Diagnostic, formative or summative? A guide to assessing your class

An introduction to three of the key forms of assessment along with how they can be applied in the classroom

Alejandra Govea Garza

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Forms of assessment and how to use them in university classes

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When it comes to evaluating students’ learning, teachers have a wide range of activities and methods at their disposal, although they must be sure to select the type of assessment that fits best with their instructional needs. Here, we present information about three key modes of assessment: diagnostic, formative and summative.

Diagnostic assessment

Diagnostic evaluations are typically short tests given at the beginning and/or end of a course that allow a teacher to gauge what students know about a topic. This information can be particularly useful at the start of a course because the teacher can then plan accordingly and make instructional changes or adjustments to the upcoming course.

This type of assessment does not typically count towards the final grade, and it can also be used as a metacognitive method so that students can become aware of their own knowledge level.

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Diagnostic assessments can come in many shapes and sizes. The most common is a standard quiz or test, and it is crucial to carefully select questions that provide a general overview of the course or topic. Alternatively, students could be required to design a mind map about a topic or participate in a one-on-one interview or group discussion.

Diagnostic assessment can also take the form of problem-solving, although this is a more difficult method to apply, since ascertaining students’ level can be harder when they have been asked to solve a specific problem or situation. When using problem-solving, the teacher should focus on what the students are doing well as they attempt to solve the problem while also identifying areas in which they are lacking.

Formative assessment

Formative assessment sees the teacher carrying out small evaluations frequently during the course to collect evidence of progress or areas of difficulty for each student. The types of assessment used here are typically low-stakes items of work such as quizzes, one-minute reflective writing assignments or group work.

Based on the information gathered, the teacher can provide feedback, try to improve performance, motivate and assist students, as well as make adjustments to teaching strategies if needed.

To give feedback, the teacher can use synchronous sessions in Zoom, Teams or Socrative, or they might record videos or audio with specific recommendations. They can also promote reflection through self and/or peer assessment using Teammates, Google Forms or Survey Monkey.

Some benefits of formative assessment are that it can encourage students to play an active role in their learning process and involve them in metacognition activities. It also promotes self-regulation and strengthens student autonomy at the same time as encouraging interaction between teacher and student.

Summative assessment

Summative assessment is typically carried out at the end of a teaching and learning process and is thus usually seen as the means to measure “how much” a student has learned on the course or module. In many cases, summative assessment takes the form of an original, written piece such as a narrative or analytical essay. Other options include: a performance-based assessment, in which learners are required to carry out an activity or task; oral assessment, where learners create and present an oral piece, such as a speech or presentation; or a standardised assessment, where learners take an exam based on the course or subject.

Benefits of summative assessment are that it provides a final grade for a learner, which is often required by the institution, and also gives learners something to aim for, which can keep them motivated. It can also help teachers identify weaker areas in the learning process and thus understand which topics need more attention based on student outcomes.

Across all three types of assessment a variety of online applications can be used. These include Genially, Wooclap, Google Forms, Quizlet and Socrative; with these apps you can easily create interactive activities, fro m multiple-choice quizzes to crossword puzzles and much more. 

The three different types of assessment are often useful and/or necessary at different points in the learning process to help teachers understand their students’ previous level, the knowledge they have at any given moment or what they have learned by the end of a course. These days, educators can take advantage of a variety of tools such as real-time polls, drag-and-drop interactions, branching dialogue simulations and more.

Finally, remember that it is important to let students know the types of assessment being used, the strategies and instruments through which their learning will be evaluated and how they can/will receive feedback or advice.

Alejandra Govea Garza, Adriana González Nava and Paulo Mendoza Rivera are instructional designers at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico.

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A Guide to Types of Assessment: Diagnostic, Formative, Interim, and Summative

formative summative diagnostic

Assessments come in many shapes and sizes. For those who are new to assessment or just starting out, the terms can be hard to sort out or simply unfamiliar. Knowing one type of assessment from another can be a helpful way to understand how best to use assessment to your advantage. In this guide to types of assessments, we will cover the different types of assessments you may come across: diagnostic, formative, interim, and summative.

Nature of Assessments

The multi-faceted nature of assessments means that educators can leverage them in a number of ways to provide valuable formal or informal structure to the learning process. The main thing to remember is that the assessment is a learning tool. What all assessments have in common is that they provide a snapshot of student understanding at a particular time in the learning process.

Reasonably so, when you were a K-12 student yourself, you may not have been aware of the variety of assessments that teachers leverage.  To the average student, or anyone who has ever been a student, the word ‘test’ has a pretty clear cut definition and it usually includes some level of anxiety and expectation about a final outcome.  But, to educators, tests – or assessments – are actually quite multi-faceted and have both formal and informal places throughout the learning process.

Different Types of Assessments

Assessments can run the gamut from start to finish when it comes to instruction. Think of it like a long distance race that has a start and finish line and many stations to refuel in between.  The race can be any instructional period of time, such as a unit, a quarter, or even the full year.  In this metaphor, the student is the runner and the teacher is the coach who is trying to help the student run the race as well as they possibly can.  Different assessments types, when utilized by the coach (teacher) in the right way, can help the runner (student) run the race better and more effectively.

Some assessments are helpful before the race even begins to help determine what the best running strategy is ( diagnostic ). Some assessments are beneficial during the race to track progress and see if adjustments to the strategy should be made during the race ( formative ). Some assessments are given to see if students in entire schools or districts, the entire running team, are moving forward and learning the material ( interim ). And some assessments are best at the very end of the race, to review performance, see how you did, and see how to improve for the next race ( summative ).

How to Use Assessments

Assessments help the teacher determine what to teach, how to teach, and in the end, how effectively they taught it. Assessments can run the gamut from start to finish when it comes to instruction. Think of it like a race that has a start and finish line and many stations to refuel in between.

If you have ever asked the question, “What is a formative assessment?” or have been confused by formative assessment vs. summative assessment or interim vs final, that’s OK! The Pear Assessment team is here to help!

What is a Diagnostic Assessment?

Are students ready for the next unit?  What knowledge do they already have about this topic?  Teachers who are curious about how much their class knows about a future topic can give diagnostic assessments before diving in.

Diagnostic assessments are pretests. They usually serve as a barometer for how much pre-loaded information a student has about a topic. The word diagnosis is defined as an analysis of the nature or condition of a situation, which is exactly how teachers tend to use them.

Diagnostic tests help to tell the teacher (and the student) how much they know and don’t know about an upcoming topic. This helps to inform the teacher’s lesson planning, learning objectives, and identify areas that may need more or less time spent on.

Components of a Diagnostic Assessment

  • Happen at the beginning of a unit, lesson, quarter, or period of time.
  • Goal of understanding student’s current position to inform effective instruction
  • Identify strengths and areas of improvement for the student
  • Low-stakes assessments (Usually do not count as a grade)

Difference Between Diagnostic and Formative Assessments

Though both diagnostic assessments and formative assessments aim to inform teachers to instruct more effectively, they emphasize different aspects.  Formative assessments are taken during a unit to assess how students are learning the material that the teacher has been teaching.  Diagnostic assessments come before this, analyzing what students have learned in the past, many times from different teachers or classes.  Both are very helpful for the teacher, and the results are used to identify areas that need more attention in future instruction.

Diagnostic Assessments Examples

At the beginning of a unit on Ancient Greece, a teacher may give a pre-test to determine if the class knows the basic geography, history or culture.  The class’ responses will determine where the teacher begins and how much time is dedicated to certain topics.  The teacher may learn from this diagnostic assessment that many students already have knowledge on cultural aspects of Greece, but know little about its history. From this, they may adjust the lesson plan to spend a bit more time on the history and origins of Ancient Greece and slightly less on culture.

Keep In Mind  

Another valuable use of a diagnostic pre-test is to give the students an idea of what they will have learned by end of the learning period.  When combined with a post test, their score on a pre-test will show students just how much knowledge they have gained.  This can be a powerful practice for building esteem in students.   In fact, some teachers even use the same pre-test and post-test to make this difference more evident. This strategy provides great data on how students have progressed is a sure-tell way to measure and analyze growth over the year.

The grading scale for a diagnostic assessment is usually not based on the number of correct answers and holds little weight for a student’s final grade. You might consider this type of test to be a low-stakes assessment for students.

Diagnostic Assessment Tools

Teachers use Pear Assessment to find or develop diagnostic assessments in a number of creative ways. Some teachers set up diagnostics in the form of introductory activities, classic multiple-choice assessments, or tech-enhanced “quizzes”. The automated grading feature of Pear Assessment  makes it easy to instantly know how much information the class as a whole already knows.

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Start off the year strong and know where student are at when they begin the school year. Access FREE grade level SmartStart diagnostic assessments for grades 3-12 ELA and Math. Click here to learn more and explore these diagnostic assessments and more in the Pear Assessment Test Library.

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What is a Formative Assessment?

How are students doing? Are they picking up the information they should be learning? Teachers who don’t want to wait until the end of a unit or semester use various tactics, like formative assessment, to “check in” with students and see how they are progressing.

What makes formative assessment stand out?

Formative assessment involves the use of immediate insights to guide instruction. If we break down the term, we see that “Formative” comes from Latin formare ‘to form.’  Assessment simply refers to an evaluation. Together the words “formative” and  “assessment” refer to a guiding evaluation that helps to shape something.  With formative assessment, teachers mold or form instruction to better suit student learning. To glean actionable insights, the best formative assessments are generally easy to implement and offer immediate results that lead to instant intervention or instructional adjustments.

Here’s how education academics Paul Black and Dylan William explain the differences between formative assessment and the general term “assessment”:

We use the general term assessment to refer to all those activities undertaken by teachers — and by their students in assessing themselves — that provide information to be used as feedback to modify teaching and learning activities. Such assessment becomes formative assessment when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet student needs.

Another Way to Check-up on Everyone

One common way to think of a formative assessment is to think about “check-ups” with the doctor. During a check-up, the doctor assesses the status of your health to make sure you are on track and to identify any areas where you might need more attention or support. It can be used to promote healthy habits or catch symptoms of illness. If the doctor notices something amiss, they may ask you to exercise more or eat less sugar and more vegetables! The goal is to make strategic changes based on new insights. Similarly, formative assessment provides feedback to teachers, allowing them to “check-in” on how students are doing, or, to match this analogy, the “health” of learning!

Components that Define Formative Assessment

The main intent of formative assessment is to gather insight about student learning during a unit to track student progress and inform instruction.

Formative assessments usually comprise of the following key aspects

  • Low-stakes assessment
  • Goal of informing instruction
  • Gain insight on learning status
  • Helps identify knowledge retention and understanding
  • Daily, weekly, or otherwise frequent checks
  • Generally short and quick checks
  • Comes in many forms: quiz, exit ticket, artwork, venn diagram, game, presentation, etc.

Examples of Formative Assessment

Formative assessments could include benchmark tests, a class discussion, an “exit ticket” activity or any check-in the teacher conducts to see how much has been learned.  By taking a quick formative assessment, the teacher can see how much has been retained and then modify the upcoming lessons or activities to fill in the gaps or pick up the pace.  It allows, as the name suggests, a teacher to form or reshape the lessons as they go. Formative assessments can sometimes be called interim assessments.

