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Formative Assessment

Formative assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course. Formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring, or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that adjustments can be made to lessons, instructional techniques, and academic support .

The general goal of formative assessment is to collect detailed information that can be used to improve instruction and student learning while it’s happening . What makes an assessment “formative” is not the design of a test, technique, or self-evaluation, per se, but the way it is used—i.e., to inform in-process teaching and learning modifications.

Formative assessments are commonly contrasted with summative assessments , which are used to evaluate student learning progress and achievement at the conclusion of a specific instructional period—usually at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year. In other words, formative assessments are for learning, while summative assessments are of learning. Or as assessment expert Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s summative assessment.” It should be noted, however, that the distinction between formative and summative is often fuzzy in practice, and educators may hold divergent interpretations of and opinions on the subject.

Many educators and experts believe that formative assessment is an integral part of effective teaching. In contrast with most summative assessments, which are deliberately set apart from instruction, formative assessments are integrated into the teaching and learning process. For example, a formative-assessment technique could be as simple as a teacher asking students to raise their hands if they feel they have understood a newly introduced concept, or it could be as sophisticated as having students complete a self-assessment of their own writing (typically using a rubric outlining the criteria) that the teacher then reviews and comments on. While formative assessments help teachers identify learning needs and problems, in many cases the assessments also help students develop a stronger understanding of their own academic strengths and weaknesses. When students know what they do well and what they need to work harder on, it can help them take greater responsibility over their own learning and academic progress.

While the same assessment technique or process could, in theory, be used for either formative or summative purposes, many summative assessments are unsuitable for formative purposes because they do not provide useful feedback. For example, standardized-test scores may not be available to teachers for months after their students take the test (so the results cannot be used to modify lessons or teaching and better prepare students), or the assessments may not be specific or fine-grained enough to give teachers and students the detailed information they need to improve.

The following are a few representative examples of formative assessments:

  • Questions that teachers pose to individual students and groups of students during the learning process to determine what specific concepts or skills they may be having trouble with. A wide variety of intentional questioning strategies may be employed, such as phrasing questions in specific ways to elicit more useful responses.
  • Specific, detailed, and constructive feedback that teachers provide on student work , such as journal entries, essays, worksheets, research papers, projects, ungraded quizzes, lab results, or works of art, design, and performance. The feedback may be used to revise or improve a work product, for example.
  • “Exit slips” or “exit tickets” that quickly collect student responses to a teacher’s questions at the end of a lesson or class period. Based on what the responses indicate, the teacher can then modify the next lesson to address concepts that students have failed to comprehend or skills they may be struggling with. “Admit slips” are a similar strategy used at the beginning of a class or lesson to determine what students have retained from previous learning experiences .
  • Self-assessments that ask students to think about their own learning process, to reflect on what they do well or struggle with, and to articulate what they have learned or still need to learn to meet course expectations or learning standards.
  • Peer assessments that allow students to use one another as learning resources. For example, “workshopping” a piece of writing with classmates is one common form of peer assessment, particularly if students follow a rubric or guidelines provided by a teacher.

In addition to the reasons addressed above, educators may also use formative assessment to:

  • Refocus students on the learning process and its intrinsic value, rather than on grades or extrinsic rewards.
  • Encourage students to build on their strengths rather than fixate or dwell on their deficits. (For a related discussion, see growth mindset .)
  • Help students become more aware of their learning needs, strengths, and interests so they can take greater responsibility over their own educational growth. For example, students may learn how to self-assess their own progress and self-regulate their behaviors.
  • Give students more detailed, precise, and useful information. Because grades and test scores only provide a general impression of academic achievement, usually at the completion of an instructional period, formative feedback can help to clarify and calibrate learning expectations for both students and parents. Students gain a clearer understanding of what is expected of them, and parents have more detailed information they can use to more effectively support their child’s education.
  • Raise or accelerate the educational achievement of all students, while also reducing learning gaps and achievement gaps .

While the formative-assessment concept has only existed since the 1960s, educators have arguably been using “formative assessments” in various forms since the invention of teaching. As an intentional school-improvement strategy, however, formative assessment has received growing attention from educators and researchers in recent decades. In fact, it is now widely considered to be one of the more effective instructional strategies used by teachers, and there is a growing body of literature and academic research on the topic.

Schools are now more likely to encourage or require teachers to use formative-assessment strategies in the classroom, and there are a growing number of professional-development opportunities available to educators on the subject. Formative assessments are also integral components of personalized learning and other educational strategies designed to tailor lessons and instruction to the distinct learning needs and interests of individual students.

While there is relatively little disagreement in the education community about the utility of formative assessment, debates or disagreements may stem from differing interpretations of the term. For example, some educators believe the term is loosely applied to forms of assessment that are not “truly” formative, while others believe that formative assessment is rarely used appropriately or effectively in the classroom.

Another common debate is whether formative assessments can or should be graded. Many educators contend that formative assessments can only be considered truly formative when they are ungraded and used exclusively to improve student learning. If grades are assigned to a quiz, test, project, or other work product, the reasoning goes, they become de facto summative assessments—i.e., the act of assigning a grade turns the assessment into a performance evaluation that is documented in a student’s academic record, as opposed to a diagnostic strategy used to improve student understanding and preparation before they are given a graded test or assignment.

Some educators also make a distinction between “pure” formative assessments—those that are used on a daily basis by teachers while they are instructing students—and “interim” or “benchmark” assessments, which are typically periodic or quarterly assessments used to determine where students are in their learning progress or whether they are on track to meeting expected learning standards. While some educators may argue that any assessment method that is used diagnostically could be considered formative, including interim assessments, others contend that these two forms of assessment should remain distinct, given that different strategies, techniques, and professional development may be required.

Some proponents of formative assessment also suspect that testing companies mislabel and market some interim standardized tests as “formative” to capitalize on and profit from the popularity of the idea. Some observers express skepticism that commercial or prepackaged products can be authentically formative, arguing that formative assessment is a sophisticated instructional technique, and to do it well requires both a first-hand understanding of the students being assessed and sufficient training and professional development.

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Teaching excellence & educational innovation, what is the difference between formative and summative assessment, formative assessment.

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments are generally low stakes , which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:

  • draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
  • submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
  • turn in a research proposal for early feedback

Summative assessment

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

Summative assessments are often high stakes , which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

  • a midterm exam
  • a final project
  • a senior recital

Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

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Formative Assessment of Teaching

What is formative assessment of teaching.

How do you know if your teaching is effective? How can you identify areas where your teaching can improve? What does it look like to assess teaching?

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment of teaching consists of different approaches to continuously evaluate your teaching. The insight gained from this assessment can support revising your teaching strategies, leading to better outcomes in student learning and experiences. Formative assessment can be contrasted with summative assessment, which is usually part of an evaluative decision-making process. The table below outlines some of the key differences between formative and summative assessment: 

By participating in formative assessment, instructors connect with recent developments in the space of teaching and learning, as well as incorporate new ideas into their practice. Developments may include changes in the students we serve, changes in our understanding of effective teaching, and changes in expectations of the discipline and of higher education as a whole.

Formative assessment of teaching ultimately should guide instructors towards using more effective teaching practices. What does effectiveness mean in terms of teaching?

Effectiveness in Teaching

Effective teaching can be defined as teaching that leads to the intended outcomes in student learning and experiences. In this sense, there is no single perfect teaching approach. Effective teaching looks will depend on the stated goals for student learning and experiences. A course that aims to build student confidence in statistical analysis and a course that aims to develop student writing could use very different teaching strategies, and still both be effective at accomplishing their respective goals. 

Assessing student learning and experiences is critical to determining if teaching is truly effective in its context. This assessment can be quite complex, but it is doable. In addition to measuring the impacts of your teaching, you may also consider evaluating your teaching as it aligns with best practices for evidence-based teaching especially in the disciplinary and course context or aligns with your intended teaching approach. The table below outlines these three approaches to assessing the effectiveness of your teaching:

What are some strategies that I might try? 

There are multiple ways that instructors might begin to assess their teaching. The list below includes approaches that may be done solo, with colleagues, or with the input of students. Instructors may pursue one or more of these strategies at different points in time. With each possible strategy, we have included several examples of the strategy in practice from a variety of institutions and contexts.

Teaching Portfolios

Teaching portfolios are well-suited for formative assessment of teaching, as the portfolio format lends itself to documenting how your teaching has evolved over time. Instructors can use their teaching portfolios as a reflective practice to review past teaching experiences, what worked and what did not.

Teaching portfolios consist of various pieces of evidence about your teaching such as course syllabi, outlines, lesson plans, course evaluations, and more. Instructors curate these pieces of evidence into a collection, giving them the chance to highlight their own growth and focus as educators. While student input may be incorporated as part of the portfolio, instructors can contextualize and respond to student feedback, giving them the chance to tell their own teaching story from a more holistic perspective.

Teaching portfolios encourage self-reflection, especially with guided questions or rubrics to review your work. In addition, an instructor might consider sharing their entire teaching portfolio or selected materials for a single course with colleagues and engaging in a peer review discussion. 

Examples and Resources:

Teaching Portfolio - Career Center

Developing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy and Teaching Portfolio - GSI Teaching & Resource Center

Self Assessment - UCLA Center for Education, Innovation, and Learning in the Sciences

Advancing Inclusion and Anti-Racism in the College Classroom Rubric and Guide

Course Design Equity and Inclusion Rubric

Teaching Demos or Peer Observation

Teaching demonstrations or peer classroom observation provide opportunities to get feedback on your teaching practice, including communication skills or classroom management.

Teaching demonstrations may be arranged as a simulated classroom environment in front of a live audience who take notes and then deliver summarized feedback. Alternatively, demonstrations may involve recording an instructor teaching to an empty room, and this recording can be subjected to later self-review or peer review. Evaluation of teaching demos will often focus on the mechanics of teaching especially for a lecture-based class, e.g. pacing of speech, organization of topics, clarity of explanations.

In contrast, instructors may invite a colleague to observe an actual class session to evaluate teaching in an authentic situation. This arrangement gives the observer a better sense of how the instructor interacts with students both individually or in groups, including their approach to answering questions or facilitating participation. The colleague may take general notes on what they observe or evaluate the instructor using a teaching rubric or other structured tool.

Peer Review of Course Instruction

Preparing for a Teaching Demonstration - UC Irvine Center for Educational Effectiveness

Based on Peer Feedback - UCLA Center for Education, Innovation, and Learning in the Sciences

Teaching Practices Equity and Inclusion Rubric

Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS)

Student Learning Assessments

Student learning can vary widely across courses or even between academic terms. However, having a clear benchmark for the intended learning objectives and determining whether an instructor’s course as implemented helps students to reach that benchmark can be an invaluable piece of information to guide your teaching. The method for measuring student learning will depend on the stated learning objective, but a well-vetted instrument can provide the most reliable data.

Recommended steps and considerations for using student learning assessments to evaluate your teaching efficacy include:

Identify a small subset of course learning objectives to focus on, as it is more useful to accurately evaluate one objective vs. evaluating many objectives inaccurately.

