Formative and Summative Evaluations

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Formative and Summative Evaluations

Formative and Summative Evaluations

Two different forms of evaluations are often used in instructional design, to assess if learners have gained the knowledge that they should have:

  1. Formative evaluations.
  2. Summative evaluations.

Formative Evaluations

The purpose of formative evaluations is to evaluate learning as it is taking place. Formative evaluations serve to guide the learning, by gathering learner feedback.

Often, formative evaluations employ qualitative rather than quantitative feedback. This feedback can be used to guide learners as the instruction continues.

For example, in an online course, a formative evaluation may take the form of a quiz at the end of a topic. If the learner gets a question wrong, the course can be designed to take the learner back to the specific screen where the information was, so that he or she can review it.

Summative Evaluations

The purpose of summative evaluations is to determine the overall effectiveness, or the sum, of the learning at its conclusion. Summative evaluations are most often quantitative; that is, a score will be recorded.

That score can be used for a variety of things. In a workplace, it is often recorded and reported to a supervisor as proof that learning was achieved.

When to Use Each Type

Formative evaluations take place as the learning is going on. An example of a formative evaluation is an end-of-lesson quiz.

Summative evaluations take place at the conclusion of the learning. An example of a summative evaluation is an end-of-course assessment. In an online learning environment, they are often required to be completed for learning to be considered complete.

In our course on business writing, an example of a formative evaluation might be a check-in quiz at the end of each lesson. These could include traditional question types such as multiple choice, or it could include more interactive assessments, such as composing an appropriate e-mail message. Feedback would be constructive in that it would point the learner to concepts in the lesson.

A summative evaluation might be the end-of-the-course assessment. This could be 20 questions utilizing traditional formats, such as multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank. The feedback would be minimal, and the score recorded in the organization's learning management system (LMS) for collection by the learning administrator.

Writing Assessment Questions

Writing assessment questions is an important part of the evaluation process since they are a common way to measure if goals and objectives have been achieved.

There are a number of most-often-used assessment question types:

  • Multiple Choice: The stem question, followed by answer choices. Only one is correct.
  • Multiple Response: The stem question, followed by answer choices. More than one answer is correct.
  • True/False Questions: The stem statement, which the learner marks as either a true or false statement.
  • Fill-in-the-Blank Questions: A statement, containing one or more blanks that should be filled in by the student.
  • Matching Items: Typically consist of two columns, where the student matches the items in the second column to match items in the first column.

The following are examples of these assessment question types.