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Assessment Types and Goals

There are two major types of assessment, formative and summative, that can be similar in structure but have different goals.

The main goal of formative assessment is to gather feedback that can be used by the instructor and the students to guide improvements in the ongoing teaching and learning context. These kinds of assessment activities are low stake for students and instructors. Some examples include early course evaluations, having a classroom observer give feedback on your teaching, asking students to submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture, or to submit an outline for a paper.

The main goal of summative assessment is to measure the level of success or proficiency that has been obtained at the end of an instructional unit, by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. Assigning a grade to a final exam or a senior recital or results from the University Faculty Course Evaluations, are examples of summative assessment. The outcome of a summative assessment can be used as formative, however. When students receive comments on a final paper, or instructors receive comments on their course evaluations, that feedback can serve as formative assessment to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

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