Find a well-aligned and well-developed measure for each selected course learning objective, such as vetted exam questions, rubrics, or concept inventories.

If relevant, develop a prompt or assignment that will allow students to demonstrate the learning objective to then be evaluated against the measure.

Plan the timing of data collection to enable useful comparison and interpretation.

Do you want to compare how students perform at the start of your course compared to the same students at the end of your course?

Do you want to compare how the same students perform before and after a specific teaching activity?

Do you want to compare how students in one term perform compared to students in the next term, after changing your teaching approach?

Implement the assignment/prompt and evaluate a subset or all of the student work according to the measure.

Reflect on the results and compare student performance measures.

Are students learning as a result of your teaching activity and course design?

Are students learning to the degree that you intended?

Are students learning more when you change how you teach?

This process can be repeated as many times as needed or the process can be restarted to instead focus on a different course learning objective.

List of Concept Inventories (STEM)

Best Practices for Administering Concept Inventories (Physics)


Rubric Bank | Assessment and Curriculum Support Center - University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Rubrics - World Languages Resource Collection - Kennesaw State University

Student Surveys or Focus Groups

Surveys or focus groups are effective tools to better understand the student experience in your courses, as well as to solicit feedback on how courses can be improved. Hearing student voices is critical as students themselves can attest to how course activities made them feel, e.g. whether they perceive the learning environment to be inclusive, or what topics they find interesting.

Some considerations for using student surveys in your teaching include:

Surveys collect individual and anonymous input from as many students as possible.

Surveys can gather both quantitative and qualitative data.

Surveys that are anonymous avoid privileging certain voices over others.

Surveys can enable students to share about sensitive experiences that they may be reluctant to discuss publicly.

Surveys that are anonymous may lend to negative response bias.

Survey options at UC Berkeley include customized course evaluation questions or anonymous surveys on bCourses, Google Forms, or Qualtrics. 

Some considerations for using student focus groups in your teaching include:

Focus groups leverage the power of group brainstorming to identify problems and imagine possible solutions.

Focus groups can gather both rich and nuanced qualitative data.

Focus groups with a skilled facilitator tend to have more moderated responses given the visibility of the discussion.

Focus groups take planning, preparation, and dedicated class time.

Focus group options at UC Berkeley include scheduling a Mid-semester Inquiry (MSI) to be facilitated by a CTL staff member.

Instructions for completing question customization for your evaluations as an instructor

Course Evaluations Question Bank

Student-Centered Evaluation Questions for Remote Learning

Based on Student Feedback - UCLA Center for Education, Innovation, and Learning in the Sciences

How Can Instructors Encourage Students to Complete Course Evaluations and Provide Informative Responses?

Student Views/Attitudes/Affective Instruments - ASBMB

Student Skills Inventories - ASBMB

How might I get started?

Self-assess your own course materials using one of the available rubrics listed above.

Schedule a teaching observation with CTL to get a colleague’s feedback on your teaching practices and notes on student engagement.

Schedule an MSI with CTL to gather directed student feedback with the support of a colleague.

Have more questions? Schedule a general consultation with CTL or send us your questions by email ( [email protected] )!


Evaluating Teaching - UCSB Instructional Development

Documenting Teaching - UCSC Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning

Other Forms of Evaluation - UCLA Center for Education, Innovation, and Learning in the Sciences

Evaluation Of Teaching Committee on Teaching, Academic Senate

Report of the Academic Council Teaching Evaluation Task Force

Teaching Quality Framework Initiative Resources - University of Colorado Boulder

Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness - University of Kansas  Center for Teaching Excellence

Teaching Practices Instruments - ASBMB

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What is formative assessment?

meaning of formative assignment

“Formative assessment” defined

As an organization, NWEA subscribes to the revised definition from CCSSO : “Formative assessment is a  planned, ongoing process  used by  all students and teachers during learning and teaching  to  elicit and use evidence of student learning  to improve student understanding of intended disciplinary learning outcomes and  support students to become self-directed learners .”

Let’s take a closer look at the key phrases in that definition:

  • “Planned, ongoing process.” Formative assessment is a continuous, low- or no-stakes, responsive process comprised of practices, methods, and tools that are selected to support all students in reaching challenging learning goals. Teachers and students collaborate to use this kind of assessment in responsive ways that positively impact learners and learning. They partner to know and respond to strengths, interests, and needs.
  • “All students and teachers during learning and teaching.” Formative assessment is a collaborative learning process happening “with” students, not “to” students .
  • “Elicit and use evidence of student learning.” Formative assessment processes capture levels of knowledge and skill along the learning journey so teachers and students can make small, immediate, impactful decisions to support well-being, learning-goal achievement, and self-efficacy. Using formative assessment evidence is appropriate for making decisions during the practice phases of learning; formative assessment scores are not appropriate for calculating grades or for making placement decisions.
  • “Support students to become self-directed learners.” This type of assessment includes students as active agents in the learning journey, which fuels learning and agency in learning environments and beyond. Engaging students in goal setting is a great way to do this.

What does formative assessment look like?

Little is required to start formative assessment processes because they can begin with a variety of methods and tools . Instead of specific programs, supplies, or resources, effective processes involve partnering with students to incorporate the following five practices into cycles of responsive teaching and learning.

  • Clarifying learning goals and success criteria within a broader progression of learning. Students should have context for what they’re learning: why they’re learning it, how it connects to previous lessons and their own interests, and what success looks like. Having goal clarity, purpose, and a path promotes student motivation and agency.
  • Eliciting and analyzing evidence of student thinking. Whether it’s capturing ideas on a whiteboard, responding to an online survey, or giving a thumbs-up or down in response to a check for understanding, an effective process centers on knowing learning goals, then gathering, interpreting, and responding to learning-goal evidence.
  • Engaging in self-assessment and peer feedback. This type of assessment is more than providing feedback from teacher to student. As I explained in “The importance of student self-assessment,” having students reflect on their progress helps them become active participants in their learning. The process should also involve students collaborating with each other, asking questions, making observations, celebrating successes, and suggesting improvements in ways that support them in attaining challenging learning goals.
  • Using actionable feedback. Once learning evidence is collected, teachers work with students to ensure that they have both the time and processes to apply feedback in ways that move learning forward.
  • Responding by adjusting learning strategies or next instructional steps. This practice is the “why” of formative assessment. To make the process effective, we must collaborate with students to use evidence and insights to propel learners toward shared and personal short- and long-term goals.

Why formative assessment is so important

As my colleague Chase Nordengren noted , “[f]ormative assessment is [critical] for educators looking to unlock in-depth information on student learning. […] Using strategies that expose misconceptions, support higher-level thinking within a subject, and engage students in academic discourse, formative assessment provides the real-time feedback necessary to dynamically adjust instruction to meet learner needs as they emerge and change.”

In short, formative assessment helps us evaluate whether our plans and responsive “moves” are working, while there’s still time to do something about it. It celebrates that learning is an ongoing process, complete with stretches of success and periods of struggle, and it helps us remember that learning is not linear but, instead, an endeavor that rewards effort, persistence, and dedication. Best of all, it helps us collaborate with students as co-partners in the entire learning experience. Together we are a learning team, one that makes anything possible.

Ready for more?

There is no shortage of information and resources available on formative assessment. For easy-to -implement, research-based strategies, check out our eBook, Making it work: How formative assessment can supercharge your practice ,  and our article  “27 easy formative assessment strategies for gathering evidence of student learning.” Our professional learning team also offers five workshops  that can engage you and your colleagues in deep dives designed and delivered by expert educators.

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  • Grades 6-12
  • School Leaders

What is snow and how does it form? ❄️

What Is Formative Assessment and How Should Teachers Use It?

Check student progress as they learn, and adapt to their needs.

What is Formative Assessment? #buzzwordsexplained

Assessments are a regular part of the learning process, giving both teachers and students a chance to measure their progress. There are several common types of assessments, including pre-assessment (diagnostic) and post-assessment (summative). Some educators, though, argue that the most important of all are formative assessments. So, what is formative assessment, and how can you use it effectively with your students? Read on to find out.

What is formative assessment?

Frayer model describing characteristics of formative assessment

Source: KNILT

Formative assessment takes place while learning is still happening. In other words, teachers use formative assessment to gauge student progress throughout a lesson or activity. This can take many forms (see below), depending on the teacher, subject, and learning environment. Here are some key characteristics of this type of assessment:

Low-Stakes (or No-Stakes)

Most formative assessments aren’t graded, or at least aren’t used in calculating student grades at the end of the grading period. Instead, they’re part of the daily give-and-take between teachers and students. They’re often quick and used immediately after teaching a specific objective.

Planned and Part of the Lesson

Rather than just being quick check-for-understanding questions many teachers ask on the fly, formative assessments are built into a lesson or activity. Teachers consider the skills or knowledge they want to check on, and use one of many methods to gather information on student progress. Students can also use formative assessments among themselves for self-assessment and peer feedback.

Used to Make Adjustments to Teaching Plans

After gathering student feedback, teachers use that feedback to make adjustments to their lessons or activities as needed. Students who self-assess then know what areas they still need help with and can ask for assistance.

How is formative assessment different from other assessments?

Chart comparing formative and summative assessment

Source: Helpful Professor

There are three general types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. Diagnostic assessments are used before learning to determine what students already do and do not know. Think pre-tests and other activities students attempt at the beginning of a unit. Teachers may use these to make some adjustments to their planned lessons, skipping or just recapping what students already know.

Diagnostic assessments are the opposite of summative assessments, which are used at the end of a unit or lesson to determine what students have learned. By comparing diagnostic and summative assessments, teachers and learners can get a clearer picture of how much progress they’ve made.

Formative assessments take place during instruction. They’re used throughout the learning process and help teachers make on-the-go adjustments to instruction and activities as needed.

Why is formative assessment important in the classroom?

These assessments give teachers and students a chance to be sure that meaningful learning is really happening. Teachers can try new methods and gauge their effectiveness. Students can experiment with different learning activities, without fear that they’ll be punished for failure. As Chase Nordengren of the NWEA puts it :

“Formative assessment is a critical tool for educators looking to unlock in-depth information on student learning in a world of change. Rather than focusing on a specific test, formative assessment focuses on practices teachers undertake during learning that provide information on student progress toward learning outcomes.”

It’s all about increasing your ability to connect with students and make their learning more effective and meaningful.

What are some examples of formative assessment?

Chart showing what formative assessment is and what it isn't

Source: Writing City

There are so many ways teachers can use formative assessments in the classroom! We’ve highlighted a few perennial favorites, but you can find a big list of 25 creative and effective formative assessments options here .

Exit Tickets

At the end of a lesson or class, pose a question for students to answer before they leave. They can answer using a sticky note, online form, or digital tool.

Kahoot Quizzes

Kids and teachers adore Kahoot! Kids enjoy the gamified fun, while teachers appreciate the ability to analyze the data later to see which topics students understand well and which need more time.

We love Flip (formerly Flipgrid) for helping teachers connect with students who hate speaking up in class. This innovative (and free!) tech tool lets students post selfie videos in response to teacher prompts. Kids can view each other’s videos, commenting and continuing the conversation in a low-key way.

