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What is a Summative Evaluation?

Updated on June 2, 2013

Seaman takes his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) aboard the USS Kitty Hawk


Common Summative Assessment Instruments

Here is a list of common summative assessment tools or instruments:

  • state-mandated tests
  • benchmark assessments
  • interim assessments (such as midterm exams)
  • end-of-unit or end-of-chapter tests
  • semester or end-of-term tests (such as final exams)


Summative Evaluations or Assessments Measure Student Growth

Summative evaluations, also called summative assessments or culminating activities, measure student growth in learning after instruction. These assessments are designed to measure long term teaching and learning goals and student retention of curricular content taught. As such, they provide outcome data on student achievement, rather than on effort or student aptitude. A main focus of these types of tests, therefore, is on identifying the student's level of mastery of core content or academic subject area.

Summative Tests Also Measure Effectiveness of Instruction

Summative assessments, evaluations, or tests are the accountability measure of instruction. While the data these assessments provide is used to determine students' unit or final grades, it should (it must) also be used to determine the effectiveness of the method(s) selected to present the information (the instructional methods) and of the methods or instruments used to check for students' understanding at various points during instruction (the formative assessments)

Use Summative Data Outcomes to Measure Your Own Teaching

As a teacher, the results, or outcomes, of summative assessments are invaluable for checking your own effectiveness (and it will be used to evaluate you as a teacher by your school's administrative team, have no doubt). A well-constructed summative assessment instrument will take students across the Bloom's Taxonomy:

  • can the student recall or remember the information taught? (Remembering/Knowledge, on the Bloom's Taxonomy charts (new and old versions))
  • can the student explain the ideas or concepts taught? (Understanding/Comprehension)
  • can the student use the information taught in a new way? (Applying/Application)
  • can the student distinguish between the different parts of the material taught? (Analyzing/Analysis)
  • can the student defend an opinion, a stand, or a decision based on the material taught? (Evaluating/Synthesis)
  • can the student create a new product or point of view based on the material taught? (Creating, on the new version of the Bloom's Taxonomy chart)

How does your summative instrument measure up? Does it take students across the long-term learning spectrum, based on Bloom's Taxonomy of learning? How do your students measure up? Where are most of your students' (as a pool, a group of learners) major weaknesses? Strengths?

Use this data to create reteaching lessons before you officially end a unit or chapter, or weave the ideas and concepts to be reinforced into the next one.

Outcome Data Is Used for Program or Curricular Decision-Making

Ultimately, the outcome data from summative assessments should be pooled and used as a program accountability tool. The pooled student outcome data from summative evaluations or tests should (and, again, must) be used to check the accuracy of the program's stated or established goals and the effectiveness of the methods used to accomplish these program or curricular goals.

Assessment Data Should Not Be Used to Punish

Assessment data should never be used to punish either students, teachers or programs. Assessment data must be used to improve student learning outcomes, as well as teacher or program effectiveness.


Submit a Comment

  • everymom profile image

    Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    Thanks, Randi!

  • btrbell profile image

    Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

    Great explanation! As a former student, teacher and current parent , I love the way you broke this down and explained it so well. I have often seen tests used as a form of punishment versus assessment that I forgot what a useful tool it is! Thank you for the thorough explanation! Up, useful and interesting!