Introduction to Formative and Summative Assessments

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Formative Assessments are traditional or formal ways of testing a student’s knowledge using quizzes, exams or tests to evaluate how they have learned the material from the module or course.


  • Quizzes
  • Games
  • Projects
  • Presentations
  • Group Activities

Formative assessments should be used on a regular basis (e.g. every week or every new unit lesson) and are rather flexible by design and approach to measure students’ progress. This flexibility allows for your students to maintain engagement with the material and you as an instructor. This way you avoid the classic scenario of teaching-testing-teaching-testing. As an instructor, the formative assessments help you gain a complete understanding as to how your students are learning as you are teaching a subject. Typically, formative assessments are monitored through formal grading systems but you can also gauge how students are feeling about the material or through other non-graded student data (e.g. informal surveys).

Summative Assessments are used to evaluate how much someone has learned throughout the course and may also be in the form of quizzes or exams.


  • Tests
  • Final Exams
  • Reports
  • Papers
  • Final Projects

Summative assessments traditionally take place at the end of the module or term and use a traditional grading schema. Summative assessments are also cumulative in order to evaluate a student’s long-term understanding of the material. This requires a certain level of reflection and understanding from the student with the material to bring together the information from the entire course. A summative assessment allows you to evaluate what a student has learned and how they have prepared to advance to the next module or level in their program.

This guide provides literature to learn more about formative and summative assessments, as well as a template to assist in a backwards design framework to help develop what kinds of assessments to use for teaching and learning modules.

Created by Sahar Zavareh Hofmann
on 2024-06-13