What is your favorite way to use formative assessments in the classroom? Come exchange ideas in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, check out the best tech tools for student assessment ..

Wondering what formative assessment is and how to use it in the classroom? Learn about this ongoing form of evaluation here.

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Formative and Summative Assessment

Assessment helps instructors and students monitor progress towards achieving learning objectives. Formative assessment is used throughout an instructional period to treat misconceptions, struggles, and learning gaps. Summative assessments evaluate learning, knowledge, proficiency, or success at the conclusion of an instructional period.

Below you will find formative and summative descriptions along with a diagram, examples, recommendations, and strategies/tools for the next steps.


Formative assessment  (Image 1, left) refers to tools that identify misconceptions, struggles, and learning gaps along the way and assess how to close those gaps. It includes practical tools for helping to shape learning. It can even bolster students’ ability to take ownership of their education when they understand that the goal is to improve learning and not apply final marks (Trumbull and Lash, 2013). It can include students assessing themselves, peers, or even the instructor, through writing, quizzes, conversation, and more. Formative assessment occurs throughout a class or course and seeks to improve student achievement of learning objectives through approaches that can support specific student needs (Theal and Franklin, 2010, p. 151). In the classroom, formative assessment centers on practice and is often low-stakes. Students may or may not receive a grade.

In contrast,  summative assessments (Image 1, right) evaluate student learning, knowledge, proficiency, or success after an instructional period, as a unit, course, or program. Summative assessments are almost always formally graded and often heavily weighted (though they do not need to be). Summative assessment can be used to significant effect in conjunction and in alignment with formative assessment, and instructors can consider a variety of ways to combine these approaches. 

Two diagrams showing the when, why, and how of formative and summative assessment. Formative: Help students to learn and practice, when - throughout the course, why - identify gaps and improve learning, how - via approaches that support specific student needs. Whereas, summative asses student performance, when at the end of an instructional period, why - collect evidence of student knowledge, skills or proficiency, how - via exit learning or a cumulative assessment.

Examples of Formative and Summative Assessments

Formative: l earn and practice.

  • In-class discussions
  • Clicker questions (e.g., Top Hat)
  • 1-minute reflection writing assignments
  • Peer review
  • Homework assignments

Summative: Assess performance

  • Instructor-created exams
  • Standardized tests
  • Final projects
  • Final essays
  • Final presentations
  • Final reports
  • Final grades

Formative Assessment Recommendations

Ideally, formative assessment strategies improve teaching and learning simultaneously. Instructors can help students grow as learners by actively encouraging them to self-assess their skills and knowledge retention, and by giving clear instructions and feedback. Seven principles (adapted from Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2007 with additions) can guide instructor strategies:

1. Keep clear criteria for what defines good performance

Instructors can explain criteria for A-F graded papers and encourage student discussion and reflection about these criteria (accomplish this through office hours, rubrics, post-grade peer review, or  exam/assignment wrappers . Instructors may also hold class-wide conversations on performance criteria at strategic moments throughout the term.

2. Encourage students' self-reflection.

Instructors can ask students to utilize course criteria to evaluate their own or peers’ work and share what kinds of feedback they find most valuable. Also, instructors can ask students to describe their best work qualities, either through writing or group discussion.

3. Give students detailed, actionable feedback

Instructors can consistently provide specific feedback tied to predefined criteria, with opportunities to revise or apply feedback before final submission. Feedback may be corrective and forward-looking, rather than just evaluative. Examples include comments on multiple paper drafts, criterion discussions during 1-on-1 conferences, and regular online quizzes.

4. Encourage teacher and peer dialogue around learning

5. promote positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem.

Students will be more motivated and engaged when assured that an instructor cares for their development. Instructors can design assignments to allow for rewrites/resubmissions in assignments to promote learning development. These rewrites might utilize low-stakes assessments, or even automated online testing that is anonymous, and (if appropriate) allows for unlimited resubmissions.

6. Provide opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance

Related to the above; instructors can improve student motivation and engagement by making visible any opportunities to close gaps between current and desired performance. Examples include opportunities for resubmission, specific action points for writing or task-based assignments, and sharing study or process strategies that an instructor would use to succeed.

7. Collect information to help shape teaching

Instructors can feel free to collect useful information from students to provide targeted feedback and instruction. Students can identify where they are having difficulties, either on an assignment or test or in written submissions. This approach also promotes metacognition, as students reflect upon their learning. 

Instructors may find various other formative assessment techniques through  CELT’s Classroom Assessment Techniques .

Summative Assessment Recommendations

Because summative assessments are usually higher-stakes than formative assessments, it is especially important to ensure that the assessment aligns with the instruction’s goals and expected outcomes. 

1. Use a Rubric or Table of Specifications

Instructors can use a rubric to provide expected performance criteria for a range of grades. Rubrics will describe what an ideal assignment looks like, and “summarize” expected performance at the beginning of the term, providing students with a trajectory and sense of completion. 

2. Design Clear, Effective Questions

If designing essay questions, instructors can ensure that questions meet criteria while allowing students the freedom to express their knowledge creatively and in ways that honor how they digested, constructed, or mastered meaning.

3. Assess Comprehensiveness. 

Effective summative assessments allow students to consider the totality of a course’s content, make deep connections, demonstrate synthesized skills, and explore more profound concepts that drive or find a course’s ideas and content. 

4. Make Parameters Clear

When approaching a final assessment, instructors can ensure that parameters are well defined (length of assessment, depth of response, time and date, grading standards). Also, knowledge assessed relates clearly to the content covered in course; and provides students with disabilities required space and support.

5. Consider Anonymous Grading. 

Instructors may wish to know whose work they grade, to provide feedback that speaks to a student’s term-long trajectory. If instructors want to give a genuinely unbiased summative assessment, they can also consider a variety of anonymous grading techniques (see hide student names in SpeedGrader Canvas guide ).

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  • Nicol, D.J. and Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education 31 (2): 2-19.
  • Theall, M. and Franklin J.L. (2010). Assessing Teaching Practices and Effectiveness for Formative Purposes. In: A Guide to Faculty Development . KJ Gillespie and DL Robertson (Eds). Jossey Bass: San Francisco, CA.
  • Trumbull, E., & Lash, A. (2013). Understanding formative assessment: Insights from learning theory and measurement theory . San Francisco: WestEd.

Formative and Summative Assessment, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 . This work, Formative and Summative Assessment, is a derivative of Formative and Summative Assessment developed by the Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning(retrieved on June 23, 2020) from

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Formative Assessment

Introduction, the evolution of formative assessment.

  • Theory and Formative Assessment
  • Formative Assessment and Student Achievement
  • The Role of Feedback in Formative Assessment
  • Formative Assessment Process and Practice in the Classroom?
  • Formative Assessment as Part of a Balanced Assessment System
  • Developing Teacher Capacity for Formative Assessment
  • National and International Reports

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Formative Assessment by Leslie W. Grant , Christopher R. Gareis , Sarah P. Hylton LAST REVIEWED: 29 July 2020 LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2021 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0062

Formative assessment has received international attention as an instructional approach that has great potential to improve teaching and learning. The concept has roots in educational evaluation practices and has evolved over time, from a focus on formative evaluation to formative assessment or assessment for learning. Although one singular definition has not emerged among researchers, scholars, and practitioners, shared themes across the sources suggest the emergence of common elements of formative assessment: Formative assessment is a cyclical process that involves interactions among teachers and students. Those interactions include prompting thinking and eliciting information. The information is then gathered and analyzed by both the teacher and the students. Finally, teachers and students provide feedback, and the student makes use of the feedback to either confirm or improve their understandings and/or skills. Research into these common elements will continue to inform our evolving understanding of the formative assessment process. This article first addresses the evolution of formative assessment and the theories that have informed the conceptualization of and research into the formative assessment process. The work of the Assessment Reform Group in the 1990s catapulted formative assessment into the spotlight for teacher education programs, teacher professional development, and educational research primarily due to claims of the impact on student achievement. This article provides often cited, seminal research studies claiming to provide evidence of a link between formative assessment and student achievement. Being central to the formative assessment process, works addressing the role of feedback are explored. The next two sections focus on works that have emerged to support implementation of the formative assessment process in the classroom and works to support the development of balanced assessment systems that include formative assessment at both the classroom and the school system levels. Over time, professional organizations have developed and revised standards to address both uses of assessments, to include formative assessments, in the classroom as well as standards for the development of educator knowledge, skills, and dispositions. The standards provided in this article represent the most referenced standards in the assessment and evaluation field. Finally, national reports from the United States and international reports noted in the final section provide insight into evolving policies and practices and signal the emergence over time of agreement on common elements of the formative assessment process.

Formative assessment has become a mainstay in educational discourse and practice. The first reference to the term “formative” has roots in curriculum development and evaluation. Cronbach 1963 refers to the idea of using evaluation as a tool for improving curricular programs. Scriven 1967 builds on Cronbach’s work in proposing the term “formative” as a way of clarifying the roles of evaluation. Bloom 1971 applies Scriven’s definition to the process of teaching and learning, by using the term to describe a way of improving student learning. Bloom, et al. 1971 links the idea of formative evaluation to the instructional approach of mastery learning as an instructional process that includes the use of data to improve both teaching and learning. During the 1980s and 1990s, educational researchers continued to expand on the ideas and theories proposed, and use of the term “formative evaluation” was replaced by the term “formative assessment.” Sadler 1989 builds on the definitions previously offered, highlighting the role of the student in the assessment process and viewing student self-assessment as critical to improved student learning. First published in 1994, Gipps 2012 documents the shift in how the educational community views assessment, including a shift from a psychometric view to the development of assessments and use of assessment data by teachers to guide instruction. The is distinguished as a classic text and it was thus reprinted in 2012. During the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Assessment Reform Group in the United Kingdom focused on the development of formative assessment practices and provided a definition of formative assessment. Written by Assessment Reform Group members, Harlen and James 1997 affirms that a distinction between formative and summative assessment is needed due to the confluence of these two roles of assessment in the field. The term “assessment for learning” was first coined in Assessment Reform Group 1999 to further delineate the differences between the goals and roles of summative and formative assessment and extended by the vision of assessment not only for learning but also of learning and as learning found in Earl 2003 . Stiggins and Chappuis 2012 highlights the importance of assessment for learning and situates it as the key practice of classroom assessment.

Assessment Reform Group. 1999. Assessment for learning: Beyond the black box . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ., School of Education.

In this text, the authors first coin the term “assessment for learning” to distinguish it from the more conventional and long-standing notion of “assessment of learning.” The purpose of assessment of learning is to verify student learning, whereas the purpose of assessment for learning is to contribute to the acquisition, or forming, of learning.

Bloom, B. S. 1971. Learning for mastery. In Handbook on formative and summative evaluation of student learning . Edited by B. S. Bloom, J. T. Hastings, and G. F. Madaus, 43–57. New York: McGraw-Hill.

This book chapter connects the concept of mastery learning with formative evaluation. The author indicates that formative tests are used to gauge student learning, to diagnose difficulties, and to design interventions so that the student achieves mastery of a unit of instruction.

