3 Chapter Three: Formative and Summative Assessments


An assessment plan must come first, not last, in the educational process.

Classroom assessment “appears to be one of the most potent forces influencing education.” (Cooks, 1998).



Formative Assessment

Formative assessment refers to the ongoing process that teachers and students engage in when selecting a learning goal(s), taking stock of current student performance is in relation to the goal, and the action steps needed to move students closer to the goal.  This ongoing process is implemented through informal assessments, assessments that can easily be incorporated in the day-to-day classroom activities and that measure the students’ performance and progress.  Informal assessments are content and performance driven and include questioning of and discussion with students, student work (exit slips; assignments), and direct observation of students working. Rather than being used for grading, this ongoing formative assessment (that gather data for learning) is used to inform instructional planning decisions.  Unlike informal assessments, formal assessments are summative assessments (that gather data of learning) that are used to assess students’ academic achievement and evaluate how students perform when compared to a larger group of students.  Formal assessments include standardized tests that are graded in a formulated manner (ie: criterion-referenced tests, norm-referenced tests, achievement tests, and aptitude tests).

Formative assessment data is used to guide instruction.  It is collected in a pre-assessment prior to the creation of lesson objectives and instructional activities (as outlined in the previous chapter), as well as throughout a lesson (informally during learning activities and often through a post assessment implemented in the closing of a lesson.  This formative data is informative regarding students’ current performance related to the content standard/objective.  As addressed in chapter two, the resulting assessment data must be organized and analyzed to effectively inform the appropriate ‘next steps’ in moving students towards their academic goals.  Knowing details regarding exactly what students understand/can do guides the determination of appropriate lesson objectives (and often flexible groupings) for subsequent lessons.

This cycle of formative assessment continues throughout a unit of instruction, which often ends with a summative assessment of learning.

(What Teachers Really Need to Know About Formative Assessment by Laura Greenstein, ASCD)

Organizing Data 

It is expected that assessments implemented in the closing of a lesson clearly align with, or target, the lesson’s objective.  Numerical data that can be analyzed and reflected upon must be presented.  Additionally, qualitative data (often in the form of descriptive observation notes) is critical to modifying instruction according to students’ needs.  This feedback should be collected in an organized manner so that it may be analyzed in a way that informs future instruction.  One way to do so is the use of:

Clipboards and Post-its

Circle the room with a clipboard to track student engagement and progress during independent and group work. Then, use the notes to follow-up with direct, quick feedback to students. Notes can later be transferred to student folders, binders, or checklists following the lesson.

Class Checklists and Data Forms

Use a template (such as one made in a Google Doc) to create a helpful document on which to organize data.  It is quite simple to use repeatedly for varying sets of data and may look like this:

Student Problem #1 Problem #2 Problem #3 Problem #4 Total/Notes
J.D.           +              +             –              + 3/4; M/not labeling; copied incorrectly
A.B.           +              +             –               – 2/4; NM/misidentifying factors
E.T.           +               +             +               + 4/4; E/enrichment
P.K.           –              +             –              – 1/4; NM/basic facts; not labeling
R.W.          +              +              +               – 3/4; E/ copied incorrectly
Key:                NM: did not meet expectations      M: met expectations      E: exceeded expectations


Graphs can be used to show students’ performance data visually and can be especially helpful to consider patterns of understanding across groups of students.  Observing individual student performance and adding related anecdotal notes of error analysis is a necessary addition to graphs, which most commonly provide holistic or whole class results.


Many teachers are using smartphones to record students’ conversations as they circulate to various areas of the classroom.  This provides opportunities to observe more than one group’s discussion at a time.  iPads and apps like FlipGrid are also often used to collect student thoughts and reflections which provide invaluable information regarding student understanding.

Formative Pre-Assessment Data in the GSC Lesson Plan

In your lesson planning at Granite State College, you are expected to present a description, date, and numerical data from a pre-assessment that provides evidence of the students’ need in relation to the lesson objective.  Analysis of this data must be presented that addresses patterns of understanding and misunderstanding in students’ work.

It is vital that lesson objectives are determined as a result of the analysis of students’ pre-assessment data and that planned post-assessment (an exit ticket or other end of lesson assessment) directly align to the lesson objective.  This post-assessment will serve as a formative assessment to plan the ‘next steps’ in future lessons and will be addressed as you reflect on your instruction.

Consider how you will record and organize student assessment data (whether during or after the lesson) in a way that promotes data analysis.  Describe the process you plan to take to track, organize, and analyze the data you gather during your lesson.  In sequential lessons be sure that the assessment considers the data gathered in the preceding lesson.  Show any adjustments in a new color or font.

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment is implemented at the end of a unit and is used to evaluate students’ mastery of content.  Examples include a final project, test, written report, or performance task.  This assessment is typically graded or used to mark students’ progress toward a competency.


Formative and Summative Assessment in the GSC Lesson Plan

The GSC lesson plan intentionally asks students to consider the lesson assessment immediately following the writing of the lesson objective and analysis of pretest data so that planning of instruction is done with ‘the end in mind’, a backward design planning approach (Cite UbD).

First, consider what mastery of the lesson objective looks like.  Consider what students will be able to say and do once they have fully mastered the lesson objective.  Design an assessment that provides an opportunity for students to do these things.  Consider including open ended opportunities in which students are able to show the depth of their understanding (in regard to the objective).  Describe the assessment you design and provide an image of it directly in section 3a, or refer to it and attach a copy in the appendices


GSC’s Aligned Lesson Plan Section

GSC’s Aligned LOFT Evaluation Criteria

GSC’s Aligned Lesson Plan Rubric Criteria



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GSC Lesson Planning 101 by Deborah Kolling and Kate Shumway-Pitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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