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Assessments discussed on #edchats


Posted on Jun 13, 2013

This past Tuesday, the topic of discussion for #edchat was “What is the result of educators not fully understanding the differences between summative and formative assessments?” It quickly became obvious that most of the practitioners who participated in #edchat are fervent supporters of formative assessments, which are defined as on-going assessments, reviews, and observations in a classroom. Generally speaking, many feel that summative assessments (the examination given at the end of the learning process) puts too much emphasis on grading, rather than learning, and that the results from summative assessments do not precipitate meaningful changes or responses.

Paper pointing arrows at the words A,B,C, and D.Essentially, formative assessments are meant to tell teachers, students, and parents where a student is at in his or her learning process. Summative assessments can tell these same people what a student learned, which is arguably necessary. However, many practitioners made the case that testing has become more about generating grades than anything else. @drdouggreen admitted that “some teachers just use formative assessments to generate grades,” rather than using the feedback from formative assessments as information to base their teaching on. This indicates that maybe teachers do not see a distinction between summative and formative assessments, but rather simply see assessments as a means to give a grade so that parents and administrators have an easily-comprehended metric.

While many voiced support for formative assessments, arguing that formative assessments “seem to be more essential to learning” than summative assessments, there was at least one outspoken supporter of summative assessments in the #edchat. @DataDiva owner Jennifer Borgioli argued that “there has to be some sort of summative at the end of learning. A life without summative assessment is practice, never performance. Rehearsals, never opening night.” @DataDiva made the distinction that formative and summative assessments are essentially the same thing. The only difference is the timing and response to the assessments, and she makes a strong argument in favor of summative assessments. At the end of the day, accomplishment needs to be gauged. Her discussion on the similarities and differences between summative and formative assessments also serve to support a key prior argument: formative assessments are only good if teachers are willing to use the results of assessments to alter their teaching. Formative assessment is indeed a key component of the learning process and will enrich the quality of learning, so administrators should provide teachers the flexibility to prioritize quality of learning over emphasis on summative assessments like state tests.

Josh Luthi is a computer science student at the University of Kansas and has a penchant for politics.

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