Bloom, B. S., J. T. Hastings, and G. F. Madaus. 1971. Formative evaluation. In Handbook on formative and summative evaluation of student learning . Edited by B. S. Bloom, J. T. Hastings, and G. F. Madaus, 117–138. New York: McGraw-Hill.

A book chapter that builds on Scriven’s definition of formative evaluation in curriculum development and implementation. The authors apply this definition to planning, instructional delivery, and student learning, with guidance on how to create assessments and use assessment data.

Cronbach, L. J. 1963. Course improvement through evaluation. Teacher’s College Record 64.8: 672–683.

In perhaps the earliest intimations of the concept of formative evaluation, Cronbach calls for an evaluation process that focuses on gathering and reporting information to use in guiding decisions in an educational program and in curriculum development while the program can be modified.

Earl, L.?M. 2003. Assessment as learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize student learning . Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

The author describes a vision for the future of assessment as being composed of assessment of,for , and as learning. Principles of assessment for learning are illustrated with examples from multiple subject areas and grade levels. Assessment as learning focuses on the role of students as active participants in their own learning, which the author describes as virtually absent from most classrooms at the time of publication of the text.

Gipps, C. V. 2012. Beyond testing: Towards a theory of educational assessment . Classic ed. London: Routledge.

First published in 1994 in London by the Falmer publishing house, this book explores the evolution of how assessment is viewed. The author delineates the move from the psychometric view of assessment and a focus on testing to a classroom view of assessment that includes the development of a culture of assessment and a wider range of assessment tools and uses.

Harlen, W., and M. James. 1997. Assessment and learning: Differences and relationships between formative and summative assessment. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice 4.3: 365–379.

DOI: 10.1080/0969594970040304

In this article, the authors focus on providing clarity on the differences between formative and summative assessment. In addition, the authors provide conditions by which formative assessments can be used for summative purposes. These conditions include the use of external criteria for assessing student learning, viewing the results of formative assessment holistically across a period of instruction, and ensuring inter-rater reliability across teachers.

Sadler, D. R. 1989. Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems. Instructional Science 18.2: 119–144.

DOI: 10.1007/BF00117714

In this article, Sadler focuses on the judgments made about the quality of student work, discussing not only who makes such judgments but also how they are made and used. He posits that students must be able to appraise their own work and draw on their own skills to make modifications to their learning, thus alluding to the intersection of formative and self-assessment. The importance of feedback is emphasized.

Scriven, M. 1967. The methodology of evaluation. In Perspectives of curriculum evaluation . Edited by R. W. Tyler, R. M. Gagné, and M. Scriven, 39–85. Rand McNally Education. Chicago: Rand McNally.

In this monograph, Scriven proposes the use of the terms “formative” and “summative” to provide clarity about roles and goals within the evaluation community. The role of formative evaluation is to make improvements while the focus of the evaluation can still be improved. By comparison, summative evaluation is used to determine the merit or worth of an educational program.

Stiggins, R. J., and J. Chappuis. 2012. An introduction to student-involved assessment FOR learning . 6th ed. Boston: Pearson.

This classic textbook on classroom assessment may be the earliest example of a text that uses assessment for learning as the organizing conceptual framework for the principles, strategies, and techniques that it presents. This textbook is written for pre-service teachers, and it accentuates the intentional involvement of students in gauging their own learning.

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  • Formative Assessment: Meaning, Types & Examples


Formative assessment allows you to evaluate students’ performance in real-time, and also improve the course content and delivery during the learning process. It makes it easier for teachers to track the performance of students during a course or training program.

Since formative assessment happens on the go, it is best described as a quick-fire method of monitoring the learner’s progress. To do this, the researcher needs to ask different questions and administer multiple class exercises to get valuable feedback from the students. 

What is Formative Assessment?

Formative assessment is a process of evaluating the students’ knowledge as they learn. It is a method of on-going assessment and it involves putting together a series of quick-fire questions and exercises to help you monitor the learner’s progress during the course. 

As students learn, they will experience challenges along the way—they may find it difficult to understand a concept or to grasp a few examples. Without formative assessments, it is almost impossible for the teacher to recognize when the student is struggling and to provide the right support. 

Unlike summative assessment that happens at the end of a course, formative assessment tracks the student’s knowledge level on the go. Since it doesn’t measure the student’s knowledge against some standard, it is typically considered as having a low or no point value. 

Characteristics of Formative Assessment  

Understanding the characteristics of formative assessment enables you to plan and execute one effectively as an instructor. For instance, knowing that formative assessment and learning happen concurrently will help you avoid waiting till the end of a course before evaluating your students. 

Other things you should know about formative assessment include:

  • It evaluates the learning process and the learner’s progress at the same time.
  • A formative assessment is collaborative as it measures the student’s progress and the effectiveness of the teaching method.
  • Formative assessments are interwoven with the ongoing teaching and learning process.
  • It is a fluid method of evaluation. The student’s progress is not measured against a standard or benchmark unlike what you will find with summative assessment methods.
  • Formative assessment requires the instructors and the students to become intentional learners.
  • The aim of formative assessment is to gather actionable feedback that improves the overall teaching and learning process.
  • It is a diagnostic method of evaluation.
  • Results from formative assessments are immediately made available.
  • Formative assessments are non-graded.

Examples of Formative Assessment 

  • Impromptu Quiz

After a lesson, you can ask students to take part in an impromptu quiz to know how well they understood the course material. An easy way to do this is by creating a short online quiz with relevant close-ended questions using Formplus.

A poll is a way to gather instant feedback from students as they learn by asking the right questions. Formplus allows you to create simple and fun polls that help you to evaluate your students’ knowledge as part of formative assessment.

With multiple form field options, you can have different types of rating questions in your poll including heart and emoji ratings. Formplus also has an automatic poll closing option; making it easier for you to integrate the online polls into the overall teaching and learning process. 

  • One Minute Papers

Another way to assess students’ knowledge on the go is by asking them to create simple one-minute papers; they can do this online with Formplus. You can create a simple 1-minute survey with open-ended questions and ask your students to share their knowledge within a particular context.

  • Entry Slips

Before starting off on a new topic or lesson, you can ask one or more questions to know how much the students remember from the previous lesson. You can edit any of our online surveys and list differentiated questions for the students to respond to.

Exit slips are used to measure the students’ progress at the end of the lesson. Ask learners to write some of the points they remember from the lesson on scrap paper or create a simple online questionnaire on Formplus to collect relevant responses from students.

If you hosted the class on e-learning platforms like Google Classroom and Edulastic, you can track what your students know at a glance and also measure their progress, in line with the teaching and learning goals. 

Think of these as easy and quick methods to know how well the learners understand different concepts discussed in class. You can ask learners to write short letters explaining core concepts to another person or do a think-pair-share exercise with a partner.

  • Visual Exercises

Ask students to interpret core ideas from the course using simple visual representations. They can create basic sketches of what they have learned or you can create a simple survey and ask them to choose the most appropriate visual representation from the image options in your Formplus form.

  • Interviews and Focus Groups

At specific intervals during the class, you can organize quick interviews and focus groups to assess the students. These can be in the form of casual discussions with the learners or 10-minutes structured interviews using an online survey or questionnaire. Organizing and focus groups can provide better contexts for the assessment.

  • Tag Feedback

This is a peer assessment method where the students evaluate and provide feedback on each other’s performance. As students assess their peers, you gain valuable insights into how well they understand the course material and topic(s).

Tag feedback is an effective way to get the students involved in formative assessment. Ask learners to highlight the positive contributions of their peers, or to suggest ways to improve the course content, teaching method, or overall classroom engagement. 

  • Self-assessment

One of the best ways to conduct formative assessments is to simply ask the students to do it themselves while you provide the needed guidance. When students evaluate themselves, they can reflect on their learning goals and discover their strengths and weaknesses.

How to Use Formplus to Conduct Formative Assessment  

As a seamless data collection tool, Formplus allows you to create effective forms, questionnaires , and surveys for formative assessment. It has multiple form features and templates; making it easy for you to assess students’ knowledge as you engage with them in the classroom. 

Create your questionnaire for formative assessment with these easy steps: 

  • Log into your Formplus dashboard and click the “create new form” button at the top of the dashboard. If you do not have a Formplus account, visit and follow the prompt to create one.

meaning of formative assignment

  • In the form builder, add the title of your online questionnaire to the title box.

meaning of formative assignment

  • Drag and drop preferred form fields from the form fields section into your questionnaire. You can choose from more than 30 form field options located on the left side of the builder.

meaning of formative assignment

  • Click on the pencil icon beside each field to include your question(s) and option(s), if any. You can also make the field required or read-only.

meaning of formative assignment

  • Click on the “save icon” for all the changes you’ve made to your assessment questionnaire. When you do this, you will automatically access the form customization section.
  • Use multiple form customization options to change the look and feel of your questionnaire. You can change the background color to your brand hue and add your organization’s logo to the questionnaire.

meaning of formative assignment

  • Click on the form sharing option and choose any of the options to share your questionnaire with learners for formative assessment. Formplus allows you to send out email invitations, share the form directly on social media, and also add it to your website.

meaning of formative assignment

  • Monitor responses in our form analytics dashboard.

Now, let’s talk about some of the features that make Formplus a great formative assessment tool. 

1. Mobile-friendly Forms

Smartphones have become indispensable learning tools and this is why your formative assessment needs to go mobile too. With our mobile-friendly forms, you can conduct formative assessments and track students’ progress using mobile phone surveys and forms.

Formplus allows you to create custom mobile forms that can be viewed and filled out on any internet-enabled device on-the-go. Our mobile-responsive forms adapt to any smart device they are viewed on; making it possible for students to complete polls and questionnaires without pinching or zooming out on their screens. 

2. Multiple Form Fields

Choose from our multiple form fields to help you collect feedback from students in different formats. Formplus has more than 30 form fields that support data collection the way you like. Some of the form fields you can use for formative assessment are text fields, rating fields, and image choice options. 

3. Multiple Form Sharing Options

Formplus has multiple form-sharing options; making it more convenient for students to participate in formative assessment. After creating your online assessment survey, poll, or questionnaire, you can send out email invitations to students to fill the form—this is a great idea for entry and exit slips.

4. Autofill Form Data from Spreadsheet

Formplus allows you to autofill students’ data from a spreadsheet so that respondents do not have to bother about providing information from scratch as they participate in formative assessment. After mapping out the students’ data on your form or survey, send out email invitations to students to allow them to update their information via custom prefilled forms. 

5. File Uploads

Formplus offers flexible and unlimited file uploads so you can collect different file types of any file size directly in your form, and save them in your preferred cloud storage. You can add numerous file upload fields directly in the Formplus form builder; choosing from 30 available form fields. 

