Assessment is the evaluation of student learning. Assessment falls under one of three categories: formative, summative or benchmarking, according to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Formative assessment occurs continually throughout a lesson and helps shape a lesson for maximum student understanding. Summative assessment occurs at the end of a unit of teaching and determines whether students met their learning goals. Benchmark assessments compare student performance across schools, districts or states.
Formative assessment commonly occurs as teachers observe students throughout the learning process. As the teacher asks students to perform specific tasks, they can easily observe student understanding. Examples of formative assessments include small group work, exit slips, concept maps or graphic organizers and classroom discussion. The creation of a journal or portfolio may also serve as a formative assessment when the teacher provides continual feedback and supports the student in self-assessment as students select pieces for their portfolio.
Summative assessments allow the teacher to evaluate whether or not a student has mastered concepts taught in a lesson. These assessments are usually formal and graded. Common summative assessments are tests and quizzes. Other types of summative assessments include presentations at the end of a project, essays or written reports.
Benchmark assessments are usually standardized and given across a school, district or state to measure student progress through a curriculum. Schools give benchmark assessments at a specific time each year or month, and these assessments generally focus on reading and math. They will usually reflect the content standards of the school, state or district.
Other Types of Assessments
Authentic assessment is another common type of assessment at the high school level. Teachers base these assessments on "real-world" situations and ask the students to determine a solution to a problem utilizing skills and information learned in class. Other types of assessment are narrative observations and anecdotal record keeping. Both the narrative and anecdotal assessments may focus on student behavior and development rather than academic progress to give the teacher a whole picture of student achievement.
- Illinois State Board of Education: A Sampling of Formative Types of Assessment
- Indiana University: Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning: Summative and Formative Assessment
- University of North Carolina School of Education: LEARN NC: Benchmark Assessments; Heather Coffey
- Indiana University: Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning: Authentic Assessment
- Scholastic.com: Staff Workshop Teacher Handout: Assessment Tools for Measuring Progress Throughout the Year
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