With high-stakes testing and a hefty emphasis on accountability, assessing the curriculum is a key part of making sure that schools are functioning at an adequate level. There are two primary types of evaluations -- formative and summative -- that assess academic curriculum for effectiveness. Within each major category, you'll find different models that guide the assessment process when it comes to information that you need and how to gather it.
A formative type of evaluation assesses the curriculum as it is used. Instead of waiting until the end of the school year to look back on how well the curriculum worked, using a formative evaluation allows you to get feedback on a consistent basis, according to the Carnegie Mellon University. This type of assessment allows educators and administrators to make changes as the school year progresses and adapt the curriculum for different learning styles. Methods for formative evaluation may include collecting student reflection papers after lessons, midterm course evaluations or reviewing summaries that the students write on instructional units.
Unlike formative evaluations that take place on a consistent basis, giving ongoing feedback, the summative type is done at the end of a course or school year or through standardized assessment testing. Summative evaluations measure curricular success by reviewing the outcomes against benchmark standards. These are evaluations of learning for accountability and are not necessarily used to boost the educational process, according to educational consultant and learning specialist Judith Dodge on the website Scholastic Teachers.
Methods and Models
Within both formative and summative evaluations, there are models that inform how you conduct the individual assessments. Based on educational research and theory, evaluation models not only guide the process of the assessment but also provide a framework for it. For example, the objectives-centered model -- created by theorist Ralph Tyler -- is a systematic type of evaluation that starts with setting behavioral objectives that include both the curricular content as well as learning behaviors. In this model, the evaluator chooses and uses several assessment tools and compares the results. In contrast, a goal-free model places the evaluator as an unbiased observer who creates a need profile. The assessment then compares the effects of the curriculum to the students' needs.
Choosing a specific type of evaluation means reviewing the many different models. Teachers and evaluators may have personal preferences or policy requirements, or they may choose a type based on the most current research. Other considerations may include the process, cost-effectiveness or the actual propose of the evaluation. For example, if you want to evaluate how a new science curriculum is helping students learn through a child-centered process, you may want a formative assessment. By contrast, if you want to evaluate the overall outcome of your mathematics curriculum based on state standardized tests, you would use a summative assessment.
- Carnegie Mellon University: Formative vs. Summative Assessment
- Scholastic Teachers: What Are Formative Assessments and Why Should We Use Them?
- Sage Publications: Curriculum Evaluation
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Program Evaluation, Basic Information
- Center for Public Education: A Guide to Standardized Testing: The Nature of Assessment
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