Assessments are used in a number of ways to support student learning as well as provide valuable information for students and faculty. The model of constructive alignment in curriculum design assumes that assessments in outcomes-based education are aligned with course learning outcomes, and that teaching and learning activities are designed to support students to achieve the outcomes (Biggs, 2003).
Summative assessments evaluate the extent to which students can demonstrate the key information and/or skills related to the course learning outcomes, and are indications of students’ learning at a given point in time. Examples of summative assessments include mid-term or final exams, or bigger projects that faculty use to assess the level of student learning. Summative assessments should be used frequently and also should be supplemented by formative assessments that support student learning.
Formative assessments are more informal than summative assessments and typically not graded, or weighed at a low percentage. They are considered “low stakes” and used by students to identify their gaps in knowledge and/or skills. Formative assessments, therefore, can be used by students as one way to support their learning. Faculty use formative assessments to provide an indication of the students’ progress towards achieving the learning outcomes; they may be used to change instructional approaches, if required. Examples of formative assessments may be practice tests or quizzes in which students practice retrieving new information and/or applying the skills that they’ve learned. This retrieval practice has been demonstrated repeatedly to support learning and retention in the literature (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014). Another example of formative assessments are low-stakes peer review activities that encourage students to assess and comment on their peers’ work. This activity can support the development of objectivity of the assessment criteria in students that can be transferred to their own work (Liu & Carless, 2006).
*Biggs, J.B. (2003). Teaching for quality learning at university (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.
*Brown, P.C., Roediger, H.L., & McDaniel, M.A. (2014). Make it stick: The science of successful learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Liu, N-F. & Carless, D. (2006). Peer feedback: The learning element of peer assessment. Teaching in Higher Education, 11, 279-290.
*Both references are available at the CAFE library for loan.