As you might be able to tell, formative assessments come in many shapes and sizes. They are used by a teacher to assess, or diagnose, how much information has been learned at periodic times in the middle of a unit, subject or year. Formative assessments are the close cousin to diagnostic assessments (add link).

Formative assessments are used in the middle of a learning process to determine if students are maintaining the right pace.

The second trend driving formative assessments is the common-core style of standardized tests.  Many schools are using formative tests to help guide the preparation of their students for the formal spring testing season– a time when results have an important impact on the school, district, and even the state. These kind of high-stakes assessments, such as PARCC, SBAC, AIR, ACT Aspire, etc., are driving the need for formative assessments throughout the year.

Like diagnostic assessments, formative assessments are usually given “cold”, without prior access to the information, to get an accurate sample of what has been retained. Similarly, they most often carry little weight towards the student’s final grade.

Online Formative Assessment with Pear Assessment

Many teachers use online digital assessment to gain immediate insights into student progress so they can immediately adjust teaching strategies or intervene where needed. Online assessment autogrades so ultimately teachers are able to save time and spend more time focusing on strong and effective instruction.

Log onto Pear Assessment to access a wide number of online digital assessments in the public assessment library. You may notice that a significant portion of digital assessments in the library are dedicated to helping students prepare for spring testing. Many Pear Assessment Certified assessments are modeled after the tech-enhanced style of questions that are found on the spring assessments. Using these throughout the year helps students build a comfort level with tech-enhanced maneuvers that are key to success on spring tests.

Try out some online formative assessments created by teachers across the country. Assign them to your students or log in to Pear Assessment to create a free account and start making your own!

What is a Benchmark/Interim Assessment?

Are students within a whole school or district understanding the material? Where is there room for growth and how can instruction be improved? These are the types of questions that teachers and school leaders ask and hope to answer when giving benchmark exams.

Defining Benchmark Assessments

A benchmark exam is given across many classes, an entire grade level, a whole school, or across a district. The purpose of a benchmark exam is to understand if students have mastered specific standards and are ready to move on. Typically, benchmark exams are given to help students prepare for end of year state testing, like PARCC, AIR, SBAC, FSA, or PSSA.

It’s important to note that the terms “benchmark exam” and “interim assessment” are used interchangeably. They both are used to measure academic progress of large groups of students. Ideally, the results of a benchmark exam help teachers understand what lessons they need to reteach and which students need extra support. Beyond this, benchmark exams act as a “preview” to how a class, school, or district will perform on state tests or summative exams.

Components of a Benchmark Exam:

  • Help drive future instruction
  • Term used interchangeably with “interim assessment”
  • Given to many classes, a whole school, or across an entire district
  • Act as a “predictor” to state test scores

Is There a Difference Between Interim Assessment and Benchmark Exam? What About Formative Assessment?

There can be lots of confusion about the different types of assessments. It’s important to recognize these differences and understand how each type of assessment fits into the overall learning process of each student.

There is little to no difference between an interim assessment and a benchmark exam. They are both formal tests often given using technology, like Pear Assessment, to thoroughly and efficiently monitor student progress.

Benchmark exams are also formative in that they help teachers drive their future instruction. While traditional formative assessments are given in one class, benchmark exams are usually given across many different classes or across an entire school. The best benchmark exams give data quickly, so teachers can act on it. This is why digital assessment is great for benchmark exams

Online Benchmark Exams With Pear Assessment

Schools and districts across the country have turned to Pear Assessment Enterprise to administer their common benchmark exams. When benchmark exams are given online, the results are instant and the data can immediately be used to help teachers modify their future lessons. School leaders can set up the test quickly and easily; they even can tie every question to a state standard.

For example, at Burton School District in California, district leaders and teachers are able to push out districtwide benchmark exams without a headache. David Shimer, Director of Education Services at Burton Schools, explains, “I think the ‘aha’ moment was when, within a period of one week, we were able to get every student across the district logged in, have teachers get an assessment from their students, and as a district we were able to get the charts and graphs back in ways that allowed us to adjust instruction and training.”

What is a Summative Assessment?

How well did a student do in this class? Did they learn this unit’s material? When people talk about classic tests or finals, a summative assessment is normally the type of assessment they are referring to.

In this category of assessments, you’ll find the “Big Kahuna” of tests, such as the finals that we pull all-nighters for as well as the tests that get you into college or let you drive on the roads.  Summative assessments document how much information was retained at the end of a designated period of learning (e.g. unit, semester, or school year).

Components of Summative Assessments:

  • Evaluate learning/understanding at the end of a checkpoint
  • Normally help to determine students’ grade
  • Used for accountability of schools, students, and teachers
  • Usually higher stakes than other assessment forms
  • Preparation and review is helpful for best performance

Summative Assessment Examples

At the end of a semester or a school year, summative tests are used to see how much the student actually learned. It can be the midterm,  final grade, or standardized tests. The best summative assessments require a higher level of thinking that synthesizes several important concepts together.

In the traditional sense of the term, summative assessments are what we think of as the big end-of-the-year bubble-sheet or pen-and-paper finals. In the modern-day tech-enhanced classroom summative assessments are increasingly delivered online. Summative assessments can even take the shape of multi-media presentations, group projects, creative writing, plays or other hands-on projects that demonstrate a mastery of the material. In summative assessments, the scores tend to have a significant effect on the student’s final grade or whatever is designated as the measurement of success.

Summative Assessment Tools

Teachers use Pear Assessment’s multimedia function to create summative assessments that use video as a prompt.  The multimedia can engage students with audio and visual items and then requires the students to summarize their learning in a classic essay.  The result is a traditional, “classic” exam with sophisticated multi-media components.

With Pear Assessment’s standards-tied questions, teachers who give summative assessments can immediately identify if students mastered the concepts they needed to know.

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formative summative diagnostic

Assessment Types: Diagnostic, Formative and Summative

formative summative diagnostic

Formative and Summative Assessments

Assessment can serve many different purposes. Most instructors are familiar with the traditional way of assessing students, such as by mid-term and final exams (usually using multiple-choice questions). There is a reason that this type of assessment is so popular – it is cost efficient (as in the example of multiple choice exams), takes a relatively short amount of time to create and grade, and provides a numerical summary (grade) of how much a student has learned.

The downside of this method is that it does not provide the learner or instructor any feedback on the learning process that has taken place, only a summative result. This lack of opportunity to apply new learning and receive formative feedback hinders student ability to learn.

Another type of assessment, known as formative assessment, has a different purpose from summative assessment. Formative assessments capture learning-in-process in order to identify gaps, misunderstanding, and evolving understanding before summative assessments. Formative assessment may take a variety of forms, such as informal questions, practice quizzes, one-minute papers, and clearest/muddiest point exercises. Formative assessment allows students to practice skills or test knowledge without the pressures associated with grades.

  • used during the learning process
  • provides feedback on learning-in-process
  • dialogue-based, ungraded
  • used at the end of the learning process
  • evaluates student learning against some standard or benchmark

Paul Black (1998), who is often lauded as the forefather of these concepts, described the difference between these terms using the analogy of cooking. As a cook is making her soup, she occasionally tastes it to decide if it needs a bit more spices or ingredients. With each taste she is assessing her soup, and using that feedback to change or improve it - in other words, the cook is engaging in formative assessment. Once the soup is served to the customer, the customer tastes it and makes a final judgment about the quality of the soup – otherwise known as summative assessment.

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Teaching excellence & educational innovation, what is the difference between formative and summative assessment, formative assessment.

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments are generally low stakes , which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:

  • draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
  • submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
  • turn in a research proposal for early feedback

Summative assessment

The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.

Summative assessments are often high stakes , which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:

  • a midterm exam
  • a final project
  • a senior recital

Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.

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Assessment is the process of gathering data. More specifically, assessment is the ways instructors gather data about their teaching and their students’ learning (Hanna & Dettmer, 2004). The data provide a picture of a range of activities using different forms of assessment such as: pre-tests, observations, and examinations. Once these data are gathered, you can then evaluate the student’s performance. Evaluation, therefore, draws on one’s judgment to determine the overall value of an outcome based on the assessment data. It is in the decision-making process then, where we design ways to improve the recognized weaknesses, gaps, or deficiencies.

Types of Assessment

There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. Although are three are generally referred to simply as assessment, there are distinct differences between the three.

There are three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative.

Diagnostic Assessment

Diagnostic assessment can help you identify your students’ current knowledge of a subject, their skill sets and capabilities, and to clarify misconceptions before teaching takes place (Just Science Now!, n.d.). Knowing students’ strengths and weaknesses can help you better plan what to teach and how to teach it.

Types of Diagnostic Assessments

  • Pre-tests (on content and abilities)
  • Self-assessments (identifying skills and competencies)
  • Discussion board responses (on content-specific prompts)
  • Interviews (brief, private, 10-minute interview of each student)

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment provides feedback and information during the instructional process, while learning is taking place, and while learning is occurring. Formative assessment measures student progress but it can also assess your own progress as an instructor. For example, when implementing a new activity in class, you can, through observation and/or surveying the students, determine whether or not the activity should be used again (or modified). A primary focus of formative assessment is to identify areas that may need improvement. These assessments typically are not graded and act as a gauge to students’ learning progress and to determine teaching effectiveness (implementing appropriate methods and activities).

A primary focus of formative assessment is to identify areas that may need improvement.

Types of Formative Assessment

  • Observations during in-class activities; of students non-verbal feedback during lecture
  • Homework exercises as review for exams and class discussions)
  • Reflections journals that are reviewed periodically during the semester
  • Question and answer sessions, both formal—planned and informal—spontaneous
  • Conferences between the instructor and student at various points in the semester
  • In-class activities where students informally present their results
  • Student feedback collected by periodically answering specific question about the instruction and their self-evaluation of performance and progress

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment takes place after the learning has been completed and provides information and feedback that sums up the teaching and learning process. Typically, no more formal learning is taking place at this stage, other than incidental learning which might take place through the completion of projects and assignments.

Rubrics, often developed around a set of standards or expectations, can be used for summative assessment. Rubrics can be given to students before they begin working on a particular project so they know what is expected of them (precisely what they have to do) for each of the criteria. Rubrics also can help you to be more objective when deriving a final, summative grade by following the same criteria students used to complete the project.

Rubrics also can help you to be more objective when deriving a final, summative grade by following the same criteria students used to complete the project.

High-stakes summative assessments typically are given to students at the end of a set point during or at the end of the semester to assess what has been learned and how well it was learned. Grades are usually an outcome of summative assessment: they indicate whether the student has an acceptable level of knowledge-gain—is the student able to effectively progress to the next part of the class? To the next course in the curriculum? To the next level of academic standing? See the section “Grading” for further information on grading and its affect on student achievement.

Summative assessment is more product-oriented and assesses the final product, whereas formative assessment focuses on the process toward completing the product. Once the project is completed, no further revisions can be made. If, however, students are allowed to make revisions, the assessment becomes formative, where students can take advantage of the opportunity to improve.

Summative assessment...assesses the final product, whereas formative assessment focuses on the process...

