The difference between formative and summative assessments

Formative assessments are also known as assessments for learning and take place during the learning process.  Teachers will use these results to help inform their instruction and these can take place either orally, on paper, or by utilizing technology, amongst other methods.  Ideally, these take place several times throughout the learning process and students should use these results to help them focus on what they need to improve upon while still learning about the topic that they were assessed on.

Summative assessments are also known as assessments of learning and these typically take place at the end of a unit of instruction.  End of the chapter tests are examples of summative assessments.  In a traditional classroom, everything a student does is looked at together and there is one score reported back to the student, even though there may be several skills covered on the assessment.  In a skills based reporting environment, the student will receive feedback and a rating on the different skills that they are assessed on.  If a student performs poorly on a summative assessment, there are specific retake procedures that are explained below.