Testing is often hotly debated amongst educators but whether it’s a pop quiz, end-of-unit assessment or state standardized test, tests are an integral part of the learning process and essential to providing teachers with insights into how to better support student success. By understanding the differences between the different types of assessments teachers use, you will have the necessary background knowledge to build the types of assessments teachers really need into your products.
Formative Assessments: By definition, formative assessments can be formal or informal but are used as a tool to adjust teaching throughout a unit based on student mastery of concepts. Basically, formative assessments check for understanding and give teachers a “snapshot” of what students have learned and what still needs additional instruction. Formative assessments provide the building blocks for future learning. Here are some quick formative assessments I commonly use.
I like exit tickets because it provides instant feedback! Exit tickets are meant to be a short, thoughtful activity. They require students to summarize their learning for the day. They can be written or verbal.
Journaling is a great way for teachers to learn what students think they’ve learned and how they feel about the learning process. I frequently ask students to complete one (or more) of these sentences as their daily journal entry.
I can quickly see if a learning objective is met with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down. I have students pick one of the three choices:
1. Thumbs up=they understand,
2. Thumbs down =they don’t understand,
3. Thumbs in the middle =they need a little more practice.
These allow students to share information in a safe learning environment. Students can check their understanding in a smaller setting that then allows them to share with a larger group. I often use choral responses to make sure we are on track with our learning as well.
I have used devices and apps to help me get a quick check of my students’ learning. Most of these apps require very little prep work to use, which teachers love!
Now let’s look at how summative assessments fit into the picture.
When thinking of Summative Assessments, think of the root “sum” or providing a summary of what students know. Basically summative assessments are given at certain checkpoints throughout the year. End of chapter, semester, or year. They are given to check mastery on a subject. Ideally, a pre- and post-test should be administered. High stakes testing is an example of a summative assessment. There has been a lot of discussions about summative assessment and the pressures it puts on teachers and students. However, summative assessments are an essential part of the educational system because it’s the “proof” of learning.
Preparing for Summative Tests All Year Long
“Test prep” shouldn’t take place a few weeks before a high stakes test; it needs to be incorporated throughout the school year. And test prep isn’t just about taking practice tests. Here are a few things I make sure are a part of the daily classroom routine that will help students excel.
Both formative and summative assessments are essential for learning. Formative assessments help students prepare for summative assessments, and both types of assessments provide teachers with valuable data to make sure their students are on track, meeting learning milestones and end the year filled with the knowledge they need to move on successfully to the next grade.
Over the years, the names of state standardized tests have changed. Depending on the district, there may be more than one test administered. However, testing remains constant. Keeping current with the names of the tests used in states and districts can be helpful, but knowing key concepts and the “why” behind each of the tests is what you really need to understand in order to build effective assessment tools and resources into your product.