Types of Summative Assessment

  • Examinations (major, high-stakes exams)
  • Final examination (a truly summative assessment)
  • Term papers (drafts submitted throughout the semester would be a formative assessment)
  • Projects (project phases submitted at various completion points could be formatively assessed)
  • Portfolios (could also be assessed during it’s development as a formative assessment)
  • Performances
  • Student evaluation of the course (teaching effectiveness)
  • Instructor self-evaluation

Assessment measures if and how students are learning and if the teaching methods are effectively relaying the intended messages. Hanna and Dettmer (2004) suggest that you should strive to develop a range of assessments strategies that match all aspects of their instructional plans. Instead of trying to differentiate between formative and summative assessments it may be more beneficial to begin planning assessment strategies to match instructional goals and objectives at the beginning of the semester and implement them throughout the entire instructional experience. The selection of appropriate assessments should also match course and program objectives necessary for accreditation requirements.

Hanna, G. S., & Dettmer, P. A. (2004). Assessment for effective teaching: Using context-adaptive planning. Boston, MA: Pearson A&B.

Just Science Now! (n.d.). Assessment-inquiry connection. https://www.justsciencenow.com/assessment/index.htm

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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Formative and summative assessment. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide

  • Active Learning Activities
  • Assessing Student Learning
  • Direct vs. Indirect Assessment
  • Examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques
  • Peer and Self-Assessment
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  • The Process of Grading

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Summative vs Formative or Diagnostic Assessments

Summative vs Formative or Diagnostic Assessments

There are many kinds of assessments used in education to evaluate student learning, identify strengths and challenges, and aid in lesson planning, and they often take the form of online tools. This article will explore the strengths and weaknesses of some of these key methods of evaluation.

What are summative assessments?

Summative assessments help educators judge how a student is performing relative to other students at a point in time. These tests or evaluations provide evidence that students have met the learning outcomes of an instructional unit. This sort of assessment is common in education for evaluating students at the end of an instructional unit, typically in a high-stakes environment; some examples are chapter tests, midterm exams or finals, or a test to successfully complete a subject or grade. Sometimes rather than a test, a summative evaluation of a project or presentation meets the goal of assessing student achievement.

Types of Tests Video Thumbnail

Click here to watch a quick video on “Understanding the Different Types of Educational Assessments: Summative vs. Formative or Diagnostic.”

Summative assessments can also lead to surprise and disappointment if the results are not as good as expected. They don’t explain why a student is having trouble with a concept. It’s important to understand how two other types of assessments–formative and diagnostic–play helpful roles in setting and achieving those expectations so that a student can succeed.

There are several types of summative tests, but here are three common examples:

  • Benchmark Tests: Designed around a grade level in a specific learning area. The downside of a benchmark test is that it won’t tell you if students are many years above or below a specific grade level.
  • Lexile or Readability Tests: Used to determine the level at which a student can read text. These tests don’t reveal why a student is struggling, just where they are.
  • State Tests: Normed assessments and standardized tests that place students in a percentile relative to their peer group, typically from 0% to 100%–for example, the end-of-year Smarter Balanced tests . The downside of these tests is that they don’t provide much information about the needs of individual students or what you can do to help.

Why is your student struggling in math?

Formative and diagnostic assessments.

Formative assessments seek to immediately determine if a student has mastered a specific skill or concept that was just taught. It is a way of monitoring student progress and providing ongoing feedback, often with relatively short tests or weekly quizzes that quickly check students’ understanding of the curriculum along with their academic progress. Sometimes a formative assessment takes the form of a group presentation, a hands-on activity, or some other casual performance measure. Formative assessments given at regular intervals create a process by which educators can monitor how individual students are progressing towards standards.

Diagnostic assessments are broader in their measures than formative assessments because they are trying to determine why students are struggling or excelling in a particular skill, not simply where they are in the curriculum. Since diagnostic tests cover a greater range of skills and concepts, they usually take a little longer and go into more depth. But the resulting granular data from a diagnostic assessment provide the student and teacher with details about where the student is having trouble and which subjects are already mastered. This information helps a teacher understand what to do next with a student.

How do you target the right level of instruction for a particular student? You want to teach concepts that are not too easy for the student but also not too difficult. Students should be cognitively ready to learn the concept with the help of a teacher. The identified correct level of instruction is called the zone of proximal development, or ZPD . Diagnostic assessments are ideal for helping educators find the ZPD of individual students in a specific curriculum.

Together, by identifying each student’s level of understanding, formative and diagnostic assessments give educators a data-driven approach to helping students succeed. This is not only a valuable aid to teachers but a great way to augment feedback to students and families with quantifiable data.

Discover a student's Zone of Proximal Development in reading!

Sequenced skills.

Diagnostic assessment results should equip educators with the best information to find the zone of proximal development (ZPD) or instructional point for a student. First, diagnostic scores must be granular so that subjects are broken up into specific skills in which the student is struggling or excelling. These diagnostic scores must also be built on a scope and sequence, such as the skills involved in teaching phonics in a logical order. Sequenced skills build better comprehension and retention by providing multiple learning components in a structured order. Students with learning disabilities will especially benefit from sequenced skills.

There are several ways to tell whether an assessment is diagnostic or not. For instance, if you are using an assessment whose scores can be broken down further, or if multiple skills are represented by one result, then the assessment is not diagnostic because it’s not providing granularity. Furthermore, if those scores do not link to sequenced skills so that you know what should be taught next, then the assessment is not diagnostic.

Low Medium or High Scores

A diagnostic assessment will tell you clearly what should be taught next. For example, if your assessment looks at a student’s skills in phonics but provides an arbitrary scale with a simple result of “low,” “medium,” or “high” without linking to specific skills or concepts, then the assessment isn’t truly diagnostic.

An understanding of the different types of assessment used in education will allow you to choose the most appropriate assessment for the circumstances and thus better serve your students.

Misuse of the Word “Diagnostic”

Be wary of the misuse of the word “diagnostic.”  Many test developers will say that a test is diagnostic because it identifies a broad area of concern. If you can’t tell what to do next, it probably isn’t as diagnostic as you need. Also, be careful when assessments make assumptions. Reports from assessments that use words and phrases like “developmentally ready,” “likely,” or “could probably” may be inaccurately reporting a prescription for an individual student based on data from a large aggregate pool. These are probably not genuinely diagnostic assessments.  If a fifth-grade student had a non-mastery on a “place value” fifth-grade standard, a poor diagnostic report might read, “This student would likely benefit from expanded-form place value instruction.”  This means they didn’t test it but instead grabbed a concept or skill below the one that was missed.

Click below to view a video with a Visual Mapping of a Benchmark Test Against the Skills/Concepts of Foundational Mathematics

formative summative diagnostic

The first two minutes of this video will show you how math skills map across the K to 7 grade range and how benchmark testing works. At 3m 30s you see how a diagnostic assessment will assess dynamically across the K to 7 range.

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A Primer: Diagnostic, Formative, & Summative Assessment

The article discusses the ‘assessment component’ of teaching and learning and outlines the purposes of assessment, along with the differences between diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment. 

The author includes the nine principals of good assessment practices as established by the American Association of Higher Education, as well as a brief overview of assessment sub-topics including authenticity, validity, and reliability.

The resource provides a basic introduction to types of assessment – diagnostic, formative, and summative -- and its place in education.  It is a useful overview to help new instructors understand and differentiate the role of the different types of evaluation in the classroom and their use. 

The resource does not guide instructors in how to use the assessment tools effectively; it only emphasizes that they need to learn to do so.  As a “primer” maybe that is enough.  

I believe the resource would be more valuable if the author made use of “The Purpose of Assessment” and “Principles That Guide Good Assessment” lists to describe the backdrop for assessments, rather than just leave them as a list.  It would help to drive the essay to its summary.  As is, it reads just like lists (purpose), lists (principles) and more lists (types of assessments, and factors).  It would be helpful to see the factors tied in more closely.  Fleshed out a little more, they would bring life and more value to the essay.

Practitioners in adult education – especially those with limited prior knowledge of the subject -- should welcome this as a very simple and readable set of definitions and principles related to assessment. It presents a clear and no-nonsense argument for the importance of greater practitioner understanding of, and engagement in, “good” assessment

But it is definitely a primer and does little more than introduce and argue. It would not be a resource, for instance, for teachers looking to learn about how to develop or implement assessment with students according to the cited principles.

I also find it curious that, while the author did cite some large-scale standardized assessments in his discussion of summative measures, he never addresses assessment as a tool for program/system accountability. Perhaps this is because his framework is K-12 and post-secondary ed? In any case this is without a doubt an important dimension and purpose of assessment for adult basic/literacy education practitioners!

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What Is Formative Assessment and How Should Teachers Use It?

Check student progress as they learn, and adapt to their needs.

What is Formative Assessment? #buzzwordsexplained

Assessments are a regular part of the learning process, giving both teachers and students a chance to measure their progress. There are several common types of assessments, including pre-assessment (diagnostic) and post-assessment (summative). Some educators, though, argue that the most important of all are formative assessments. So, what is formative assessment, and how can you use it effectively with your students? Read on to find out.

What is formative assessment?

Frayer model describing characteristics of formative assessment

Source: KNILT

Formative assessment takes place while learning is still happening. In other words, teachers use formative assessment to gauge student progress throughout a lesson or activity. This can take many forms (see below), depending on the teacher, subject, and learning environment. Here are some key characteristics of this type of assessment:

Low-Stakes (or No-Stakes)

Most formative assessments aren’t graded, or at least aren’t used in calculating student grades at the end of the grading period. Instead, they’re part of the daily give-and-take between teachers and students. They’re often quick and used immediately after teaching a specific objective.

Planned and Part of the Lesson

Rather than just being quick check-for-understanding questions many teachers ask on the fly, formative assessments are built into a lesson or activity. Teachers consider the skills or knowledge they want to check on, and use one of many methods to gather information on student progress. Students can also use formative assessments among themselves for self-assessment and peer feedback.

Used to Make Adjustments to Teaching Plans

After gathering student feedback, teachers use that feedback to make adjustments to their lessons or activities as needed. Students who self-assess then know what areas they still need help with and can ask for assistance.

How is formative assessment different from other assessments?

Chart comparing formative and summative assessment

Source: Helpful Professor

There are three general types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. Diagnostic assessments are used before learning to determine what students already do and do not know. Think pre-tests and other activities students attempt at the beginning of a unit. Teachers may use these to make some adjustments to their planned lessons, skipping or just recapping what students already know.

Diagnostic assessments are the opposite of summative assessments, which are used at the end of a unit or lesson to determine what students have learned. By comparing diagnostic and summative assessments, teachers and learners can get a clearer picture of how much progress they’ve made.

Formative assessments take place during instruction. They’re used throughout the learning process and help teachers make on-the-go adjustments to instruction and activities as needed.

Why is formative assessment important in the classroom?

These assessments give teachers and students a chance to be sure that meaningful learning is really happening. Teachers can try new methods and gauge their effectiveness. Students can experiment with different learning activities, without fear that they’ll be punished for failure. As Chase Nordengren of the NWEA puts it :

“Formative assessment is a critical tool for educators looking to unlock in-depth information on student learning in a world of change. Rather than focusing on a specific test, formative assessment focuses on practices teachers undertake during learning that provide information on student progress toward learning outcomes.”

It’s all about increasing your ability to connect with students and make their learning more effective and meaningful.

What are some examples of formative assessment?

Chart showing what formative assessment is and what it isn't

Source: Writing City

There are so many ways teachers can use formative assessments in the classroom! We’ve highlighted a few perennial favorites, but you can find a big list of 25 creative and effective formative assessments options here .

