or their vocabulary development .

Overall it is concluded that summative evaluation isn’t perfect because even an outstanding student may face questions that may bring them down. The main reason for that would be that a student gets nervous or tensed due to pressure for exams. Hence, summative evaluation is not considered as the best reflection for learning.

6. Negative effect for students:

Repeated practice test for low-achieving students lowers their self-confidence and self-esteem. The summative evaluation results have a negative effect on low achievers when they are more pronounced for students than for schools or authorities. Secondary age low-achievers may perform in a worse manner as they are failing in the course of time. It is also considered as a limiting process for more able individuals.

Anxiety is another reason which is caused in a big bang test especially amongst girls and leads to expanding the gap between higher and low achieving individuals. The extrinsic motivation which means that responding to some kind of reward is promoted in summative evaluation rather than intrinsic motivation which means that working for something they are interested and desire to work for.

7. Issues with teaching and curriculum:

The instructors and teachers work towards the test and deviate themselves from curriculum and content. There can be chances for distortion in terms of teaching techniques. The other disadvantage is that summative evaluation questions may not be framed in a manner similar to formative evaluation .

The instructors and teachers may themselves have to dedicate more time for summative evaluation which may not actually enhance an individual’s knowledge. With all this, teachers also adopt some didactic teaching style which may not be perfect and comfortable for many students.

8. Reliability and validity:

The evaluation must be developed in a manner that covers and reflects that complete content and how the material has been taught.

Tasks should also possess better consistency which is unavailable and the way they are marked internally and externally across various versions.

Reliability and validity errors are few factors that must be focused on with summative evaluation as they measure students’ performance.

9. Biasing:

Summative evaluations are considered to possess limited means of expression especially that standardized test which has a number of multiple-choice questions for automatic grading. This has the main disadvantage for many students which can be non-native speakers with less knowledge of the language, there are students who face cultural barriers and may face difficulties in understanding the questions, and there may be students with physical or learning disabilities and pupils who give a poor performance due to pressure in the testing conditions.

10. Authenticity:

There are more chances that summative evaluation measures the wrong aspects. Harvard University’s graduate school of education professor David Rose and the principal architect of universal design for learning suggest that the evaluation of students does not offer the right result or accurate information.

Questions in the summative evaluation are asked in a manner where they do not understand or unable to answer. These aspects cannot judge if a student knows the subject or not. The above listed are few advantages and disadvantages of summative evaluation. Teachers and students should gain knowledge of these and try for new steps to avoid disadvantages in the future.

The above listed are few advantages and disadvantages of summative evaluation. Teachers and students should gain knowledge of these and try for new steps to avoid disadvantages in the future. In order to improve summative evaluations and enhance the learning process, the teachers can follow a few hints. They can plan for a test after each learning session.


By this way, the material is covered and also a formative and summative evaluation of curriculum is done. Different kind of options for evaluation can be followed. When a standardized test or national tests are conducted, there is very little room for re-imagining.

A long-form test, a visual or audio presentation, an individual essay are few ways where students can explain the material in the medium. By this way they are comfortable and teachers can also capture a picture of their understanding. Education can be moved out of classrooms by making them contact with real-world application. By this way, pressure and stigma is eradicated where they also temp to avoid plagiarizing.

In order to improve summative evaluations and enhance the learning process, the teachers can follow a few characteristics of summative assessment. They can plan for a test after each learning session. By this way, the material and curriculum are also covered. Different kind of options for evaluation can be followed. When a standardized test or national tests are conducted, there is very little room for re-imagining.

These few parameters and features of summative evaluation can be beneficial for all readers. The best shots are explained in detail which can be followed, without a doubt, also the disadvantages are to be learned in order to have knowledge of the same.

The methods to adapt and rectify the cons are important to be followed to make summative evaluation a perfect one. Apart from these pointers, there are also many other sources which discuss the same about summative evaluations.


