The Office of Faculty Development

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment summarizes the knowledge or skills of a student.  Final exams are a common type of summative assessment.  Summative assessment is often what is thought of when thinking of traditional assessment via quizzes, exams, or papers assigned at the end of a unit or term.  While there are common forms of traditional summative assessment with which students and instructors may be familiar, both the format of a summative assessment and the outcomes for student can vary significantly.

A common type of summative assessment, the performance assessment, assesses the performance of its examinees in a setting (or with a task) that models or is the actual setting in which the attained knowledge or skills are to actually be used.  That is, it authentically assesses how students perform the actual skills or demonstrate the actual knowledge being assessed.

Summative assessment may be used for more than assigning final grades as well.  Summative assessment data may be used in a formative manner, allowing for adjustments to planning of future lessons based on the needs of students and providing students with feedback on how to continue to advance their learning.  Summative assessment may also be used as a learning experience, where students are able to deepen their understanding of the content addressed by the assessment.  Theses and dissertations are a type of summative assessment that may do this.

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    Examine selected research on summative assessment:

    Yorke, M. (2011). Summative assessment: dealing with the “measurement fallacy.” Studies in Higher Education (Dorchester-on-Thames)36(3), 251–273. in new window)

    Taras, M.  (2005).  Assessment: Summative and formative: Some theoretical reflections.  British journal of educational studies.  53(4) 466-478. in new window)

    Khan, K., & Ramachandran, S. (2012). Conceptual framework for performance assessment: Competency, competence and performance in the context of assessments in healthcare - Deciphering the terminology. Medical Teacher34(11), 920–928. in new window)


    Ready to apply what you have learned about summative assessment to your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    1. Review your syllabus, learning outcomes, and assessments to evaluate how well your assessments align with your identified outcomes.
    2. Review your syllabus or semester plan and find a summative assessment that you require students to complete individually.  Redesign the assessment to incorporate collaboration.
    3. Consider using this course map template (Google Doc) to identify assignments, activities and assessments for different learning objectives.

    Explore the 9 examples given in the blog post(opens in new window) below by Prodigy Game and plan an assessment modeled after one of the suggestions.