Advantages of Formative Assessment  

  • Formative assessment helps students to align their learning goals with the aims and objectives of the coursework or training. It keeps the learning goals in the minds of everyone and instructors can help students to resolve any challenges they face before they get off track.
  • Formative assessment improves the overall learner performance. As teachers monitor learners’ progress, they can utilize the feedback to improve the learning experience and ultimately, the learner’s performance.
  • It is an effective way to boost your students’ motivation. Formative assessment spurs learners to smash their goals by consistently tracking their progress towards specific knowledge objectives.
  • By tracking learners’ progress using different formative assessment methods, the teacher can create personalized learning experiences for the students. Formative assessment helps you to understand the unique needs of your students and know the best ways to support them on their individual learning journeys.
  • Formative assessment empowers the instructors to make data-driven decisions. Using the data gathered from frequent learning checks, the instructor can make valid and informed decisions that are grounded in real-time experiences.
  • It helps instructors to adjust their teaching methods to better suit the needs of the learners.

Disadvantages of Formative Assessment  

  • Formative assessment can be time-consuming because the teacher needs to implement several methods to effectively monitor students’ progress as they learn.
  • The more formative assessments you incorporate in the learning process, the lesser time there is for actual teaching.
  • Planning formative assessment processes can be tedious and exhausting for the instructor.
  • The instructor’s bias or any other form of subjectivity affects the validity of the whole process and can create an inaccurate representation of the students’ progress.
  • Since formative assessments are non-graded, students may not be eager or motivated to participate in them; especially when they are accustomed to getting grades or points for their academic progress.

Formative assessment has a huge positive impact on the teaching and learning process. Teachers can use the data from formative assessment to improve their teaching methods while students use the platform to draw the teacher’s attention to areas where they need help. 

It is also a great way to boost class participation because the students get involved in different quick-fire tasks as the course progresses. If you are just getting familiar with this method of course evaluation, you can start by creating an online impromptu quiz for your students using Formplus or putting a 1-minute online survey together. 


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Formative vs. Summative Assessments: What's the Difference?

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December 22nd, 2021 | 8 min. read

Formative vs. Summative Assessments: What's the Difference?

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the iCEV blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.

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Whether you’re an administrator, supervisor, or teacher, you’ve heard of formative assessments and summative assessments . They're both essential parts of any curriculum map . But what do these terms actually mean?

In a nutshell, formative assessments are quizzes and tests that evaluate how someone is learning material throughout a course .

Summative assessments are quizzes and tests that evaluate how much someone has learned throughout a course .

In the classroom, that means formative assessments take place during a course, while summative assessments are the final evaluations at the course’s end. 

That's the simple answer, but there's actually a lot more that makes formative and summative assessments different. To fully understand formative vs. summative assessments, you'll need to understand the details of these two important forms of assessment.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at formative and summative quizzing and assessing. When you've finished reading, you'll understand how to better test student knowledge in your classroom.

Video: Formative vs. Summative Assessments

meaning of formative assignment

What Are Formative Assessments?


Formative assessments are evaluations of someone’s learning progress in a classroom.

Common formative assessments include:

  • Presentations
  • Group activities

Formative assessments work great when they’re used on a regular basis. That regularity could be based on a calendar (every Monday, every Thursday, etc.) or your lesson plans (every unit).

They’re also more flexible than summative assessments. You don’t always have to use pencil and paper to get a feel for your students’ progress. Instead, you can use in-class games, group presentations, and hands-on activities to evaluate student progress.

Ultimately, the formative assessments you use are up to you. After all, no one knows your classes better than you. So if you’d prefer to get an overview of how well your students are learning, you can use a group-style assessment like a game. If you want to know where each student struggles, you can use an individual assessment like a quiz.

This flexibility is perfect for keeping students engaged in your class. It lets you stick to a syllabus while mixing up the exact task each student has to perform. That way, you don’t fall into a predictable routine of teach-test-teach-test. Instead, you have a varied routine of teach-game-quiz-teach-presentation-project or another interesting format.

By the time your course ends, you’ll have a full understanding of how students are learning as you teach a subject. Then, you can keep all of your grades to look for patterns among different class sections.

Is there an area where students seem to do worse than others? Could you adjust a lesson and shoot for better results?

Naturally, you’ll never get a class that’s straight A’s from top to bottom. But you can still design your classroom assessments to work for as many students as possible!

Top 3 Formative Assessment Examples


Formative assessments are excellent opportunities to let your students flex their creative muscles.

Even if a student isn’t much of a writer or artist, they can still have a little fun with these assessments.

1. Make an ad

Have your students create an advertisement for a concept they just learned. Use visuals and text to really sell an idea.

This makes students apply what they’ve learned into a creative exercise, which helps with long-term retention.

2. Idea comparisons

Instruct students to lay out the main ideas of a new concept they learned. Then, have them compare that concept to another to see where they agree and disagree.

In addition to helping students remember these concepts, this exercise makes them apply previous knowledge to a new format so they can remember it better in the future.

3. Misconceptions

After you introduce a concept to students, introduce a popular misconception about it. Have students discuss why the misconception is false and where it may have started.

This exercise makes students think critically about what they’ve just learned while showing them how to debunk misinformation.  

How Do You Track Formative Assessments?

You can track formative assessments in one of three ways.

First, you can track them by grade . This gives you a specific, concentrated view of how a student (or group of students) learns. However, graded assessments are sources of stress for many students. So if you want to make a unit fun or loose, graded assessments may not work well for you. 

Second, you can track them by feel . This is more based on your teacher instinct, allowing you to pick which students need additional support based on your observation. On the downside, you can’t “show” this information to your administrators . If you have certain standards to meet throughout a marking period, you won’t be able to prove you’ve fulfilled those standards without grades.

Finally, you can track formative assessments with  student data . This is non-graded information that may reflect how your students are learning, such as questions they've frequently answered incorrectly or subject areas where they've had trouble. After all, not everything has to be a grade!

With all of that said and done, let’s jump into summative assessments.

What Are Summative Assessments?


Summative assessments are evaluations of what someone has learned throughout a course. 

Common summative assessments include:

  • Final exams
  • End-of-class projects

Summative assessments almost always take place at the end of a course unless a teacher decides to break a course into more manageable chunks. They’re often cumulative, and they’re used to evaluate a student’s long-term information retention.

In summative assessments like final exams, you can include questions from the first week or two of a course to ensure students retained introductory information. In other assessments like papers, your students can pull from a full marking period of learning to apply to a topic.

Either way, your students have to do some serious reflecting and critical thinking to bring together the information from an entire course.

This is a great way to ensure students retain essential information from one course to another. So if you teach introductory courses, summative assessments are perfect to set students up for success in their next classes.

That’s important because a student’s success in your classroom is just one step for them. When you prepare them for the next step, you make it easier for them to succeed in the future as well.

In that way, summative assessments serve two purposes:

First , they evaluate what someone learned while they’ve been in your class.

Second , they evaluate how prepared someone is to go to the next academic level.

Combined with the rest of a student’s performance in class, summative quizzing and assessments are excellent ways to gauge progress while ensuring long-term information retention.

Top 3 Summative Assessment Examples


Summative assessments are traditionally more structured and standardized than formative assessments.

Still, you have a few options to shake things up that go beyond a pen-and-paper test.

1. In-depth reports

Instruct students to choose a topic that resonated with them in class and report in-depth on it. This is a great opportunity for students to take an idea and run with it under your supervision.

These reports often showcase a student’s interest, and you’ll be able to evaluate a student’s engagement level in the class by how they approach the report.

The goal is a passionate, intelligent, and comprehensive examination of a concept that matters to a student. 

2. Cumulative, individual projects

Have your students pick a project to complete. This project should somehow reflect what they’ve learned throughout the course.

Projects are great for any practical application class from health science to physics. Creating a cross-section of the human heart, designing a diet, or creating a protective egg-drop vessel are all fun ways students can show off their knowledge of a topic.

3. Personal evaluation papers

Require students to apply principles from your class to their personal lives. These papers are excellent fits for psychology, nutrition, finance, business, and other theory-based classes.

In a nutshell, personal evaluations let students look at themselves through a different lens while exploring the nuances of the principles they learned in class.  Plus, it lets students do something everyone loves — talk about themselves!

Now that you have a few ideas on summative assessments, how can you track their success?

How Do You Track Summative Assessments?

While everyone has their own ideas on this topic, grades are the best way to evaluate someone’s success with a summative assessment.

How you grade is ultimately up to you. Presentations are great ways to grade someone based on a number of factors, including soft skills like public speaking. Written exams or project-based assessments are ideal to see a student’s full-scope understand of your class after a marking period.

Whatever you choose, stick to a consistent grading scale so you can identify your own strengths and weaknesses in the classroom as students complete your course. 

What’s More Important: Formative or Summative Assessments?


Many new teachers have this question — are formative or summative assessments more important?

In a perfect world, they’re equally important. Formative assessments let students show that they’re learning, and summative assessments let them show what they’ve learned.

But American public education values summative assessments over formative assessments. Standardized tests — like the SATs — are great examples of high-value summative assessments.

It’s rare to find the same emphasis on formative quizzing and assessments. That’s because formative assessments act like milestones while summative assessments show the bottom line.

We encourage teachers to look at these assessments as two sides of the same coin. Formative and summative assessments work together flawlessly when implemented properly.

With all of that in mind, you only have one question left to answer. How are you going to add these assessments to your curriculum ?

Use Formative and Summative Assessments and Meet Your Challenges

As a teacher, you’ll likely need to employ both summative and formative assessments in your curriculum. An effective balance of these assessments will help you understand your students’ needs while meeting your standards.

However, CTE teachers face challenges in the classroom each day that sometimes get in the way of connecting with students and preparing them for these assessments.

If you want to feel less overwhelmed and spend more time helping your students succeed, download your free guide . You’ll learn about five of the most significant challenges teachers face and how you can overcome them.

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Home » Blog » Formative and Summative Assessments: Examples and Differences

Formative and Summative Assessments: Examples and Differences

formative vs summative

One of the primary benefits of using formative and summative assessments is that you aren’t forced to choose between them. They work exceptionally well when used in combination.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down precisely what formative and summative assessments are, the key differences between them, the benefits of their use, and providing a range of examples to help illustrate how they can be implemented in the classroom.

If you’re looking for an effective way to assess student learning and measure progress, read on to find out how formative and summative assessments can help.

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Formative assessments: definition and purpose.

Before we get into examples of their use, it’s essential that we first define precisely what both formative and summative assessments are and how they differ.

Formative assessments are employed regularly throughout a set learning period, be that a chapter, unit, or term, and help track progress and identify areas where students may struggle or need more support.

They also give the teacher and course designer the data they need to improve the learning experience and make any necessary changes that may be required throughout a system.

Rather than strict exams, formative assessments are usually relatively low-stakes, meaning they do not always need to be graded or even marked. This helps to create a non-threatening atmosphere and encourages students to take risks in their learning without fear of failure.

Formative assessment tasks usually rely on feedback from both students and the teacher, with learners receiving feedback on performance as soon as possible.

Uses of Formative Assessments

As mentioned, one of the primary uses of a formative assessment is to gauge student understanding and identify knowledge gaps that may need extra work.

Formative assessments can also be used to help inform curricular decisions, provide valuable data on the effectiveness of a course or lesson, and allow students to monitor their progress over time.

In addition, formative assessments are valuable in helping teachers gain real-time insight into a group’s collective understanding, allowing them to rapidly adapt their training or lessons accordingly.