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The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey

Disadvantages of Summative Assessments

What are the Effects of Raising Hands in Class?

What are the Effects of Raising Hands in Class?

You believe that the bad score that you received on a final exam doesn't accurately reflect what you learned in a course. Maybe you had a splitting headache on the morning of the exam and couldn't concentrate. You ask for the opportunity to retake the test, but the teacher denies your request on the grounds that it wouldn't be fair to the other students. This scenario demonstrates one of the problems with summative, or after-the-fact, assessments that are used to grade overall performance over a period of time.

Educational assessments are formative or summative. Formative assessments are those things done during the learning process to help students improve their performance. Ungraded feedback on a draft of an essay is an example of formative assessment. Summative assessments are measurements of outcome to gauge what a student has learned and compare it against a standard or benchmark. Examples of summative forms of assessment include end-of-chapter tests, final exams and such large-scale standardized tests as the SAT.

Proponents of high-stakes summative assessments say that tests motivate students to put more effort into their studies. However, in a comprehensive review of the impact on student motivation, the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre at the University of London found a direct correlation between performance on national standardized tests and self-esteem. Students who did poorly experienced lowered self-esteem, which in turn reduced their willingness to put in the effort required for future academic success.

Reliability and Validity

To be free of distortion, an assessment must be constructed so that it accurately reflects the whole of the material it's intended to cover, including the way the material has been taught. There also needs to be consistency across tasks and how they are marked, both internally within the assessment and externally across different versions. Reliability and validity errors call into question the point of the summative assessment, which is to accurately measure student performance.

Curriculum Distortion

External summative assessments of students used to judge teacher and school performance can negatively impact what occurs in the classroom. With the perception that their jobs are at stake, teachers often feel enormous pressure to explicitly "teach the test" at the expense of other curriculum goals and objectives. A survey of teachers conducted by Harvard's Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism Education found 60 percent of the respondents stated that preparing students to pass mandated standardized tests either dictated most of their teaching or substantially affected it.

Summative assessments with limited means of expression, particularly large-scale standardized tests that use multiple choice for automated grading, may unfairly disadvantage large classes of students, including non-native speakers with language or cultural barriers to understanding the questions asked, those with physical or learning disabilities, or those who do not do well under the pressure of the testing conditions.


Summative assessment may measure the wrong things. Professor David Rose of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and principal architect of the Universal Design for Learning argues that the ways in which students are assessed do not provide accurate information about how they are doing. Questions are asked in ways that students do not understand or have difficulty answering. Neither of these get at whether the student really knows the material that was taught.

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Matthew Spira has over nine years of experience as an ESL teacher/tutor specializing in bilingual early childhood literacy development. Before teaching, he spent seven years in the call-center industry as a line supervisor, operations manager and workforce planning, forecasting and analysis manager. Spira holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Summative Assessments vs Formative Assessments

Summative assessments versus formative assessments: Which are better?

That depends on what you’re teaching, how you’re teaching, and who you’re teaching. Let’s look at the pros and cons of summative and formative assessments.

Summative and Formative Assessments

Summative assessments, which have been ingrained into teaching models for years, evaluate how much a student has learned at the end of a block of teaching. Summative assessments can include papers, exams, and final projects. Each student’s learning is compared against a standard or benchmark.

Formative assessments, which are gaining popularity in teaching, evaluate in “real time” how much a student has learned. Formative assessment can include strategic questioning (of one or all students), quizzes, tests that asks students to explain their thinking, and group projects.

Pros and Cons of Summative Assessments

Summative assessments can be helpful for students who are motivated by scores and grades and benefit from comparing themselves to other students. These types of assessments can also be helpful for teachers, because the collective scores of a group of students can indicate whether the teaching was effective. Summative assessments can also prepare students for tests that they’ll need to take throughout their lives, including standardized testing, SATs and ACTs, and even employment tests.