Exit Tickets

At the end of a lesson or class, pose a question for students to answer before they leave. They can answer using a sticky note, online form, or digital tool.

Kahoot Quizzes

Kids and teachers adore Kahoot! Kids enjoy the gamified fun, while teachers appreciate the ability to analyze the data later to see which topics students understand well and which need more time.

We love Flip (formerly Flipgrid) for helping teachers connect with students who hate speaking up in class. This innovative (and free!) tech tool lets students post selfie videos in response to teacher prompts. Kids can view each other’s videos, commenting and continuing the conversation in a low-key way.

What is your favorite way to use formative assessments in the classroom? Come exchange ideas in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, check out the best tech tools for student assessment ..

Wondering what formative assessment is and how to use it in the classroom? Learn about this ongoing form of evaluation here.

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25+ Formative assessment ideas for the classroom.

25 Formative Assessment Options Your Students Will Actually Enjoy

Get them excited to show you what they know! Continue Reading

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Formative vs. summative assessment: impacts on academic motivation, attitude toward learning, test anxiety, and self-regulation skill

Seyed m. ismail.

1 College of Humanities and Sciences, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, Al-Kharj, Saudi Arabia

D. R. Rahul

2 School of Science and Humanities, Shiv Nadar University Chennai, Chennai, India

Indrajit Patra

3 NIT Durgapur, Durgapur, West Bengal India

Ehsan Rezvani

4 English Department, Isfahan (Khorasgan) Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran

Associated Data

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

As assessment plays an important role in the process of teaching and learning, this research explored the impacts of formative and summative assessments on academic motivation, attitude toward learning, test anxiety, and self-regulation skill of EFL students in Iran. To fulfill the objectives of this research, 72 Iranian EFL learners were chosen based on the convenience sampling method assigned to two experimental groups (summative group and formative group) and a control group. Then, the groups took the pre-tests of test anxiety, motivation, and self-regulation skill. Then, one experimental group was trained by following the rules of the formative assessment and the other experimental group was taught according to the summative assessment. The control group was instructed without using any preplanned assessment. After a 15-session treatment, the post-tests of the test anxiety, motivation, and self-regulation skill were administered to all groups to assess the impacts of the instruction on their language achievement. Lastly, a questionnaire of attitude was administered to both experimental groups to examine their attitudes towards the impacts of formative and summative assessment on their English learning improvement. The outcomes of one-way ANOVA and Bonferroni tests revealed that both summative and formative assessments were effective but the formative one was more effective on academic motivation, test anxiety, and self-regulation skill. The findings of one sample t -test indicated that the participants had positive attitudes towards summative and formative assessments. Based on the results, it can be concluded that formative assessment is an essential part of teaching that should be used in EFL instructional contexts. The implications of this study can help students to detect their own weaknesses and target areas that need more effort and work.


In teaching and learning, assessment is defined as a procedure applied by instructors and students during instruction through which teachers provide necessary feedbacks to modify ongoing learning and teaching to develop learners’ attainment of planned instructional aims (Robinowitz, 2010 ). According to Popham ( 2008 ), assessment is an intended procedure in which evidence of learners’ status is utilized by educators to adjust their ongoing instructional processes or applied by learners to change their present instructional strategies. Assessment intends to improve learning and it is used to reduce the gap between students’ present instructional situation and their target learning objectives (Heritage, 2012 ).

Two types of assessment are formative and summative. According to Glazer ( 2014 ), summative assessment is generally applied to give learners a numerical score with limited feedback. Therefore, summative assessment is commonly used to measure learning and is rarely used for learning. Educators can make the summative assessment more formative by giving learners the opportunity to learn from exams. This would mean supplying pupils with feedback on exams and making use of the teaching potentiality of exams. Wininger ( 2005 ) proposed an amalgamation of assessment techniques between summative assessment and formative assessment. This marriage between summative assessment and formative assessment is referred to as summative-formative assessment. Based on Wininger, summative-formative assessment is used to review the exam with examinees so they can get feedback on comprehension. Formative-summative assessment occurs in two primary forms: using a mock exam before the final or using the final exam before the retake.

Formative assessment allows for feedback which improves learning while summative assessment measures learning. Formative assessment refers to frequent, interactive assessments of students’ development and understanding to recognize their needs and adjust teaching appropriately (Alahmadi et al., 2019 ). According to Glazer ( 2014 ), formative assessment is generally defined as tasks that allow pupils to receive feedback on their performance during the course. In the classroom, teachers use assessments as a diagnostic tool at the termination of lessons or the termination of units. In addition, teachers can use assessments for teaching, by identifying student misconceptions and bridging gaps in learning through meaningful feedback (Dixson & Worrell, 2016 ). Unfortunately, numerous instructors consider formative assessments as a tool to measure students’ learning, while missing out on its teaching potential. Testing and teaching can be one or the same which will be discussed further in this research (Remmi & Hashim, 2021 ).

According to Black et al. ( 2004 ), using formative tests for formative purposes improves classroom practice whereby students can be encouraged in both reflective and active review of course content. In general terms, formative assessment is concerned with helping students to develop their learning (Buyukkarci & Sahinkarakas, 2021 ). Formative assessment can be considered as a pivotal and valid part of the blending of assessment and teaching (Ozan & Kıncal, 2018 ). Formative assessment helps students gain an understanding of the assessment process and provides them with feedback on how to refine their efforts for improvement. However, in practice, assessment for learning is still in its infancy, and many instructors still struggle with providing productive and timely feedback (Clark, 2011 ).

Using the mentioned assessments can positively affect the test anxiety of the students. Test anxiety signifies the extent to which the students experience apprehension, fear, uneasiness, panic tension, and restlessness while even thinking of forthcoming tests or exams (Ahmad, 2012 ). Anxiety can also be regarded as a product of hesitation about imminent events or situations (Craig et al., 2000 ). Test anxiety is the emotional reaction or status of stress that happens before exams and remains throughout the period of the exams (Sepehrian, 2013 ). Anxiety can commonly be connected to coercions to self-efficacy and evaluations of circumstances as threatening or reactions to a resource of stress to continue (Pappamihiel, 2002 ).

The other variable which can influence the consequences of tests or testing sessions in EFL settings is the attitudes of students towards English culture, English language, and English people. Kara ( 2009 ) stated that attitude about learning together with beliefs and opinions have a significant impact on learners’ behaviors and consequently on their performances. Those learners who have desirable beliefs about language learning are willing to rise more positive attitudes toward language learning. On the other hand, having undesirable beliefs can result in negative attitudes, class anxiety, and low cognitive achievements (Chalak & Kassaian, 2010 ; Tella et al., 2010 ). There are both negative and positive attitudes towards learning. Positive attitudes can develop learning and negative attitudes can become barriers to learning because students have these attitudes as they have difficulties in learning or they just feel that what is presented to them is boring. While a negative attitude toward learning can lead to poor performances of students, a positive attitude can result in appropriate and good performances of students (Ellis, 1994 ).

Woods ( 2015 ) says that instructors should regularly utilize formative assessment to advance the learners’ self-regulation skills and boost their motivation. Motivation is referred to the reasons why people have different behaviors in different situations. Motivation is considered as the intensity and direction of the students’ attempts. The intensity of attempt is referred to the extent that students try to reach their objectives and the direction of attempt is referred to the objectives that students intend to reach (Ahmadi et al., 2009 ; Paul & Elder, 2013 ). Motivation is an inborn phenomenon that is influenced by four agents such as aim (the aim of behaviors, purposes, and tendencies), instrument (instruments used to reach objectives), situation (environmental and outer stimulants), and temper (inner state of the organism). To reach their goals, people first should acquire the essential incentives. For instance, academic accomplishment motivation is significant to scholars (Firouznia et al., 2009 ).

Wiliam ( 2014 ) also asserts that self-regulation learning can be a crucial part of a productive formative assessment concerning the techniques of explaining, sharing, and understanding the instructional goals and students’ success and responsibility for their own learning. Self-regulation skill requires learners to dynamically utilize their cognitive skills; try to achieve their learning aims; receive support from their classmates, parents, and instructors when needed; and most significantly, be responsible for their own learning (Ozan & Kıncal, 2018 ). This research aimed to explore the impacts of using summative and formative assessments of Iranian EFL learners’ academic motivation, attitude toward learning, test anxiety, and self-regulation skill. This study is significant as it compared the effects of two kinds of assessments namely formative and summative on academic motivation, attitude toward learning, test anxiety, and self-regulation skill. As this research investigated the effects of the mentioned assessments on four emotional variables simultaneously, it can be considered as a novel study.

Review of the literature

In the field of teaching English as a foreign language, several researchers and experts defined the term “assessment” as a pivotal component of the process of teaching. According to Brown ( 2003 ), assessment is a process of collecting data about learners’ capabilities to conduct learning tasks. That is, assessment is the way instructors use to gather data about their methods and their pupils’ improvement. Furthermore, the assessment process has got an inseparable component from teaching, since it is impossible to think of teaching without assessments. Brown ( 2003 ) defined assessment in relation to testing. The differences between them refer to the fact that the latter occurs at an identified point of time while the former is an ongoing process that occurs regularly (Brown, 2003 ).

Other scholars explained the meaning of assessment by distinguishing it from evaluation. Regarding the difference between the two, Nunan ( 1992 ) asserted that assessment is referred to the procedures and processes whereby teachers determine what students can do in the target language and added evaluation is referred to a wider range of processes that may or may not include assessment data. In this way, then, assessment is process-oriented while evaluation is product-oriented. Palomba and Banta ( 1999 ) defined assessment as “the systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken to improve learning and development” (p.4). All in all, assessing students’ performances means recognizing and gathering information, receiving feedback, and analyzing and modifying the learning processes. The main goal, thus, is to overcome barriers to learning. Assessment is then used to interpret the performances of students, develop learning, and modify teaching (Aouine, 2011 ; Ghahderijani et al., 2021 ).

Two types of assessment are formative and summative. Popham ( 2008 ) said that it is not the nature of the tests to be labeled as summative or formative but the use to which that tests’ outcomes will be put. That is to say, the summative-formative manifestation of assessment does not stop at being a typology but it expands to be purposive due to the nature of assessment. Summative assessment, then, has been referred to as some criteria. Cizek ( 2010 ) suggests that two criteria can define the summative assessment: (1) it is conducted at the termination of some units and (2) its goal is mainly to characterize the performances of the students or systems. Its major goal is to gain measurement of attainment to be utilized in making decisions.

Through Cizek’s definition, a summative assessment seeks to judge the learners’ performances in every single course. Thus, providing diagnostic information is not what this type of assessment is concerned with. Significantly, the judgments made about the students, teachers, or curricula are meant to grade, certificate, evaluate, and research on how effective curricula are, and these are the purposes of summative assessment according to Cizek ( 2010 ).

According to Black and Wiliam ( 2006 ), summative assessment is given occasionally to assess what pupils know and do not know. This type of assessment is done after the learning has been finalized and provides feedback and information that summarize the learning and teaching process. Typically, no more formal learning is occurring at this stage, other than incidental learning that may happen via completing the assignments and projects (Wuest & Fisette, 2012 ). Summative assessment measures what students have learned and mostly is conducted at the end of a course of instruction (Abeywickrama & Brown, 2010 ; Liu et al., 2021 ; Rezai et al., 2022 ).

