Formative or Summative? That is the Question.

Erica Peron School Leadership Resources

Students are back in their seats and inevitably they will take assessments.  The type of assessment is completely up to you as their teacher. So, what will it be: formative or summative? Such goes the age-old question. When people think assessment, they tend to think scantrons and number 2 pencils, but this is not always the case as this topic has evolved in recent years as well as teachers’ reasons for assessing.

Formative assessments provide both students and teachers with the information they need to improve the learning process right now. This is an ongoing assessment that may or may not be graded.  This assessment is seen more as an opportunity to examine the results and use those to inform instruction in the classroom right away. You might give a quiz and realize that more than half of your class has not captured the concept, so instead of trudging forward, you reteach and reassess.  Being able to push the pause button on moving forward with a new concept and making sure they truly grasped the first concept is exactly what formative assessments are about.

Examples of formative assessments include:
• Quizzes
• Lesson exit tickets
• Classroom polls
• A written summary of a lesson

Summative assessments aim to evaluate student learning and achievement and is generally administered at the end of a unit or course. Summative assessments occur only a few times over the academic year and always yield a specific point value. Because they are broader in scope and measure learning over a longer period, they tend to have higher stakes.  Remember that this assessment provides a snapshot of how students are performing at a particular point in time.

Examples of summative assessments include:
• End of term or midterm exams
• End of unit or chapter tests
• Cumulative work such as a creative portfolio or final project
• State exams

Both formative and summative assessments collect useful, important information.  However, in the end, it is what you do with the assessments that make it either or. Getting state exam results and putting them in a data binder makes them just results.  It is the actions you take with the information that determine their true use.


Need some tips on how to prevent School Leader burnout? See our highlights below or click here to read the full article.

  1. Have a regular routine of self-care.

Regular time outdoors, a spiritual practice, or a gratitude journal are all research-proven ways to help leaders prevent a downwards slides towards burnout.

  1. Learn to regularly unplug from your devices.

Taking one night off a week is a small price to pay for continued energy and it’s also great modeling and permission for your team so they don’t get burned out as well!

  1. Become more discerning about the work you take on (when possible) and learn to clearly communicate what you can and cannot realistically handle.

Notice if your energy is being diverted to worries or other negative thought patterns and then take action to adopt a more productive mindset.

  1. Become aware of the signs of burnout, especially in terms of its onset and progression.

If a leader learns the signs of burnout and checks in with themselves every month or so, they can catch it much earlier.