The main drawback to summative assessments is that they often compel teachers to “teach to the test.” With the increase in standardized testing that’s being required by many states and districts, testing has gotten a bad name, and for good reason. Summative assessments, at their worst, encourage memorization, rather than an understanding of the subject matter.

Pros and Cons of Formative Assessments

Formative assessments provide instant feedback for teachers, allowing them to see how well students have grasped the material and to immediately adjust their teaching styles and curriculum. Formative assessments also can encourage students to participate and can increase cooperation among students. For students who “test poorly,” this type of assessment gives teachers a more accurate view of what students are actually learning, not just what they’re able to recount in a test. Best of all, formative assessments are effective tools in personalized learning .

The disadvantage of formative assessments is that they can take time, more time than teachers might perceive that they have. To repeatedly check students’ learning takes more time than to administer one test at the end of a lesson or unit. The more time the formative assessments consume, the less time there is for teaching. Also, some students don’t respond to formative assessments as well as they do to summative assessments. Students accustomed to earning points and grades might not be as motivated if their “achievements” aren’t measured.

Education 4 Equity

At Education 4 Equity, we offer a 1-credit online course on Formative Assessments To Heighten Engagement, Guide Instruction, and Improve Learning . We also have some of the best professional development courses for teachers, delivered 100% online . We have 1-credit, 2-credit, and 3-credit online courses for teachers that qualify for graduate level credit and have been approved for LAUSD salary points through the Los Angeles Unified School District.

summative assessment disadvantages

What are The Disadvantages of Summative Assessment

Back to: Measurement and Evaluation in Education B.ed Notes, M.A Notes, IGNOU Notes and Graduation Notes

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Summative Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know

Weeks or months of study in a classroom generally culminate in a summative assessment. This refers to a test that evaluates a student’s comprehension of the material covered thus far. While other measures, such as homework and quizzes, cover potential or progress made, the essence of a summative assessment is more black and white — either the material has been learned (and taught) or not. As a result, these necessary but controversial assessments bring a lot of stress to both educators and students. Below are some of the key points about end of year assessments and tips for success.

Though they aren’t necessarily fun for teachers and students, summative assessments have a lot of advantages. They provide motivation for students to study and pay attention in class, particularly as they get older and grades become a major indicator of success in college or the working world. They also give great insight to teachers: if none of the children in a class score above a 2 or 3 on an AP exam, it is much more likely to be the result of poor or off-topic instruction than a class of students unable to complete the work.

Precisely because summative assessments reflect so closely on teacher performance, many instructors are accused of “teaching to the test.” In other words, if a state test is known to heavily favor anagrams or analogies, students may be asked to spend hours drilling those exercises instead of reading and writing to grow their vocabularies naturally. Conversely, no assessment is perfect, so even students with excellent knowledge of the material may run into questions that trip them up, especially if they get nervous under pressure. As a result, summative assessment is not always the most accurate reflection of learning.

Measurements and markers

Summative assessment gives students a level, usually numerical, and placement in which they can be compared against both other students and the standards for their grade. This is most commonly seen in:

Performance is often shown both in percentage of questions answered right, and by comparing performance with the rest of the class, state, or nation. A student scoring in the 90th percentile, for example, completed more questions correctly than 90 percent of other test-takers. This sort of competition indicates benchmark performances and helps admissions officers make informed decisions, but it can also cause undue anxiety for students who struggle more than their peers in certain areas.

Unique adaptations

There are non-traditional ways to use summative assessments to enhance the learning process. Many teachers find it useful to:

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summative assessment disadvantages

Disadvantages Of Summative Assessment

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1.2 Explain The Importance Of Formative Assessment In Research

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2:1 Compare the strengths and limitations of assessments of a range of assessment methods with reference to the needs of individual learners.

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Standardized testing: the nightmare of every student’s school year. There are many problems with the state using standardized testing as a measure of a student’s success in the classroom. One of these reasons is that some students are just not good test-takers. People are still not realizing the problems with standardized testing, as in the US, all 50 states require students to take these tests. Standardized tests are not just a worry for students, they are also an inconvenience to teachers. Eighty-five percent of teachers even go as far as saying that the school gives less attention to topics that are not on the standardized tests.