For Woods ( 2015 ), the summative assessment provides information to judge the general values of the instructional programs, while the outcomes of formative assessment are used to facilitate the instructional programs. Based on Shepard ( 2006 ), a summative assessment must accomplish its major purpose of documenting what learners know and can do but, if carefully created, should also efficaciously fulfill a secondary objective of learning support.

Brown ( 2003 ) claimed that summative assessment aims at measuring or summarizing what students have learned. This means looking back and taking stock of how well that students have fulfilled goals but does not essentially pave the way to future improvement. Furthermore, the summative assessment also known as assessment of learning is clarified by Spolsky and Halt ( 2008 ) who state that assessment of learning is less detailed, and intends to find out the educational programs or students’ outcomes. Thus, summative assessment is applied to evaluating different language skills and learners’ achievements. Even though summative assessment has a main role in the learners’ evaluation, it is not sufficient to know their advancement and to detect the major areas of weaknesses, and this is the essence of formative assessment (Pinchok & Brandt, 2009 ; Vadivel et al., 2021 ).

The term ‘formative assessment’ has been proposed for years and defined by many researchers. A clearer definition is provided by Brown ( 2003 ) in which he claims that formative assessment is referred to the evaluation of learners in the process of “forming” their skills and competencies to help them to keep up that growth process. It is also described as comprising all those activities conducted by instructors or by their learners that supply information to be utilized as feedback to adjust the learning and teaching activities in which they are involved (Fox et al., 2016 ).

Formative assessments aim to gain immediate feedback on students learning through which strengths and weaknesses of students can be diagnosed. Comprehensively, Wiliam ( 2011 ) suggests: Practices in the classrooms are formative to the extent that evidence about students’ accomplishments is elicited, interpreted, and utilized by instructors, students, or their classmates, to decide about the subsequent steps in the education that are probably to be better or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited.

Through this definition, formative assessment actively involves both students’ and teachers’ participation as a key component to develop students’ performance. The assessment for learning, which is based on the aim behind using it, is assessing learners’ progress (McCallum & Milner, 2021 ). Therefore, it is all about gathering data about learners’ achievement to recognize their progress in skills, requirements, and capabilities as their weaknesses and strengths before, during, and after the educational courses to develop students’ learning and achievement (Douglas & Wren, 2008 ).

Besides, Popham ( 2008 ) considered the formative assessment as a strategic procedure in which educators or pupils utilize assessment-based evidence to modify what they are presently performing. That describes it as the planned process that is not randomly occurring. Therefore, formative assessment is an ongoing procedure that provides learners with constructive timely feedback, helping them achieve their learning goals and enhancing their achievements (Vogt et al., 2020 ). Formative assessment is a helpful technique that can provide students with formative help by evaluating the interactions between assessment and learning (Chan, 2021 ; Masita & Fitri, 2020 ).

Some criteria related to formative assessment have been presented by Cizek ( 2010 ). In his opinion, formative assessment attempts to identify students’ levels whether high or low, to provide more help for educators to plan subsequent instruction, to make it easier for students to continue their own learning, review their work, and be able to evaluate themselves. To make learners responsible for their learning and do their research Formative assessment, to Cizek, is a sufficient tool and area for learners and teachers to make proficiency in the learning-teaching process. All in all, concerning specific objectives, formative assessment is a goal-oriented process.

Tahir et al. ( 2012 ) stated that formative assessment is a diagnostic use of assessment that can provide feedback to instructors and learners throughout the instructional process. Marsh ( 2007 ) claimed that formative tests are a type of strategy which are prepared to recognize students’ learning problems to provide a remedial procedure to develop the performances of the majority of the learners. The information that is provided for the learners should be utilized for the assessment to be explained as a formative one. The Assessment Reform Group (ARG) ( 2007 ) explains formative assessment as the procedure to look for and interpret the evidence for instructors and their students to make decisions about where the students fit in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there. Kathy ( 2013 ) also argued that formative tests aim to analyze the students’ learning problems to develop their academic attainment.

The theory that is behind our study is the sociocultural theory stating that knowledge is generated in a cooperative way within social contexts. It views learning as a condition wherein learners generate their meanings from the materials and content delivered to them, rather than trying to memorize the information (Vygotsky, 1978 ). Based on sociocultural theory, learning can occur successfully when teachers and students have more interactions with each other.

Some empirical studies are reported here. Alahmadi et al. ( 2019 ) aimed to examine whether a formative speaking assessment produced any effect on learners’ performances in the summative test. Besides, they aimed to observe students’ learning and to provide useful feedbacks that can be applied by educators to develop learners’ achievement and assist them to detect their weaknesses and strengths in speaking skills. Their results indicated that formative assessment helped Saudi learners to solve the problems they encounter in speaking tests.

Mahshanian et al. ( 2019 ) highlighted the significance of summative assessment in conjunction with teacher-based (formative) assessments on the learners’ performances. To do this study, 170 EFL students at the advanced level were chosen and grouped based on the kind of assessment they had received. The subjects in this research were administered exams for two main reasons. First, a general proficiency test was given to put the students at different levels of proficiency. Second, for comparing students’ development according to different kinds of assessments within a 4-month learning duration, an achievement test of the course was administered both as the pre-test and the post-test. The data gained via the scores of the participants on the achievement test received analyses and then compared by utilizing ANCOVA, ANOVA, and t- tests. Based on the outcomes of this research, we can conclude that an amalgamation of summative and formative assessments can result in better achievements for EFL students than either summative or formative assessments discretely.

Imen ( 2020 ) attempted to determine the effects of formative assessments on EFL learners’ writing skills. Indeed, the goal of this study was to recognize the effects of formative assessments on developing the writing skills of first-year master’s students at Abdel Elhamid Ibn Badis University, in Mostaganem. This research also attempted to reveal an essential issue that is the lack of the execution of formative assessments in the writing classrooms. To verify the hypotheses, two tools were applied in this study to gather the data, the teachers’ questionnaire and the students’ questionnaire. The findings of the study revealed that the formative assessment was not extensively used in teaching and learning writing skills, at the University of Mostaganem. The results of both questionnaires showed that if the students were evaluated formatively, their writing skills could be highly enhanced.

Ashdale ( 2020 ) attempted to examine the influences of a particular formative assessment named as Progress Trackers, by comparing a control group that did not receive the Progress Tracker with an experimental group that received the formative-based assessment. The research findings revealed that there were no substantial differences between the experimental and control groups based on the results of the pre-test and the post-test scores. While not statistically significant, the experimental group showed a larger increase in the learners with at least a 60% development in achievement. The lack of significant differences between the experimental group and the control group could be created by the uselessness of the formative assessments or the inability to exclude other factors in the class contexts. This could comprise the uses of other formative assessments applied in both groups, delivery of content, and execution of the formative assessments.

Persaud Singh and Ewert ( 2021 ) investigated the effects of quizzes and mock exams as a formative assessment on working adult learners’ achievement using a quasi-experimental quantitative design. One experimental group received both quizzes and mock exams, another group received mock exams only, and a control group received neither. The data gathered received analyses by utilizing t -tests and ANOVA. The findings indicated noticeable differences in the levels of achievement for the groups receiving formative assessments in comparison to the control participants. The “mock exam” group outperformed slightly than the “quizzes and mock exam” group.

Al Tayib Umar and Abdulmlik Ameen ( 2021 ) traced the effects of formative assessment on Saudi EFL students’ achievement in medical English. The research also tried to figure out teachers’ and students’ attitudes toward formative assessment. The participants involved in this research were 98 students selected among the Preparatory Year learners at a Saudi university. They were assigned to an experimental group and a control group. The experimental students were given their English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses following the formative assessment techniques whereas the control group was trained in their ESP courses by traditional assessment rules. The experimental group teachers were given intensive training courses in Saudi Arabia and abroad on how to use formative assessment principles in the classrooms. At the end of the experiment that continued for 120 days, the control and experimental groups sat for the end of term examination which was designed for all candidates in the Preparatory College. Grades of all participants in the two groups in the final exam were compared. The performance of the experimental group was found to be meaningfully higher than that of the control group. Instructors’ and students’ attitudes towards formative assessment were positive.

Hamedi et al. ( 2022 ) investigated the effects of using formative assessment by Kahoot application on Iranian EFL students’ vocabulary knowledge as well as their burnout levels. This study was conducted on 60 participants who were in two groups of experimental and control. The results indicated that using formative assessment generated significant effects on of Iranian EFL students’ vocabulary knowledge.

In conclusion, the above studies confirmed the positive effects of summative and formative assessment on language learning. Yet, there are a few kinds of research on comparing the effects of the summative and formative assessments on Iranian EFL learners’ academic motivation, attitude toward learning, test anxiety, and self-regulation skill. Most studies in the domain of assessment examined the effects of the summative and formative assessments on the main skills (reading, speaking, writing, and listening) and they did not pay much attention to the psychosocial variables; therefore, this research posed two questions to cover the existing gap.

  • RQ1. Does using formative and summative assessments positively affect Iranian EFL learners’ test anxiety, academic motivation, and self-regulation skill?
  • RQ2. Do Iranian EFL learners present positive attitudes toward learning through formative and summative assessments?


Design of the study, participants.

The participants of this research were 72 Iranian EFL students who have studied English since 2016. The male EFL learners were selected based on the convenience sampling method by administering the Preliminary English Test (PET). They were selected from the Parsian English language institute, located in Ahvaz city, Iran. The participants’ general English proficiency was intermediate and their age average was 21 years old. The participants were divided into two experimental groups (summative and formative) and a control group.


For homogenizing the subjects in terms of general English proficiency, we gave a version of the PET test, extracted from the book PET Practice Test (Quintana, 2008 ). Because of some limitations, only the sections of reading, grammar, and vocabulary of the test were used in this study. We piloted the test on another similar group and allotted 60 min for answering all its items. Its validity was accepted by some English experts and its reliability was .91.

Britner and Pajares’ ( 2006 ) Science Anxiety Scale (SAS) was used as the other instrument to assess the participants’ test anxiety. Some wordings of the items were changed to make them suitable for measuring test anxiety. There were 12 items in this test that required the participants to consider the items (e.g., I am worried that I will get weak scores in most of the exams) and answer a 6-point scale ranging from certainly false to certainly true. Based on Cronbach’s alpha formula, the reliability index of the anxiety test was .79.

The other tool used in this study was the Self-Regulatory Strategies Scale (SRSS) which was developed by Kadıoğlu et al. ( 2011 ) to assess the self-regulation skills of the participants. The SRSS was a 6-point Likert instrument including never, seldom, occasionally, often, frequently, and constantly. The SRSS consisted of 29 statements in eight dimensions. The results of Cronbach’s alpha formula showed that the reliability of the SRSS was .82.

We used the Attitude/Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) of Gardner ( 2004 ) to evaluate the respondents’ English learning motivation. This measuring instrument had 26 items each with six responses: Highly Disagree, Moderately Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Somewhat Agree, Moderately Agree, and Highly Agree. We used the Cronbach alpha to measure the reliability of the motivation questionnaire ( r = .87). It should be noted that the motivation questionnaire, the SAS, and the SRSS were used as the pre-tests and post-tests of the research.