Benefits of Using Formative Assessments

There are a range of benefits to employing formative assessments as part of your teaching strategy, including the following:

  • Improved student or employee engagement and motivation – By allowing students to track their learning journey, you can help them take ownership of their learning experience. This can be highly motivating for students, as it encourages a sense of progress and accomplishment.
  • Better assessment of real-world understanding – By using formative assessments that involve practical skills or application, you can better understand how well your students understand the real-world implications of the content they are studying.
  • Enables rapid identification of areas of difficulty for learners – Through formative assessments, you can quickly identify areas that students may be struggling with. This helps to ensure that these areas are addressed rapidly and effectively.
  • Allows teachers to tailor their lessons to the needs of the group – Teachers and course designers can use the data from formative assessments to tailor their studies according to the group’s needs and ensure that they meet all learning objectives.


Examples of Formative Assessments

To clarify how formative assessments can be used, below are a few examples of tasks that could be used both in the classroom and in a digital learning environment.

Classroom-Based Examples

The following examples can be valuable to employ in a classroom setting:

1. Quizzes and polls

Simple and easy to execute, quizzes and polls are a low-effort way of gauging student understanding at regular intervals throughout a lesson.

2. Peer feedback and self-assessment

Peer-based feedback sessions and self-assessment questionnaires can help identify areas where students may need extra support or guidance while giving vital insight into how students perceive their progress.

3. Class discussions and debates

Encouraging students to discuss their different perspectives on a given topic or concept allows teachers to better understand how well they comprehend the material. It also gives students the opportunity to have their ideas heard and helps create a sense of solidarity within the classroom.

Online and Digital Examples

With the rise in the use of digital learning tools and technologies , there is also a range of online-based practices that can be used as formative assessments, including:

1. Interactive quizzes and games

The gamification of quizzes or other learning activities can provide an engaging way to assess student understanding and offer real-time feedback.

2. Virtual simulations and case studies

Where more vocational skills are being taught, virtual simulations and case studies can test students’ problem-solving capabilities in a low-stakes environment.

3. Online discussion forums and feedback platforms

One of the benefits of using an online learning platform is the wide range of features available to assess student understanding. Discussion forums, peer feedback platforms, and automated feedback systems can all be used as formative assessment tools.


Summative Assessments: Definition and Purpose

Compared to formative assessments, summative assessments are conducted at the end of a defined learning period and often represent the final grade for the course.

To provide a comprehensive assessment grade, summative assessments evaluate a student’s overall understanding and performance of the skill or concept studied.

They can also be used to track educational progress over time, such as in standardised testing, as well as help to inform curricular decisions and the effectiveness of teaching methods.

Uses of Summative Assessments

Summative assessments test student mastery of content, assess their overall understanding of a subject or topic area and generally give them a final mark.

For teachers and course designers, a summative assessment allows them to measure the effectiveness of their teaching and make any necessary changes or improvements.

Summative assessments can also be used to compare student performance across different classes, courses, and programs.

Benefits of Summative Assessments

As with formative assessments, there is a range of benefits associated with the use of summative assessments, including:

  • Provides an overall assessment score – Summative assessments can provide a more accurate assessment of student understanding and performance, offering an overall grade or score.
  • Helps track educational progress over time – Educators can track student progress to identify improvement areas through standardised testing or other summative assessments.
  • Helps inform curricular decisions – Summative assessments can assess the effectiveness of a particular course or program and help inform future curricular choices.
  • Offers an efficient way to measure learning outcomes – By providing an overall assessment grade, summative assessments offer a convenient way to measure the success of a teaching strategy in one go.


Examples of Summative Assessments

To clarify how summative assessments can be implemented, here are a few examples of traditional assessment methods, such as essays and exams, and performance-based assessments, such as presentations and projects.

Traditional Assessment Methods

Below are some examples of traditional assessment methods:

1. Examinations and final tests

Examinations are widely used to assess student knowledge and understanding at the end of a course or program. They are easy to implement and provide a quick and efficient way to evaluate student performance.

2. Term papers and essays

Essays and term papers are another traditional assessment method used alongside examinations. Essays test students’ ability to analyse a given topic or concept in detail, providing insight into their understanding of the subject matter.

3. Projects and presentations

Where skill-based or vocational courses are being taught, projects and presentations can test a student’s performance in class. These assessments allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter and show their ability to apply and transfer the knowledge in a practical context.

Performance-Based Assessments

Performance-based assessments are best employed when assessing practical skills or processes. Examples of performance-based summative assessments include:

1. Practical exams and demonstrations

Practical tests and demonstrations are often used to assess students’ physical abilities, such as in sports or vocational courses. These assessments test a student’s understanding of a particular skill or concept by having them demonstrate it in a real-world setting.

2. Portfolios and showcases

Where creative or design-based courses are being taught, portfolios and showcases allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts in a practical way. These assessments require students to use their creative skills to produce a tangible output, such as an artwork or multimedia presentation.

3. Capstone projects and dissertations

Dissertations and capstone projects are often used to assess students’ understanding of complex topics or skills. These assessments require students to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject matter by producing an in-depth research or project that meets specific criteria.

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Critical Differences Between Formative and Summative Assessments

Now that you have a fuller understanding of what both formative and summative assessments represent and how they can be employed, here’s a summary outlining the key differences between the two:

Timing and Frequency

One of the most essential distinctions between the two types of assessment is when they are conducted. Formative assessments occur throughout the course and act as checkpoints to monitor student progress.

In contrast, summative assessments are shown at the end of a defined learning period and only count towards an overall grade or score.

Purpose and Focus

Formative assessments are designed to provide feedback on understanding and inform instruction in real-time. In contrast, summative assessments evaluate student performance of a skill or concept and can help inform curriculum decisions.

Feedback and Evaluation Process

The feedback and evaluation process for formative and summative assessments differs significantly. Formative assessments are designed to offer real-time feedback on performance.

In contrast, summative assessments provide an overall assessment score or grade that reflects the student’s understanding of the subject matter at the end of a course or program.


Which is the Right Assessment Approach to Utilise?

Choosing the correct assessment approach for your students ultimately depends on the goals you are trying to achieve, the type of course or program being taught and the knowledge and skills that need to be assessed.

To help you decide, consider the following:

Considerations for Selecting Formative Assessments

Some of the critical considerations for making use of formative assessments include:

  • Regular feedback – Formative assessments should be implemented regularly to ensure students receive regular feedback on their understanding and performance.
  • Low-stakes testing – As formative tests don’t count towards an overall grade, they should be designed as low-stakes tests to help encourage participation.
  • Inform instruction – Formative assessment results can inform instruction in real-time, allowing educators to tailor their teaching approach to student needs.

Considerations for Selecting Summative Assessments

When making use of summative assessments, it’s essential to consider the following points:

  • Assessment goals – Before designing a summative assessment, clearly define the purposes of the evaluation and how it will be used to evaluate student performance.
  • Assessment criteria – When creating a summative assessment, ensure that you set clear and concise evaluation criteria that allow students to demonstrate their understanding fully.
  • Inter-rater reliability – To ensure fairness and accuracy, consider having multiple assessors score each student’s work when creating a summative assessment.

Using Both Formative and Summative Assessments in Learning and Development

As mentioned, one of the primary benefits of using formative and summative assessments in learning and development is that they can provide a more comprehensive evaluation of student performance.

By implementing both assessment forms, educators can better understand their student’s progress and tailor their instruction for maximum impact.

Formative assessments can measure progress and inform instruction in real-time, while summative assessments provide an overall score or grade that indicates learning success.

Final Thoughts

While formative and summative assessments have apparent differences, such as in their purpose, timing and feedback mechanisms, there are significant benefits to using both assessment types in learning and development.

Educators can better assess student performance and tailor instruction by implementing formative and summative assessments. Additionally, the use of both reviews provides a comprehensive view of understanding that can be used to inform curriculum decisions.

If you are looking for more guidance and resources on creating and implementing formative and summative assessments, check out the other articles on the Skillshub blog .

As experts in developing eLearning content , Skillshub can help create customised learning materials tailored to your organisation’s needs. To learn more about our services, get in touch with us today.

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Sean McPheat

Sean is the CEO of Skillshub. He’s a published author and has been featured on CNN, BBC and ITV as a leading authority in the learning and development industry. Sean is responsible for the vision and strategy at Skillshub, helping to ensure innovation within the company.


Updated on: 20 September, 2023

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14 Examples of Formative Assessment [+FAQs]

meaning of formative assignment

Traditional student assessment typically comes in the form of a test, pop quiz, or more thorough final exam. But as many teachers will tell you, these rarely tell the whole story or accurately determine just how well a student has learned a concept or lesson.

That’s why many teachers are utilizing formative assessments. While formative assessment is not necessarily a new tool, it is becoming increasingly popular amongst K-12 educators across all subject levels. 

Curious? Read on to learn more about types of formative assessment and where you can access additional resources to help you incorporate this new evaluation style into your classroom.

What is Formative Assessment?

Online education glossary EdGlossary defines formative assessment as “a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course.” They continue, “formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring, or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that adjustments can be made to lessons, instructional techniques, and academic support.”

The primary reason educators utilize formative assessment, and its primary goal, is to measure a student’s understanding while instruction is happening. Formative assessments allow teachers to collect lots of information about a student’s comprehension while they’re learning, which in turn allows them to make adjustments and improvements in the moment. And, the results speak for themselves — formative assessment has been proven to be highly effective in raising the level of student attainment, increasing equity of student outcomes, and improving students’ ability to learn, according to a study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

On the flipside of the assessment coin is summative assessments, which are what we typically use to evaluate student learning. Summative assessments are used after a specific instructional period, such as at the end of a unit, course, semester, or even school year. As learning and formative assessment expert Paul Black puts it, “when the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative assessment. When a customer tastes the soup, that’s summative assessment.”

meaning of formative assignment

14 Examples of Formative Assessment Tools & Strategies

There are many types of formative assessment tools and strategies available to teachers, and it’s even possible to come up with your own. However, here are some of the most popular and useful formative assessments being used today.

  • Round Robin Charts

Students break out into small groups and are given a blank chart and writing utensils. In these groups, everyone answers an open-ended question about the current lesson. Beyond the question, students can also add any relevant knowledge they have about the topic to their chart. These charts then rotate from group to group, with each group adding their input. Once everyone has written on every chart, the class regroups and discusses the responses. 

  • Strategic Questioning

This formative assessment style is quite flexible and can be used in many different settings. You can ask individuals, groups, or the whole class high-level, open-ended questions that start with “why” or “how.” These questions have a two-fold purpose — to gauge how well students are grasping the lesson at hand and to spark a discussion about the topic. 

  • Three-Way Summaries

These written summaries of a lesson or subject ask students to complete three separate write-ups of varying lengths: short (10-15 words), medium (30-50 words), and long (75-100). These different lengths test students’ ability to condense everything they’ve learned into a concise statement, or elaborate with more detail. This will demonstrate to you, the teacher, just how much they have learned, and it will also identify any learning gaps. 

