Short Formative & Summative Assessment Tools

Concept maps help teachers understand which ideas students need help with.
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The easiest way to make quick, effective formative and summative assessment tools for students of any age is to align those assessments to one another. These two tools are used as mirrors to tell how students have progressed throughout a unit: the formative assessment is used upfront, before instruction begins or along the way, while the summative assessment is used after the unit ends, to determine whether students picked up the necessary information throughout the series of lessons. Formative assessments are used to determine which subjects or ideas the teacher needs to target in order to ensure student understanding.

Decide beforehand how you will score assessments. Use your own notes for a more detailed approach on how individual students are comprehending the material, or score student understanding on a scale of 1 to 4 for a quantitative look at how understanding is developing.

Create your assessment tools. Take notes on blank pages for each student, collect assignments in a binder and compare to earlier and later assessments to see how students are progressing. Alternatively, print out charts ahead of time in which you have student names on one axis and concepts or themes on another, scoring each student by theme on a scale of 1 to 4.

Use discussion to determine class understanding as a whole, and individual conversations to figure out which students still need help. Ask students to work in groups for some projects, on their own for others. Discussion is a quick, easy way to tell how much students have absorbed that can be used any time.

Construct more concrete, individual assessment tools by assigning concept maps or short essays, or giving quizzes that tell you how each student is learning. Use quick, targeted assessment strategies that assess only a few concepts at a time.

Use a variety of formative assessments to account for differences in learning and testing. Be flexible: if you cannot yet tell how much students have learned, or if you want more information, use more than one summative assessment until you are satisfied you have gathered enough information.

  • Beware confining your assessments only to quantitative models, which use numbers, or qualitative models, which use your notes or student discussion and projects. Use a variety of each for best assessment, such as scoring charts along with discussion and concept maps.
  • Using quantitative assessments like scoring charts at the beginning and end of a unit will give you concrete information on how much students have grown in each section.

Sarah Moore has been a writer, editor and blogger since 2006. She holds a master's degree in journalism.