The last tool employed in this research was an attitude questionnaire examining the participants’ attitudes towards the effectiveness of summative and formative assessment on their English learning enhancement. The researchers themselves created 17-point Likert- items for this questionnaire and the reliability of this instrument was .80. Likert scale was utilized in the questionnaire to show the amount of disagreement and agreement from 1 to 5 that were highly disagree, disagree, no idea, agree, and highly agree. The validities of all mentioned tools were substantiated by a group of English specialists.

Collecting the needed data

To start the study, first, the PET was administered to 96 EFL learners and 72 intermediate participants were selected among them. As stated previously, the participants were divided into two experimental groups (summative and formative) and one control group. After that, the pretests of test anxiety, motivation, and self-regulation skill were administered to the participants of all groups. After pretesting process, the treatment was conducted on the groups differently; each group received special instruction.

One experimental group was instructed based on the rules of the formative assessment, in the formative group, the teacher (researcher) assisted the students to participate in evaluating their learning via using self and peer assessment. Besides, the teacher’s comprehensive and descriptive elicitation and feedbacks of information about students’ learning were significant in formative class. In fact, there were no tests at the termination of the term and the teacher was flexible concerning the students’ mistakes and provided them with constructive feedback including metalinguistic clues, elicitation, correction, repletion, clarification request, recast, and repletion.

In the summative class, the teacher assessed the students’ learning by giving mid-term and final exams. The teacher did not provide any elaborative feedback, and his feedback was limited to yes/no and true/ false. The control group neither received a formative-based instruction nor a summative-based instruction. The teacher of the control group instructed them without utilizing any preplanned assessments. They finished the course without any formative and summative assessments. After the treatment, the post-tests of the test anxiety, motivation, and self-regulation skill were given to all groups to assess the influences of the intervention on their language achievement. In the final step, the questionnaire of attitude was distributed among both experimental groups to check their opinions about the impacts of summative and formative assessment on their English learning improvement.

The whole study lasted 23 sessions; each took 50 min. In one session, the PET test was administered and in the next three sessions, three pre-tests were conducted. During 15 sessions, the treatment was carried out; in three sessions, three post-tests were given to the participants, and in the last session the attitudinal questionnaire was administered to examine the participants’ attitudes towards the effectiveness of summative and formative assessment of their English learning achievement.

Data analysis

Having prepared all needed data via the procedures mentioned above, some statistical steps were taken to provide answers to the questions raised in this study. First, the data were analyzed descriptively to compute the means of the groups. Second, some one-way ANOVA and Bonferroni tests were used for analyzing the data inferentially. Third, one sample t- test was utilized to analyze the motivation questionnaire data.

Results and discussion

After checking and getting sure about the normality distribution of the data by using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, we used several one-way ANOVA tests and reported their results in the following tables:

As we see in Table ​ Table1, 1 , the mean scores of all groups are almost similar. They got almost equal scores on their anxiety pre-test and the three groups were at the same level of anxiety before conducting the instruction. This claim is verified in the following table with the help of one-way ANOVA.

Descriptive statistics of all groups on the test anxiety pre-tests

According to the Sig value in Table ​ Table2, 2 , there is not a noticeable difference between the test anxiety of all three groups. They were at the same anxiety level at the outset of the study. The inferential statistics show that all the participants had an equal amount of anxiety before they had received the treatment.

Inferential statistics of all groups on the test anxiety pre-tests

As is seen in Table ​ Table3, 3 , the mean scores of all groups are different on the anxiety post-tests. Based on the descriptive statistics, the groups gained different scores on their anxiety post-test and the experimental groups obtained better scores than the control group. This claim is substantiated in the following table by using a one-way ANOVA test.

Descriptive statistics of all groups on the test anxiety post-tests

Table ​ Table4 4 depicts that the Sig value is less than .00; accordingly, one can conclude that there is a noticeable difference between the test anxiety post-tests of all three groups. They were at different anxiety levels at the end of the research. It seems that the experimental groups outdid the control group on the post-test.

Inferential statistics of all groups on the test anxiety post-tests

In Table ​ Table5, 5 , the test anxiety level of all groups is compared. This table shows that there are remarkable differences between the anxiety post-tests of the control group and both experimental groups. Also, this table shows that the formative group outdid the control and summative groups. The formative group had the best performance among the three groups of this study.

Multiple comparisons by Bonferroni test (test anxiety)

a The mean differences are significant at the 0.05 level

As observed in Table ​ Table6, 6 , all three groups’ performances on the self-regulation pre-tests are almost the same; their mean scores are almost equal. We used a one-way ANOVA to check the groups’ performances on the self-regulation pre-tests.

Descriptive statistics of the three groups on the self-regulation pre-tests

In Table ​ Table7, 7 , the inferential statistics of all groups on the self-regulation pre-tests are shown. As Sig (.96) is higher than (0.05), the differences between the three groups are not meaningfully significant. Based on this table, all three groups had the same level of self-regulation ability at the outset of the study.

Inferential statistics of the three groups on the self-regulation pre-tests

The mean scores of the control group, the summative group, and the formative group are, 80.12, 130.04, and 147.25, respectively (Table ​ (Table8). 8 ). At the first look, we can say that both experimental participants outflank the control participants since their mean scores are very higher than the mean score of the control group.

Descriptive statistics of the three groups on the self-regulation post-tests

The results indicate significant differences between the self-regulation post-tests of the groups in favor of the experimental groups (Table ​ (Table9 9 ) . Based on the inferential statistics, the performances of the three groups on the self-regulation post-test are different and the summative group and the formative group outflank the control group.

Inferential statistics of the three groups on the self-regulation post-tests

The outcomes in Table ​ Table10 10 indicate that both experimental groups have better performances than the control group on the self-regulation post-tests. Also, the findings show that the formative group performed better than the other two groups. The treatment had the most effect on the formative group.

Multiple comparisons by Bonferroni test (self-regulation)

The control group’s mean score is 90.33, the mean score of the summative group is 91.75, and the mean score of the formative group is 92.45 (Table ​ (Table11). 11 ). Accordingly, we can say that the three groups had an equal degree of motivation before conducting the treatment.

Descriptive statistics of the three groups on the motivation pre-tests

Table ​ Table12 12 presents the inferential statistics of all groups on the motivation pre-tests. One can see that Sig (.94) is larger than 0.50; consequently, no difference is observed among the groups in terms of motivation pre-tests. The inferential statistics show that the students of the three groups had the same amount of motivation before they had received the treatment.

Inferential statistics of the three groups on the motivation pre-tests

As shown in the Table ​ Table13, 13 , the mean scores of the summative and formative groups are 115.79 and 127.83, respectively, on the motivation post-tests and the mean of the control group is 92.87. It appears that the experimental participants outperform the control participants on the motivation post-tests as their mean scores are higher than the control group.

Descriptive statistics of the three groups on the motivation post-tests

In Table ​ Table14, 14 , the inferential statistics of all groups on the motivation post-tests are revealed. The Sig value (.00) is less than 0.50; therefore, the differences between the groups are significant. Indeed, the experimental groups outperformed the control group after the instruction and this betterment can be ascribed to the treatment.

Inferential statistics of the three groups on the motivation post-tests

The mean scores of the motivation post-tests are compared in Table ​ Table15. 15 . Accordingly, there are noticeable differences between the post-tests of all groups. The formative participants had better performance than the other two groups. We can say that the formative assessment is more effective than the summative assessment in EFL classes.

Multiple comparisons by Bonferroni test (motivation)

As depicted in Table ​ Table16, 16 , the amount of statistic T -value is 63.72, df =16, and Sig =0.00 which is less than 0.05. This implies that Iranian students held positive attitudes towards the effectiveness of summative and formative assessments on their language learning improvement.

One-sample test of the attitude questionnaire

Briefly, the results indicate that both experimental groups had better performances than the control group in their post-tests. The formative group had the best performance among the three groups of this study. Additionally, the results reveal that the participants of the present research had positive attitudes towards the effectiveness of both formative and summative assessments on their language learning development.

After analyzing the data, it was found that all three groups were at the same levels of test anxiety, motivation, and self-regulation skill at the outset of the research. But, the performances of the three groups were different at the end of the investigation. Both experimental groups outdid the control group on their post-tests and the formative group performed better among the three groups. Although both types of assessments (summative and formative) were effective on test the anxiety, motivation, and self-regulation skill of EFL learners, the formative assessment was the most effective one. The findings of the current research also indicated that both experimental groups presented positive attitudes toward the implementation of the summative and formative assessments in EFL classes.

The findings gained in this study are supported by Persaud Singh and Ewert ( 2021 ) who inspected the impacts of formative assessment on adult students’ language improvement. They indicated that there were meaningful differences between the formative participants and the control participants in terms of language achievement in favor of the formative participants. Additionally, our research findings are advocated by Alahmadi et al. ( 2019 ) who explored the effects of formative speaking assessments on EFL learners’ performances in speaking tests. They showed that the formative assessment assisted Saudi EFL learners to solve the problems they encountered in speaking tests.

In addition, our study findings are in accordance with Mahshanian et al. ( 2019 ) who confirmed that the amalgamation of summative and formative assessment can result in better achievement in English language learning. Also, our investigation lends support to the findings of Buyukkarci and Sahinkarakas ( 2021 ) who verified the positive effects of using formative assessment on learners’ language achievement. Additionally, the results of the current research are in agreement with Ounis ( 2017 ) who stated that formative assessment facilitated and supported students’ learning. Our study findings are supported by the sociocultural theory which focuses on the role of social interactions among the students and their teachers in the classroom. Based on this perspective, the learning process is mainly a social process and students’ cognitive functions are made based on their interactions with those around them.

Furthermore, our research results are in agreement with the results of Imen ( 2020 ) who discovered the impacts of formative assessments on EFL students’ writing abilities. His results indicated that using formative assessment develops the participants’ writing skills. Moreover, our research outcomes are supported by the impacts of formative assessments on learners’ academic attainment, opinions about lessons, and self-regulation skills in Ozan and Kıncal ( 2018 ) who performed an investigation on the influences of formative assessments on students’ attitudes toward lessons, academic achievement, and self-regulation skill. They revealed that the experimental class that received the treatment by formative assessment practices had better academic performances and more positive attitudes towards the classes than the control class.

Regarding the positive attitudes of the participants towards formative and summative assessment, our results are in line with Tekin ( 2010 ) who discovered that formative assessment practices meaningfully developed students’ attitudes about mathematics learning. That research indicated that the participants in the treatment group had positive attitudes about mathematics learning. In addition, King ( 2003 ) asserted that the formative assessments enhanced the learners’ attitudes about science classes. Also, Hwang and Chang ( 2011 ) revealed that the formative assessment highly boosted the attitudes and interest of students toward learning in local culture classes.

One explanation for the outperformance of the formative group over the other two groups can be the fact that they received much more input. They were provided with different kinds of feedback and took more exams during the semester. These exams and feedback can be the reasons for their successes in language achievement. This is in line with Krashen’s ( 1981 ) input theory stating that if students are exposed to more input, they can learn more.

The other possible explanations for our results are that formative assessments are not graded so they take the anxiety away from the assessees. They also detach the thinking that they must get everything right. Instead, they serve as a practice for students to get assistance along the way before the final tests. Teachers usually check for understanding if students are struggling during the lesson. Teachers address these issues early on instead of waiting until the end of the unit to assess. Teachers have to do less reteaching at the end because many of the problems with mastery are addressed before final tests. The mentioned advantages can be the reasons for our obtained findings.