  • Think-Pair-Share

Think-pair-share asks students to write down their answers to a question posed by the teacher. When they’re done, they break off into pairs and share their answers and discuss. You can then move around the room, dropping in on discussions and getting an idea of how well students are understanding.

  • 3-2-1 Countdown

This formative assessment tool can be written or oral and asks students to respond to three very simple prompts: Name three things you didn’t know before, name two things that surprised you about this topic, and name one you want to start doing with what you’ve learned. The exact questions are flexible and can be tailored to whatever unit or lesson you are teaching.

  • Classroom Polls

This is a great participation tool to use mid-lesson. At any point, pose a poll question to students and ask them to respond by raising their hand. If you have the capability, you can also use online polling platforms and let students submit their answers on their Chromebooks, tablets, or other devices.

  • Exit/Admission Tickets

Exit and admission tickets are quick written exercises that assess a student’s comprehension of a single day’s lesson. As the name suggests, exit tickets are short written summaries of what students learned in class that day, while admission tickets can be performed as short homework assignments that are handed in as students arrive to class.

  • One-Minute Papers

This quick, formative assessment tool is most useful at the end of the day to get a complete picture of the classes’ learning that day. Put one minute on the clock and pose a question to students about the primary subject for the day. Typical questions might be:

  • What was the main point?
  • What questions do you still have?
  • What was the most surprising thing you learned?
  • What was the most confusing aspect and why?
  • Creative Extension Projects

These types of assessments are likely already part of your evaluation strategy and include projects like posters and collage, skit performances, dioramas, keynote presentations, and more. Formative assessments like these allow students to use more creative parts of their skillset to demonstrate their understanding and comprehension and can be an opportunity for individual or group work.

Dipsticks — named after the quick and easy tool we use to check our car’s oil levels — refer to a number of fast, formative assessment tools. These are most effective immediately after giving students feedback and allowing them to practice said skills. Many of the assessments on this list fall into the dipstick categories, but additional options include writing a letter explaining the concepts covered or drawing a sketch to visually represent the topic. 

  • Quiz-Like Games and Polls

A majority of students enjoy games of some kind, and incorporating games that test a student’s recall and subject aptitude are a great way to make formative assessment more fun. These could be Jeopardy-like games that you can tailor around a specific topic, or even an online platform that leverages your own lessons. But no matter what game you choose, these are often a big hit with students.

  • Interview-Based Assessments

Interview-based assessments are a great way to get first-hand insight into student comprehension of a subject. You can break out into one-on-one sessions with students, or allow them to conduct interviews in small groups. These should be quick, casual conversations that go over the biggest takeaways from your lesson. If you want to provide structure to student conversations, let them try the TAG feedback method — tell your peer something they did well, ask a thoughtful question, and give a positive suggestion.

  • Self Assessment

Allow students to take the rubric you use to perform a self assessment of their knowledge or understanding of a topic. Not only will it allow them to reflect on their own work, but it will also very clearly demonstrate the gaps they need filled in. Self assessments should also allow students to highlight where they feel their strengths are so the feedback isn’t entirely negative.

  • Participation Cards

Participation cards are a great tool you can use on-the-fly in the middle of a lesson to get a quick read on the entire classes’ level of understanding. Give each student three participation cards — “I agree,” “I disagree,” and “I don’t know how to respond” — and pose questions that they can then respond to with those cards. This will give you a quick gauge of what concepts need more coverage.


The education industry is always changing and evolving, perhaps now more than ever. Learn how you can be prepared by downloading our eBook.

meaning of formative assignment

List of Formative Assessment Resources

There are many, many online formative assessment resources available to teachers. Here are just a few of the most widely-used and highly recommended formative assessment sites available.

  • Arizona State Dept of Education

FAQs About Formative Assessment

The following frequently asked questions were sourced from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a leading education professional organization of more than 100,000 superintendents, principals, teachers, and advocates.  

Is formative assessment something new?

No and yes. The concept of measuring a student’s comprehension during lessons has existed for centuries. However, the concept of formative assessment as we understand it didn’t appear until approximately 40 years ago, and has progressively expanded into what it is today.

What makes something a formative assessment?

ASCD characterized formative assessment as “a way for teachers and students to gather evidence of learning, engage students in assessment, and use data to improve teaching and learning.” Their definition continues, “when you use an assessment instrument— a test, a quiz, an essay, or any other kind of classroom activity—analytically and diagnostically to measure the process of learning and then, in turn, to inform yourself or your students of progress and guide further learning, you are engaging in formative assessment. If you were to use the same instrument for the sole purpose of gathering data to report to a district or state or to determine a final grade, you would be engaging in summative assessment.”

Does formative assessment work in all content areas?

Absolutely, and it works across all grade levels. Nearly any content area — language arts, math, science, humanities, and even the arts or physical education — can utilize formative assessment in a positive way.

How can formative assessment support the curriculum?

Formative assessment supports curricula by providing real-time feedback on students’ knowledge levels and comprehension of the subject at hand. When teachers regularly utilize formative assessment tools, they can find gaps in student learning and customize lessons to fill those gaps. After term is over, teachers can use this feedback to reshape their curricula.

How can formative assessment be used to establish instructional priorities?

Because formative assessment supports curriculum development and updates, it thereby influences instructional priorities. Through student feedback and formative assessment, teachers are able to gather data about which instructional methods are most (and least) successful. This “data-driven” instruction should yield more positive learning outcomes for students.

Can formative assessment close achievement gaps?

Formative assessment is ideal because it identifies gaps in student knowledge while they’re learning. This allows teachers to make adjustments to close these gaps and help students more successfully master a new skill or topic.

How can I help my students understand formative assessment?

Formative assessment should be framed as a supportive learning tool; it’s a very different tactic than summative assessment strategies. To help students understand this new evaluation style, make sure you utilize it from the first day in the classroom. Introduce a small number of strategies and use them repeatedly so students become familiar with them. Eventually, these formative assessments will become second nature to teachers and students.

Before you tackle formative assessment, or any new teaching strategy for that matter, consider taking a continuing education course. At the University of San Diego School of Professional and Continuing Education, we offer over 500 courses for educators that can be completed entirely online, and many at your own pace. So no matter what your interests are, you can surely find a course — or even a certificate — that suits your needs.

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A Summary of Evidence Based Formative Assessment Strategies

meaning of formative assignment

Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black originally defined formative assessment as: “encompassing all those activities undertaken by teachers, and/or their students, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged” (Black and Wiliam 1998). Formative assessment strategies are central to effective and responsive teaching and learning. They are also linked to the different stages of the learning process in addition to curriculum planning, design and delivery.

Formative assessment involves a range of evidence-informed strategies used in the classroom across the curriculum with learners of different ages, and can be applied across all subjects. Formative assessment can help the teacher and student understand what needs to be learned and how this can be achieved. A teacher can use a range of strategies to support their students to make progress, and the learner can embrace formative assessment strategies to monitor and reflect on their own progress and act on feedback provided by the teacher and/or their peers.

Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy have written extensively about five key formative assessment strategies (Embedded Formative Assessment, 2011). The five strategies promoted by Wiliam and Leahy are:

  • Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions and success criteria
  • Engineering effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning
  • Providing feedback that moves learners forward
  • Activating students as learning resources for one another
  • Activating students as owners of their own learning.

For each of these strategies a range of techniques can be deployed in the classroom. Formative assessment strategies take place during the learning process in contrast to summative assessment that focuses on a final and high stakes exam or test. The aim of these strategies is to continually help students make progress and develop.

As with all approaches in education, these strategies can either be implemented effectively, badly or by becoming ‘ lethal mutations’ . In such situations, evidence-based strategies are rushed, misunderstood or misapplied to the point of no longer resembling the original research or desired outcome.

In order to avoid misconceptions and mutations, teachers and school leaders need to carefully consider the evidence base and select formative assessment strategies and techniques suitable for their context. This must be followed by considered and meaningful review and reflection.

To find out more about formative assessment strategies in the classroom, for effective teaching and learning, you can sign up to our upcoming webinar here or, if you are based in the United Arab Emirates, you can sign up for the in person workshop in Dubai here . The webinar and workshop will be led by Kate Jones, Senior Associate for Teaching and Learning and author or Wiliam and Leahy’s Five Formative Assessment Strategies: In Action (2021).


Black, P., & William, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5, 7-74. doi:10.1080/0969595980050102

Embedding Formative Assessment. Practical Techniques for the Classroom. Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy. (2011).

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Do formative assessments cover the support listed in section F of a CYP EHCP? Or should there be a separate graduated response for those interventions? Experiencing an uncommunicative school.

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A theoretical statements are available but translating into a curriculum is required. Formative is for student self learning hence there needs to be a mechanism to have a graded approach and chance that retake an assessment it required.

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7 Effective Formative Assessment: Meaning, Types & Examples

Formative Assessment

Table of contents

  • What is Formative Assessment?
  • What are the types of formative assessment?
  • What is formative vs summative assessment?
  • Examples of Formative and Summative Assessments

Evaluating the student’s learning needs at any point of learning is pivotal for teachers. Such type of analysis or evaluation is done through the formative assessment . National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recommends formative assessments in practice sessions since they contribute to the overall holistic development of the students.

SETU, an AI-based assessment platform in sync with NEP, fosters formative assessment techniques in practice sessions. It enables teachers to track students’ performance in real-time and adjust course content and delivery.

It involves asking questions, conducting exercises, assignments, quizzes, and gathering feedback to monitor learners’ progress quickly and continuously.

This article will discuss formative assessment, their types, and the critical differences between formative and summative assessments.

Formative Assessments

The  National Education Policy (NEP) 2023  encourages a shift in assessment practices to ensure a comprehensive evaluation and bridge students’ learning gaps to meet 21st-century skills.

Unlike summative assessment, which occurs at the end of a unit or course to measure overall learning, formative assessment is ongoing. It focuses on providing feedback to students and teachers to improve learning outcomes.

It helps identify the student  learning gaps , informs instructional decisions , and supports students’ growth.

meaning of formative assignment

Types of Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment

When discussing the types of formative assessments, a myriad of assessments come under this roof. They are:

  • Classroom Observation: Teachers observe s tudents’ behavior, interactions, and engagement in class to assess their understanding and progress.
  • Questioning and Discussion: Teachers ask questions during class discussions to gauge students ‘ comprehension and encourage critical thinking.
  • Summary Notes: Brief assessments are given at the end of a class or lesson to assess students’ understanding of the material covered.
  • Quizzes and Tests: Short quizzes or mini-tests conducted during or after a lesson to assess understanding and identify misconceptions.
  • Homework and Assignments: Assignments are given for practice or reinforcement , which provide insights into students’ grasp of concepts.
  • Peer Assessment: Students evaluate and provide feedback on each other’s work, promoting self-assessment and collaboration.
  • Self-Assessment: Students reflect on their learning, set goals, and evaluate their progress, fostering metacognitive skills.

In sync with NEP 2023  vision, SETU integrates these formative assessments into its platform. These assessments help schools, teachers, and students improve their entire teaching and learning process.

I am sure you are very clear about formative assessment and its types.

Next, we will discuss the key difference between formative and summative assessments.