Pros And Cons Of Common Core Ula Tests

Justin Murphy’s writing on, “More Parents Keeping Kids From State Tests” is in favor for the new Common Core ELA tests. It begins by stating the huge reason as to why many people are against these tests. A strong link is made between students and teachers on the attack for the new tests and that link lies in the student’s test scores and teacher evaluations. Since the scores can be linked to how well a teacher has taught a subject, the teachers themselves are angry because the low test scores their students receive, reflect the teachers’ efforts. Charter schools and business organizations are supporters of the state testing regime. They say that tests are politically motivated and insensitive to achievement disparities. People in favor for the tests say that these tests are crucial in that they tell us the progress in our students and because progress is essential to know in bettering our education system, they must be taken and not

Army Design Methodology

This paper will address two focused areas central to decisive action. The first focused area will answer the question: Explain the five tools and techniques of reframing within the Army Deesign Methodology (ADM). Furthermore, demonstrate how they are related and the process of reframing. The second focused area will answer the question: Explain how critical and creative thinking supports ADM to understand situations. Moreover, demonstrate how critical and creative thinking supports a commander to make informed decisions.

LO1. Be able to negotiate industry experience in the business or job and address the following

Importance Of Feedback In Learning

Feedback is a significant element in determination of education quality as well as in effective learning where it portrays the learning outcomes for students and the successes for the tutors. There are many aspects that concern educationists with regards to feedback but the relationship between perspectives of learning as well as teaching and feedback stands as the most important among them. Feedback should be conveyed in different modes in a learning environment but whatever mode chosen creates room for dialogue between the tutor and students. Therefore, it is only through feedback that the student engagement relationship with the feedback as well as the tutors’ perceptions of learning, teaching and assessment that such successes can be established.

More about Disadvantages Of Summative Assessment

Related topics.

Academy for Teaching and Learning

Summative assessment.

In contrast to formative assessment , summative assessment evaluates a student’s knowledge of material at a given point in time in relation to previously-determined learning goals. Summative assessment is often more formal and higher-stakes than formative assessment and used to inform judgments about student competency or learning.

Designing Summative Assessments

There are multiple ways to assess students’ learning, and these methods do not necessarily differ between formative and summative assessment. Rather, the distinction between the two mostly depends on how an instructor plans to use the gathered information (Brookhart, 2004).  Common forms of assessment include paper-and-pencil assessments (e.g., multiple-choice tests, short-answer tests), performance assessments (e.g., essays, research projects, laboratory practical exams, oral exams), as well as less-common forms like instructor observations, portfolios, and peer- and self-assessments (Brookhart, 2004; Dixon and Worrell, 2016; Kibble, 2017). The type of assessment an instructor should use depends predominantly on the learning goals the instructor has set for the course, the level of learning the instructor plans to evaluate, and the type of feedback the instructor plans to provide (Brookhart, 2004). Learning taxonomies, such as Bloom’s taxonomy, may be helpful for instructors to review as they design their summative assessments.

There are two main concerns when creating or evaluating a measure of summative assessment: validity and reliability . For a summative assessment tool to have validity , it should effectively measure what an instructor has intended for it to measure. For instance, instructors should make sure that their summative assessments are adequately capturing student learning both in relation to the overall learning objectives and the level of knowledge the student should be demonstrating (e.g., lower- versus higher-order thinking; (Brookhart, 2004; Dolin, Black, Harlen, & Tiberghien, 2017). 

Reliability , on the other hand, relates to how well a student’s learning is being assessed. It is commonly thought of as how reproducible or consistent the outcomes will be from test to test. Instructors must ensure that measures of student learning will not change based on the context of the assessment, e.g., if another rater is used. When decisions made from the test are high-stakes, the reliability of a given assessment should be as high as possible.

