Summative Assessment

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When people think about assessment in a general sense, they tend to think about what is more specifically referred to as summative assessment. According to Yorke (2003), summative assessment is primarily concerned "with determining the extent to which a student has achieved curricular objectives" (p. 479). While formative assessments look at what has been learned as the result of specific learning intervention (a single lecture, an active learning exercise, etc.), summative assessment looks at what has been learned at the end of that learning. Essays and exams are probably the most common forms of summative assessment in higher education.

Summative assessments are often more complex -- larger, more time-consuming, more-expansive in scope -- than are formative assessment.

However, faculty need to consider that simply grading such an assessment is enough to understand exactly what students have learned. A wholistic grade applied to a 10-page essay does not clearly describe what learning was mastered and what was not. The more complex a summative assessment, the more complex the means of analyzing (and grading) that assessment needs to be.



Yorke, M. (2003). Formative Assessment in Higher Education: Moves Towards Theory and the Enhancement of Pedagogic Practice. Higher Education, 45(4), 477–501. Retrieved from JSTOR.

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