Formative Assessment vs Summative Assessment

The key difference between formative assessment and summative assessment are:

Examples of formative and summative assessments

The below-illustrated examples serve different purposes and contexts of formative and  summative assessments . Formative assessments are designed to provide ongoing feedback and support learning, while summative assessments are typically used to evaluate overall achievement and determine grades or certifications.

Examples of Formative Assessments:

Formative Assessment

  • In-class Discussions: Engaging students in discussions to assess their understanding of a topic and promote critical thinking.
  • Quizz sessions: Quick quizzes or short written responses at the end of a lesson to gauge students’ comprehension.
  • Concept Mapping: Asking students to create visual diagrams that represent their understanding of the relationships between concepts.
  • Peer Feedback: Having students provide constructive feedback to their peers on projects or presentations.
  • Classroom Observations: Teachers observing students’ behavior, participation, and engagement during class activities.
  • Homework Assignments: Assigning practice problems or tasks that allow teachers to gauge students’ understanding and identify areas for improvement.

Examples of Summative Assessments:

Formative Assessment

  • Final Exams: Comprehensive exams administered at the end of a course or academic year to evaluate overall knowledge and understanding .
  • Standardized Tests: Assessments designed to measure students’ proficiency in specific subjects are often used for comparative purposes.
  • Projects: Longer-term projects demonstrate students’ ability to apply knowledge and skills acquired throughout a course.
  • Portfolios: Collections of student work, such as essays, projects, or presentations , are compiled to showcase their achievements and progress over time.
  • Graded Assignments: Assignments or assessments that are scored and contribute to students’ final grades, such as essays or lab reports.
  • Capstone Presentations: Final presentations where students showcase their knowledge, skills, and accomplishments in a specific area of study.

setu for nep

How does SETU help to conduct Formative Assessments?

SETU can play a significant role in collecting student feedback, allowing instructors to refine their formative assessment practices and create a more effective and engaging learning environment.

  • The feedback mechanism helps teachers gauge how well their instructional methods facilitate student learning and adjust accordingly.
  • SETU helps in determining the student’s engagement level during instructional activities and assessments.
  • By identifying Strengths and Weaknesses, teachers adjust their instructional approaches, provide targeted support , and design effective formative assessments to address areas where students may struggle.
  • Overall by analyzing the feedback data, our SETU platform helps continuously refine formative assessment practices.


Formative assessment positively impacts the entire teaching and learning process . Teachers use the data to improve their teaching methods, and students can identify areas of improvement and highlight areas where they need help. 

It also encourages class participation through quick-fire tasks. To look at how we support students in providing the formative assessment, login to the platform SETU , and our expert team will provide you with all the details required for smooth operations.

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Detailed Guide To Formative Assessment

Are you a teacher trying to improve your teaching method and help your students learn faster and better? You must…

Importance Of Formative Evaluation

Are you a teacher trying to improve your teaching method and help your students learn faster and better? You must be aware of the different types of learning methods that serve specific teaching and learning purposes. If formative assessments are something you’re keen to know more about, read on!

This blog will tell you all you need to know about formative assessments, which are used widely in all forms of education to enhance the teaching and learning experience.

What Is The Meaning Of Formative Assessment?

Formative evaluation in education, application of formative evaluation, characteristics of formative assessments, types of formative assessments, importance of formative assessments, advantages and disadvantages of formative assessments., examples of formative assessments, what is the meaning of formative assessment .

Formative assessment , also known as formative evaluation , formative feedback or assessment for learning, is a collection of formal and informal assessment processes to improve learner outcomes and increase student achievement. A formative evaluation tracks student progress and provides continual feedback. Another purpose of formative assessment is to assist students in recognizing their strengths and limitations and focusing on problem areas. It allows faculty to see where pupils are struggling so that they can step in to help.

Now that we’ve explained the meaning of formative assessment , let’s look at the purpose of formative evaluation and some formative assessment examples .

Formative evaluations are assessments used to improve learning. They are usually unstructured and frequently upgraded. As we’ve seen, the purpose of formative assessments is to provide a sense of students’ understanding of a topic, allowing the instructor to adapt to the class’s changing needs. Does the instructor need to re-explain the concept the class seems shaky in? As the meaning of formative assessment suggests, these evaluations help teachers answer such questions.

Formative evaluation in education helps teachers, trainees and students estimate the cohort’s progress. The assessments are a kind of proof based on which future lessons may be planned. These are likely to be better or more well-founded because of the feedback from assessments.

Formative evaluations provide real-time feedback on what learners are learning and missing out on so that educational methods, materials and student services can adjust to meet these requirements.

The following are some avenues where we find formative evaluation being used:

  Math Classes

It is critical for teachers in math education to observe how their class  deals with challenges, how it responds to different mathematical concepts and how well it can apply them when finding solutions. Understanding how students think during the studying or problem-solving process allows teachers to help them overcome intellectual challenges. As a result, this enhances learning. Formative assessment is diagnostic in this sense.

To use formative assessment in the classroom, a teacher must ensure that each pupil engages in the learning experience by presenting their opinions—that there is a judgment-free atmosphere in which pupils can offer input to one another; that the teacher provides support to students; and that guidance is configured to suit the needs of the students. Thought-revealing exercises like model-eliciting activities (MEAs) and creative activities in math classes are great for incorporating these elements of formative assessment.

Global Language Education

As a continuous assessment, it emphasizes the method and assists teachers in determining the present status of their students’ linguistic competence. It also allows students to engage in the modification or design of future classes. The students’ motivation to study the target language increases as they participate in their study design. It also increases their awareness of the target languages, causing them to rethink their own objectives. As a result, it assists students in achieving their objectives and it helps teachers in fostering students’ target language proficiency.

Computer-Assisted Instruction

Many academics are working to diversify assessment activities, expand the breadth of skills evaluated and offer students more timely and accurate feedback on their development. Others want to accommodate students’ demands for more flexible delivery and create assessment efficiencies that will reduce academic staff burdens.

The shift to desktop and online evaluation is a natural result of the growing usage of information and communication technology to improve learning. As more students want flexibility in their classes, the need for adaptable evaluation will rise as well.

A defined framework or model can be used to guide evaluation when implementing online and computer-based training.

Networked classroom devices can also be used to improve the way teachers arrange their classroom activities and lessons.

The formative assessment method, which makes the most of technology, not only allows for quick gathering, evaluation and sorting of student information, but it also gives teachers the information they need to improve their teaching method.

Being familiar with the characteristics of formative assessment allows instructors to become more efficient. When you know what formative evaluations mean ,  you’ll avoid grading your students only at the end of the course in favor of a more comprehensive approach.

Here’s a round-up of characteristics that’ll make the meaning of formative assessments clearer:

  • Formative assessment evaluates the learning process and the progress of the learner
  • A collaborative formative evaluation throws light on the effectiveness of a teaching technique
  • Another characteristic of formative evaluation is that it’s flexible—you don’t measure the student’s progress against a standard or benchmark
  • It calls for instructors and students to become more deliberate learners
  • The goal of formative evaluation is to collect actionable feedback to enhance the teaching and learning process
  • It’s a type of evaluation used to diagnose problems
  • Formative evaluation results can be available right away

Now that we’ve gone over the characteristics of formative evaluation , let’s study the different types of formative assessments .

Let us discuss the types of Formative Assessments in detail


Observing pupils as they work on a project is one type of formative evaluation. As the students work, the teacher moves around the classroom, occasionally offering support and motivation. Observation is ideal when a teacher wants to track how students engage in groups or individually. It records how well they’re doing and whether the assignment has to be changed.

Teachers can use worksheets in class or as take-home assignments. These aren’t factored into the student’s official grade but determine how well the student comprehends a topic.

These provide good feedback on a learner’s understanding of a concept. Teachers may conduct on-the-spot quizzes in class or hand out preset quizzes.

The journal is an efficient type of formative assessment. Students are required to regularly note their ideas and feelings regarding how they’re doing in class. They can also express their opinions on what they like and dislike about a particular project. This data allows the teacher to assess the effectiveness of a particular lesson plan.

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic tests are a type of formative assessment that allows the instructor and management to identify the appropriate level of education for children. You use it at the start of the school year. Diagnostics can examine the level of the class’s  knowledge in practically any subject. Formulating the lessons after this exercise can reduce students’ anxiety in class.

These are just a few types of formative assessment . There are many more to choose from depending on the subject of instruction and teaching style.

There are many benefits of formative assessments . The importance of formative evaluation extends to fields beyond education. There are chances that your project might start as per plan but run into trouble because of variables outside your control. The importance of formative evaluation lies in its potential to help you deal with unforeseen events and respond to them effectively.

Formative assessments can help you implement your project better. You will gather more knowledge and improve potential project formulation and simulation. This highlights the importance of formative assessment in business.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Formative Assessments .

Formative assessment is an integral part of a learner’s growth trajectory. Its advantages and disadvantages are as follows.

Advantages Of Formative Assessments

  • Aids in the development of knowledge and skills: The primary advantage of formative evaluation is that it assists learners in developing knowledge and skills
  • Helps plan for a better future: Another advantage of formative assessment is that it helps teachers prepare and modify plans in a timely manner
  • Produces positive results: This is a key advantage of formative evaluations . A formative evaluation encompasses a wide range of diagnostics that help gauge student progress. The benefit of formative assessment here is that students are able to improve their performance and achieve better results

The disadvantages of formative assessments are that they can be a tiring, time-consuming process. There might also be a shortage of trained professionals to utilize this tool properly.

Though there are various ways to conduct formative assessment, some common examples are as follows.

  • Examples of formative evaluations in education include one-minute test papers, directed paraphrasing and mid-semester evaluations
  • Self-assessments can be undertaken by students to consider their own learning experience, reflect on everything they do well and what they struggle with
  • Students can benefit from each other as learning tools through peer assessments. One peer assessment is ‘workshopping’, where students follow a rubric or rules supplied by the teacher to write a piece collaboratively
  • Other examples of formative assessments are strategic questioning and classroom polls

Attempting to understand the meaning of formative assessments shows us the tremendous impact they can have on development and education processes. With Harappa’s Inspiring Faculty Program , you can enhance your learning, plan formative assessments for real-time use and build a strong presence. We can help teachers develop innovative teaching techniques and encourage student feedback. 

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics such as Meaning Of Outcome-Based Education , Examples Of Project-Based Learning , Difference Between Asynchronous And Synchronous Learning and How To Learning From Experience that will help organizations tap into employee potential.



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  6. Formative assessment

    Formative assessment, formative evaluation, formative feedback, or assessment for learning, [1] including diagnostic testing, is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.

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  20. What does formative assessment mean?

    Formative assessments are a method of assessing pupils whilst learning is happening, rather than waiting until the end of a term or topic. This is commonly referred to as assessment for learning or AfL. AfL evaluates the comprehension levels and learning needs of students.

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  23. Detailed Guide To Formative Assessment

    A formative evaluation tracks student progress and provides continual feedback. Another purpose of formative assessment is to assist students in recognizing their strengths and limitations and focusing on problem areas. It allows faculty to see where pupils are struggling so that they can step in to help. Now that we've explained the meaning ...