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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