Pros & Cons of Different Summative Assessments
A few weeks ago, we discussed the best formative assessments to use in your classroom, whether online or in person. I like using formative assessments to gauge where my students are in their understanding.
Today we are going to look at the pros and cons of summative assessments, and when we should use the different types of summative assessments.
What is the Difference between Formative and Summative Assessments?
As we’ve discussed, formative and summative assessments serve two different purposes.
Formative assessments are used before or during learning to gauge both what students understand and what they need more time to learn.
Summative assessments are used at the end of the learning process to determine what information students retained. Summative assessments are given at the end of a teaching unit. This particular type of assessment is what you will keep in your academic record for your students.
The Pros and Cons of Summative Assessments
Although there are many pros to summative assessments, some cons need to be considered.
Pros of Summative Assessments:
- Gauge student understanding.
- Use in academic records.
- Help identify weak areas in students.
- Accelerate individuals who already mastered the material.
- Help assess how well you teach (how you present, type of instruction, etc.)
Cons of Summative Assessments:
- Can demote individuals (students who don’t perform well.)
- Can be disruptive for the class (stressful for students.)
- Not always the perfect gauge of student understanding (students don’t always test well.)
- Students could underperform due to a poorly made assessment.
- In most schools, there isn’t time to address students’ weaknesses found by assessments.
Although there are many pros and cons, the good news is that you can be well on your way to utilizing the summative assessment to its highest form with the right combination of assessment types and grade weight.
What Are The Best Types of Summative Assessments?
Just like formative assessments, there are many different types of summative assessments. Here are some of my favorites!
A book report is a great way to gauge what your students have retained from a novel. You can format a book report to look like your standard essay or get more creative with it. Either way, a book report is a summative assessment that empowers students with its flexibility and creativity. It doesn’t leave them wondering how to answer that one question on the exam. It also allows students to ask questions about things they don’t understand, which they can’t do during a test.
A graded test is a surefire way to assess knowledge. A well-written test is one of the most valuable tools a teacher can have. A word of warning, tests can have many different components. The best tests assess knowledge in multiple ways, so students do not only see one question style. Underlying issues or disabilities can affect students’ ability to reason through different types of questions. Also, double-check that most students aren’t missing the same question – that can indicate a problem with the question or that the information needs to be retaught.
Your upper elementary and middle school students love to talk to each other, so make it educational! Give students a topic and have them research it in depth so they can discuss it in class. For more information on Socratic Seminars, check out ReadWriteThink’s article, Socratic Seminars.
The Living Museum or Science Fair
This type of summative assessment works well because it engages students with student choice and creativity. These types of assessments often appeal to students who don’t necessarily do well on a test.
These summative assessments are a fun thing for students to do, but also know your student population. Students may not have access to materials to dress up, or their parents may not be able to help them complete a project.
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.