After instructors have assessed student learning, they must decide what information to provide back to the students. Common forms of feedback include objective scores (e.g., using an answer key to determine if a response is correct), subjective judgments (e.g., using a rubric to make decisions about the quality of a response), or written feedback (Brookhart, 2004). Instructors should seek to provide feedback that is informative for both themselves and their students. Feedback that informs instructor decisions as well as student learning is not only more useful to all involved but can also be used to create a foundation of mutual respect and transparency in the classroom.

Challenges of Summative Assessment

The decisions a teacher makes based on summative assessment tools such as exams and presentations have real-world consequences on students, instructors, and academic organizations. In addition to more traditional assessment outcomes (e.g., grades), summative assessments can also affect students’ ability to pursue certain coursework (e.g., introductory courses or courses required for advancement into a major) and occupations, as well as affecting their self-perceptions (Kibble, 2017).

Because of its higher-stakes nature and role in judgments of student learning, summative assessment tends to be linked to feelings of fear and anxiety (Harrison, Könings, Schuwirth, Wass, & van der Vleuten, 2015). Students often view summative assessments as opportunities for failure rather than opportunities to demonstrate their skills or competencies. As a result, students who achieve their desired outcome (e.g., a passing grade) have low or no motivation to consider the feedback they receive through these assessments. Separately, students often have difficulty understanding the relationship between summative assessment and real-world applications. Instead, these assessments are seen as hurdles to be overcome in order to progress to the next course or program. By better tying summative assessment and its associated judgments to proficiencies, instructors can make the utility of summative assessment clearer for their students.

Integrating Formative and Summative Assessment

Although formative and summative assessment are often discussed as dichotomous concepts, the two are more appropriately conceived as being on a continuum. Many original conceptualizations of formative assessment include summative assessment as a necessary component before any feedback can be provided (Taras, 2005). More recent thinking about the relationship between the two suggests more of a cyclical relationship. Formative assessments that measure students’ individual progress can be used to set the stage for later more summative, criterion-based assessment (Dolin, Black, Harlen, & Tiberghien, 2017).

Rather than being opposed to one another, formative and summative assessment can often take the same form or can be collected in combination (Brookhart, 2004; Dolin, Black, Harlen, & Tiberghien, 2017). Instructors can combine formative and summative assessments by collecting more formal types of formative assessment during the course and summatively assessing students’ most recent or most demonstrative work after a period of time. Alternatively, instructors can connect their formative and summative assessments by using similar or aligned measures throughout the course. In this case, students are overtly aware of the competencies and skills being taught and are not surprised by the material during more formal testing.

summative assessment disadvantages

Example of the Assessment Cycle

Brookhart, S. M. (2004). Assessment theory for college classrooms. New Directions for Teaching and Learning , 100 , 5-14. doi: 10.1002/tl.165

Dixon, D. D., & Worrell, F. C. (2016). Formative and summative assessment in the classroom. Theory into Practice , 55 , 153-159. doi: 10.1080/00405841.2016.1148989

Dolin, J., Black, P., Wynne, H., & Tiberghien, A. (2017). Exploring relations between formative and summative assessment. In J. Dolin & R. Evans (Eds.), Transforming assessment: Through an interplay between practice, research, and policy . Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, pp. 54-80.

Harrison, C. J., Könings, K. D., Schuwirth, L., Wass, V., & van der Vleuten, C. (2015). Barriers to the uptake and use of feedback in the context of summative assessment. Advances in Health Sciences Education , 20 , 229-245. doi: 10.1007/s10459-014-9524-6

Kibble, J. D. (2017). Best practices in summative assessment. Advances in Physiology Education , 41 , 110-119. doi: 10.1152/advan.00116.2016

Taras, M. (2005). Assessment – summative and formative – Some theoretical reflections. British Journal of Educational Studies , 53 , 466-478. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8527.2005.00307.

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