In addition, monitoring the students’ learning via using the formative assessment can be the other justification for our results. In fact, monitoring the learning process can provide an opportunity for the teachers to give constructive feedback to their students to improve their language learning. When teachers continuously monitor students’ growth and modify instruction to ensure constant development, they find it easier and more predictable to progress towards meeting the standards on summative assessments. By comprehending precisely what their students know before and during the instruction, teachers have much more power to improve the students’ mastery of the subject matter than if they find out after a lesson or unit is complete.

It is important to point out that when instructors continually evaluate the development of their students and modify their curriculum to assure constant improvement, they find that it is simpler and more predictable to make progress toward fulfilling the requirements on summative assessments. If teachers wait until the end of a session or unit to find out how well their learners have mastered the material, they will have considerably less influence over how well their learners learn the material than if they find out how well their learners have mastered it earlier and during teaching. The value of formative assessment lies in the critical information about student comprehension that it provides throughout the process of learning, as well as the chance it gives educators to provide participants with quick and efficient, and action-oriented feedback, as well as the chance to alter their own behavior so that every respondent has the chance to learn and re-learn the material. Learners whose academic performance falls on the extreme ends of the normal curve, such as those who are struggling and those who excel academically, benefit the most from formative evaluation. These learners have learning requirements that are often one of a kind and highly specialized, and to meet those needs, the instructor needs updated data. In addition, making use of frequent formative evaluation as a means to remediate learning gaps brought up by COVID-19 guarantees that educators can promptly give remediation.

The other justification for our findings can be ascribed to the strength of formative assessments that lies in the formative information they provide about the students’ comprehension throughout the learning process and the opportunities they give to teachers to provide the pupils with action-oriented and timely feedback and to change their own behaviors so that each learner has an opportunity to learn and re-learn. More particularly, using formative assessment can assist the students to detect their own weaknesses and strengths and target areas that need more effort and work. All the positive points enumerated for the formative assessments can be the reasons and explanations for the results gained in the current research.

Moreover, the better performance of assessment groups may be due to numerous reasons. In the first place, consistently evaluating students’ progress helps maintain learning objectives at the forefront of one’s mind. This ensures that learners have a distinct goal to strive towards and that instructors have the opportunity to assist clear up misconceptions before learners get off track. Second, engaging in the process of formative assessment enables instructors to gather the information that reveals the requirements of their students. When instructors have a clear grasp of what it takes for their students to be successful, they are better able to design challenging educational environments that push every learner to their full potential. Thirdly, the primary role of formative assessment that will assist in enhancing academic achievement is to provide both learners and instructors with frequent feedback on the achievement that is being made toward their objectives. Learners can bridge the gap between their existing knowledge and their learning objectives through the use of formative assessment (Greensetin, 2010 ). The fourth benefit of doing the formative assessment is an increase in motivation. Formative assessment entails creating learning objectives and monitoring the progress towards those objectives. When learners have a clear idea of where they want to go, their performance dramatically improves. Fifthly, students must identify a purpose for the work that is assigned to them in the classroom. Connecting the learning objectives with real-world problems and situations draws students into the instructional activities and feeds their natural curiosity about the world. Sixthly, an in-depth examination of the data gathered via formative assessment provides the educator with the opportunity to investigate their own methods of teaching and identify those that are successful and those that are not. It is indeed possible that some of the strategies that work for one group of learners won’t work for another. Lastly, students become self-regulated when they are provided with the tools they need to set, track, and ultimately achieve their own learning objectives. Students may develop into self-reliant thinkers if they are exposed to models of high-quality work and given adequate time to reflect on and refine their own work.

The positive effects of formative and summative assessment on students’ motivation are supported by The Self Determination Theory (SDT) of Motivation which is a motivational theory that provides a way of understanding human motivation in any context (Ryan & Deci, 2000 ). SDT attempts to understand human motivation beyond the simple intrinsic/extrinsic model. It suggests that human motivation varies from fully intrinsic motivation, which is characterized by fully autonomous behavior and “for its own sake” to fully extrinsic motivation, which is characterized by behavior that is fully heteronomous and which is instrumentalized to some other end.

In this study, the self-regulatory skills of the students in the EGs where the formative assessment practices were applied did significantly differ from the ones in the CG where no formative assessment practices were applied. Thus, students’ self-regulation was shown to be improved as a result of formative assessment procedures. Similar findings were observed in the experimental research by Xiao and Yang ( 2019 ) that compared the self-regulation abilities of EG and CG learners in secondary school and discovered a substantial difference in favor of the former group. Research findings based on qualitative data reveal that learners engaged in a variety of cognitive techniques and self-regulatory learning practices. The participants acknowledged that they were an integral part of their own learning and that they accepted personal responsibility for their progress. Teachers reported that learners’ ability to self-regulate improved as a result of formative assessment, which fostered ongoing, meaningful, and learning-effort and performance-focused dialogue between teachers and learners. The students’ progress in the areas of self-regulation and metacognitive abilities, as well as their growth in accordance with educational standards, may be supported by a rise in their success in diagnostic examinations thanks to the use of formative assessment (DeLuca et al., 2015 ). In a study that he conducted in 2015, Woods examined the link between formative assessment and self-regulation. He highlighted that teachers who use formative assessment strategies need to comprehend the participants’ self-regulatory learning processes to make appropriate decisions for their classrooms. Furthermore, Woods ( 2015 ) recommended that educators make regular use of formative assessment to foster the growth of learners’ abilities to self-regulate and to boost the motivation levels of their learners. Wiliam ( 2014 ) also asserted that self-regulatory learning could be an important component of an effective formative assessment in relation to the techniques of explaining, sharing, and comprehending the learning goals and success criteria and students taking the responsibility for their own learning.

It is vital to note that learners who have developed self-regulation skills employ their cognitive abilities; work toward their learning objectives; seek out appropriate support from peers, adults, and authority figures; and, most significantly, accept personal accountability for their academic success. As a result, learners’ abilities to self-regulate have a direct effect on the type of formative assessment based on learning and the applications designed to eliminate learning deficiencies. Self-regulation is an ability that needs time and practice to acquire, but it is possible to do so with the right tools and a continuous strategy. Formative assessment techniques were shown to boost learners’ ability to self-regulate, although this effect was found to be small when the study findings were combined with those found in the literature. This finding may be attributed to the fact that, although formative assessment procedures were implemented for an academic year, they were limited to the context of the social research classroom, and students’ abilities to self-regulate may develop and evolve over time.

The findings of this research can increase the knowledge of the students about two types of assessment. This study can encourage students to want their teachers to assess their performances formatively during the semester. Also, the findings of this study can assist instructors to implement more formative-based assessments and feedback in their classes. This study can highlight the importance of frequent input, feedback, and exam for teachers. An exact analysis of formative assessment data permits the teachers to inspect their instructional practices in order to understand which are producing positive results and which are not. Some that are effective for one group of students may not be effective for another group. The implications of this research can help students try to compensate for their deficiencies by taking responsibility for their own learning instead of just attempting to get good grades. In this respect, formative assessments ensure that students can manage the negative variables such as a high level of examination and grading.

Using formative assessments helps teachers gather the information that reveals the students’ needs. Once teachers have an understanding of what students need to be successful, they can generate a suitable learning setting that will challenge each learner to grow. Providing students and teachers with regular feedback on progress towards their aims is the major function of the formative assessments that will help in increasing academic accomplishment. Formative assessments can help the students close the gap between their present knowledge and their learning objectives. Moreover, using formative assessment gives the students evidence of their present progress to actively monitor and modify their own learning. This also provides the students the ability to track their educational objectives. Also, via using formative assessment, the students have the ability to measure their learning at a metacognitive level. As the students are one of the main agents of the teaching-learning process, instructors must share the learning objectives with them. This sharing can develop the students’ learning in basic knowledge and higher order cognitive processes such as application and transfer (Fulmer, 2017 ). In fact, if learners know that they are expected to learn in that lesson, they will concentrate more on those areas. Formative assessments make the teaching more effective by guiding learners to achieve learning objectives, setting learning needs, modifying teaching accordingly, and increasing teachers’ awareness of efficient teaching methods. Lastly, our findings may aid material developers to implement more formative-based assessment activities in the EFL English books.

In conclusion, this study proved the positive impacts of applying formative assessments on Iranian EFL students’ academic motivation, attitude toward learning, test anxiety, and self-regulation skill. Therefore, teachers are strongly recommended to use formative assessment in their classes to help students improve their language learning. Using formative assessment allows teachers to modify instruction according to the results; consequently, making modifications and improvements can generate immediate benefits for their students’ learning.

One more conclusion is that using formative assessment gives the teacher the ability to provide continuous feedback to their students. This allows the students to be part of the learning environment and to improve self-assessment strategies that will help with the understanding of their own thinking processes. All in all, providing frequent feedback during the learning process is regarded as an efficient technique for motivating and encouraging students to learn a language more successfully. Indeed, by assessing students during the lesson, the teachers can aid them to improve their skills and examine if they are progressing or not. Thus, formative assessment is an essential part of teaching that should be used in EFL instructional contexts.

As we could not include many participants in our study, we recommend that future researchers include a large number of participants to increase the generalizability of their results. We worked on male EFL learners; the next studies are required to work on both genders. We could not gather qualitative data to enrich our results; the upcoming researchers are advised to collect both quantitative and qualitative data to develop the validity of their results. Next researchers are called to examine the effects of the summative and formative assessments on language skills and sub-skills. Also, next researchers are offered to inspect the effects of other types of assessments on language skills and subskills as well as on psychological variables involved in language learning.


Not applicable.


Authors’ contributions.

All authors had equal contributions. The author(s) read and approved the final manuscript.

Authors’ information

Seyed M. Ismail is an assistant professor at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia. His research interests are teaching and learning, testing, and educational strategies. He published many papers in different journals.

D. R. Rahul is an assistant professor School of Science and Humanities, Shiv Nadar University Chennai, Chennai, India. He has published several research papers in national and international language teaching journals.

Indrajit Patra is an Independent Researcher. He got his PhD from NIT Durgapur, West Bengal, India.

Ehsan Rezvani is an assistant professor in Applied Linguistics at Islamic Azad University, Isfahan (Khorasgan) Branch, Isfahan, Iran. He has published many research papers in national and international language teaching journals.

We did not receive any funding at any stage.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Contributor Information

Seyed M. Ismail, Email: [email protected] .

D. R. Rahul, Email: moc.liamg@ttinrdluhar .

Indrajit Patra, Email: moc.liamg@0nortengampi .

Ehsan Rezvani, Email: [email protected] .

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  • Diagnostic and Formative Assessment

Diagnostic Pre-Assessments

formative summative diagnostic

Diagnostic assessments (also known as pre-assessments) provide instructors with information about student's prior knowledge and misconceptions before beginning a learning activity. They also provide a baseline for understanding how much learning has taken place after the learning activity is completed. Instructors usually build concepts sequentially throughout a course. For example, the Coriolis effect may be taught prior to a unit on ocean currents. A diagnostic pre-assessment given after the Coriolis effect activity but before the Ocean current activity will provide an opportunity to determine if students remember the concepts they need. If some students don't remember, then a refresher will make the Ocean current activity more meaningful to your students. Diagnostic assessment data may be gleaned from:

  • Summative assessments of the previous learning activity.
  • Short assessments that focus on key knowledge and concepts such as ConcepTests and Minute Papers ( more info )

Formative Assessments

formative summative diagnostic

Formative assessments take place during a learning activity to provide the instructor with information regarding how well the learning objectives of a given learning activity are being met. The value of formative assessment is pointed out by Black and William'(1998) paper "Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment" (Phi Delta Kappan, October 1998) They point to evidence that high quality formative assessment has a powerful impact on student learning. In addition, formative assessment is particularly effective for students who have not done well in school, narrowing the gap between low and high achievers while raising overall achievement. Most instructors intuitively use questioning as a method of formative assessment but in large lecture classes not every student can be questioned because of time constraints. Formative assessment is also useful in virtually all learning activities such as preparing oral and written reports, fieldwork and as projects and case studies progress. Here is an example of using on-going formative assessment in a large lecture course .

