Formative vs. Summative Assessment: Moving along the learning progression

"Assessment for learning is any assessment for which the first priority in its design and practice is to serve the purpose of promoting pupils’ learning. It thus differs from assessment designed primarily to serve the purposes of accountability, or of ranking, or of certifying competence. An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information to be used as feedback, by teachers, and by their pupils, in assessing themselves and each other, to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged.
Such assessment becomes ‘formative assessment’ when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs." Black et al., 2002

The basic idea behind formative assessment is that students need to know what the learning goals are, where they are in their learning, and what it takes to get to the goal. The questions they answer, the quizzes they take, the daily writing they do, are all formative assessments that they can use to judge where they are in their learning. The assessments they take at the end of their work on a topic are summative assessments. When formative assessment is used well, students should be completely prepared to pass the summative assessments when they get to that point.

Definition of Formative Assessment: Anything that a teacher uses to assess the learning of a student on a particular topic and then adjusts instruction based on the results. These assessments do not usually count toward their grade, but the results of the assessment are clearly communicated to student and teacher.
Definition of Summative Assessment: An assessment tool (test, project, product, etc.) that is given at the end of a unit of study when students are ready to demonstrate their overall learning on a subject. These assessments count toward their grade. (They can also be formative if students get understandable feedback that they can use to re-learn the material they did not get the first time around, and if they have a second chance to show what they know on that topic.)

Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning

ATI’s new book, Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning, presents research-based recommendations about classroom assessment practices around three formative assessment questions:

Where Am I Going?
Strategy 1: Provide students with a clear and understandable vision of the learning target.
Strategy 2: Use examples and models of strong and weak work.

Where Am I Now?
Strategy 3: Offer regular descriptive feedback.
Strategy 4: Teach students to self-assess and set goals.

How Can I Close the Gap?
Strategy 5: Design lessons to focus on one learning target or aspect of quality at a time.
Strategy 6: Teach students focused revision.
Strategy 7: Engage students in self-reflection and let them keep track of and share their learning.