Formative and Summative Assessments

Assessment is an essential part of instruction since it measures if the course goals and objectives have been met. There are two types of assessment — formative and summative.


circular motion representing formative evaluationThe goal of formative assessments is to provide students ongoing feedback during instruction. It helps them monitor their progress and identify their strengths and weaknesses. Formative assessments are sometimes called assessments for learning, since these are geared towards the students. In an online course, formative assessments are critical to students’ success, since they are physically separated from their instructor and are often working independently.


  • A test about colonial history is given to eighth grade students at the beginning of the unit to determine how instruction will proceed.
  • A test of addition facts is given to third graders during the first week of school.
  • A pre-test is given to leadership class on conflict resolution to determine their knowledge of the topic.


icon representing summative evaluationThe goal of a summative assessment is to measure student learning at the end of an instructional unit or module. Summative assessments are used to determine if the student mastered the content objectives.


  • At the end of the addition unit, third grade students are given an addition test to determine proficiency.
  • A final exam is given to eighth grade students in United States history at the end of the semester.
  • Students are asked to conduct a conflict resolution role play at the end of a class to demonstrate mastery.

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