  • The Geoscience Concept Inventory WebCenter includes a collection of questions you can use for diagnostic or formative assessment.
  • Assessing How Students Learn is a short article that describes several methods for finding out what learning strategies your students are using.
  • Gather Evidence of Learning from the Lesson Study Project for College Teachers. This site describes how to gather evidence of student learning, thinking, and engagement in your classroom.

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  • Professional learning

Teach. Learn. Grow.

Teach. learn. grow. the education blog.

Kathy Dyer

Understanding formative, interim, and summative assessments and their role in student learning

formative summative diagnostic

At its core, education is about the teaching and learning process. How do we teach the necessary literacies, content knowledge, critical thinking skills, ethics, and habits of mind deemed essential to prepare our children for productive, fulfilling, and engaged lives? How do we know whether students have learned what was taught and to what degree? Educational assessment strives to answer these questions, providing valuable insights on the degree to which the teaching and learning process succeeded.

That said, there is often confusion as to what types of assessments are administered when, what data they provide, and how they benefit teachers, students, and parents. Here’s a quick rundown on the three main assessment types and what they are used for.

Formative assessment guides learning

Formative assessment includes sharing learning goals, modeling what success looks like, and giving clear, actionable feedback to students. By design, formative assessment:

  • Has an explicit connection to an instructional unit
  • Consists of many kinds of strategies, and can be as informal as asking a well-crafted question – and using the evidence collected from the question
  • Helps educators guide the learning process, rather than measure student performance
  • Provides students with data they can use to determine where they are in their learning, set goals, monitor their learning progress, and serve as instructional resources for their peers

Summative assessment certifies learning

Generally, educators administer a summative assessment near the end of an instructional unit to help them answer the question, “What did students learn?” All sorts of different assessment instruments are used for summative assessment, including:

  • End-of-unit tests and end-of-course tests
  • Performance tasks/simulations
  • Oral examinations
  • Research reports
  • Standardized state summative assessments

Despite the array of possible summative instruments, it’s the state summative assessments that often come to mind. Federal educational policy requires data collected from these tests to be used for accountability purposes; other high-stakes are associated with summative assessment, such as selection, promotion, and graduation. Legislators also use state summative assessment data to communicate the state of education to the public.

Since summative assessment happens so late in the instructional process, the most effective use of its test data is more evaluative than instructional. For teachers, data can help guide decisions, such as assigning grades for a course, promotion to the next grade, graduation, credit for courses, and more. Summative assessment data also plays a role at the administrative level, where it’s for planning curricula, determining professional development needs, and identifying the resources and federal assistance the district needs to flourish.

Interim assessment guides and tracks learning

A wide middle ground exists between teachers’ day-to-day formative assessment of student learning and the formal protocols of state summative assessment. This middle ground offers opportunities—captured under the umbrella term interim assessment—to gather information about many things that are relevant to the teaching and learning process, including:

  • Individual and collective student growth
  • Effectiveness of teaching practices, programs, and initiatives
  • Projection of whether a student, class, or school is on track to achieve established proficiency benchmarks
  • Instructional needs of individual students

Educators can use interim assessments in a formative way to directly guide instruction. When this happens, data aggregation is considered the key difference between formative and interim assessment. This ability to aggregate data at critical points in the learning cycle allows interim assessment to have a broader set of purposes than both formative and summative assessment. As a result, interim assessment is the only type of assessment that provides educators with data for instructional, predictive, and evaluative purposes.

To understand the value of interim assessment, it’s helpful to understand its variety of purposes. One is to provide educators insight into growth patterns in student learning. Growth can be calculated from student achievement scores taken at logical intervals, such as fall to spring, or fall to fall, or whatever makes the most sense for the local district. Many educators use a fall-winter-spring schedule when administering MAP® Growth™ , our interim assessment. The seasonal system permits enough instructional time between test administrations to be able to calculate growth in learning with statistical confidence.

Another purpose of interim assessment is to help teachers make decisions around differentiating instruction. If the assessment is adaptive, those decisions can better serve all the students in the class—not only those who are ready to learn at grade level. Within any given classroom, teachers will have students who are ready to go deep with concepts, be challenged, and apply and expand their learning. Conversely, there will be other students who need to learn foundational concepts and skills before they’re prepared for grade-level concepts and skills. Interim assessment can help identify gaps so that all students have the opportunity to grow – no matter where they are starting.

These missing foundational concepts and skills may be from the previous grade, or even further back. The gaps provide an enormous challenge for teachers whose only information on their students relates to specific grade-level content. For the students who are ready to be challenged—what are they ready to be challenged by? And for the students who are not prepared to learn grade-level standards yet—where are they?

One way to answer these questions is via an adaptive assessment like MAP Growth . MAP Growth quickly and precisely targets every student’s level of achievement—including students performing at, above, or below grade level. Interim assessment does more than help teachers instructionally. It also supports students in looking at their own growth – where they are and want to go, what their goals should be, and what an action plan for learning looks like. The other purposes of interim assessment are predictive and evaluative. Its data can help educators predict student performance on important markers and evaluate whether teaching strategies, programs, and curricula are effective.

Our blog is full of rich information on both formative assessment and interim assessment, so be sure to have a look around.

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Different Types of Formative and Summative Assessments

Cover image of Poll Everywhere blog titled Different Types of Formative and Summative Assessments.

Educational assessments are more than just a set of questions—they’re a crucial way to shape and improve the learning experience.

While there are many different types of assessments—including formative, summative, and diagnostic—each one plays a different role in helping educators understand student needs. Each type gives educators different insights into what’s working in their teaching and what’s not. This helps them continuously improve the in-class experience and improve students’ chances of success.

Let’s take a look at how formative assessments can benefit your classrooms, as well as how tools like Poll Everywhere can help you create engaging formative assessments with its easy-to-use classroom response system.

What are formative assessments?

Formative assessments are check-ins and pulse surveys that help instructors understand how well their students are comprehending course material. Unlike graded exams or quizzes, formative assessments are intended to be low-pressure opportunities for students to demonstrate their newly gained knowledge.

This gives teachers a snapshot of students’ levels of understanding so they can adjust their teaching methods on the fly.

This is critical for ensuring all students feel supported and engaged in course content. One German education publication found that formative assessments had a positive impact on student participation and achievement. This shows that formative assessments can improve chances of academic success by engaging students and allowing educators to take pre-emptive action if they notice a student is falling behind.

In a sense, formative assessments can close the loop between student performance and teaching strategies. They provide a goldmine of feedback for instructors to adapt their lesson plans even if the semester is still underway.

This is somewhat different from diagnostic assessments, which are used to provide feedback on students’ levels of knowledge at the start of a semester and after it ends. Additionally, a third type of assessment—summative—provides a summary of all the student has learned through graded exams and quizzes.

All three types of assessments provide essential feedback for educators at different steps of the learning process.

7 types of formative assessments

Formative assessments come in all shapes and sizes, but here are a handful of examples you’ll commonly find in use in higher education classrooms:

  • Student-created questions and peer evaluations
  • Journals that track learning journeys over time
  • Exit tickets or pop quizzes for quick looks at student understanding
  • Gamified learning activities to promote engagement
  • Collaborative group activities where students share feedback
  • Homework exercises that review course concepts
  • Question-and-answer sessions where students get immediate feedback from instructors

A 2021 study published in the Review of Education journal found that quizzes and peer feedback were some of the most promising types of formative assessments that were reviewed. The study noted that these approaches are beneficial when used to prompt students to retrieve knowledge and help educators spot misconceptions or errors.

Best practices for implementing assessments in education

You’ll need a game plan to effectively use formative assessments to tailor your course based on student feedback. Here are some things to consider when using formative assessments as part of your lesson plan.

  • Align assessments with learning objectives: Ensure your assessments measure the knowledge you’re aiming to impart in your class. For example, if your learning objective is to teach students foundational concepts in algebra, your assessments should measure that.
  • Craft clear grading rubrics: Make sure you’ve outlined what successful understanding looks like versus a need for additional support. You should also share your expectations with students to maintain transparency and consistency.
  • Ensure accessibility: Every student deserves a fair chance to display their understanding of course material. Make sure your assessments are accessible to a diverse group of students and those with learning disabilities.
  • Act on student feedback: Once you have the data, don’t just sit on it. Share your feedback on assessment results with students and be sure to also use this information to improve your teaching strategies.

How to use Poll Everywhere to create formative assessments

Poll Everywhere is a versatile tool that can help you engage students and gather insightful feedback through formative assessments. Here are some of our favorite ways to use Poll Everywhere in the classroom:

Gather anonymous feedback

Some students may be hesitant to share their feedback or ask questions during class. By allowing anonymous responses in Poll Everywhere, you can ensure everyone has a chance to be heard without fear of feeling judged.

Anonymous feedback also gives educators a chance to present that feedback and discuss it with the class as a whole. This creates opportunities for peer-led learning.

Use customized quizzes

Poll Everywhere’s easy-to-use polls and multiple-choice quizzes give you a real-time barometer of comprehension. This method of quickly checking in on how well students are absorbing the course material gives instructors a chance to adapt the lesson plan to cover any misunderstood concepts or questions.

Expert tip: Use Poll Everywhere to gauge student understanding before you start a lecture, then send out a quick quiz to compare levels of understanding after the lecture is over.

Use visuals to start conversations

The Word Cloud Activity is a great way to simultaneously collect answers from the whole class. That way you can spot any areas where students may need more instruction. The results can also prompt in-class discussions and opportunities to learn from peers.

Sentiment surveys

Find out whether last week’s homework was helpful to students or if the readings improved comprehension. Poll Everywhere makes it easy to use pulse surveys to gather student feedback .

One approach to collecting this type of feedback is to ask students to share two things they liked about the latest reading or homework along with one thing they didn’t like or still have questions about.

Interactive images

Use Poll Everywhere’s Clickable Image Activity to engage students with a visually interactive activity. This provides students with an alternative way to show their understanding of course material.

According to a 2022 survey , 86% of Gen Z students have struggled with test anxiety. A less formal approach like placing markers on an image may help students feel more confident in sharing their thoughts.

Keep tabs on student understanding with Poll Everywhere

Formative assessments help educators take the pulse of student understanding. By using this type of assessment throughout the course, instructors can quickly spot problem areas and adjust their lesson plans to bring all students up to speed.

Accessibility is a key requirement for formative assessments and gathering accurate data. Tools like Poll Everywhere provide instructors with a variety of ways to conduct these assessments—which in turn ensures students of all backgrounds and learning needs can interact and provide feedback.

Incorporating tech like Poll Everywhere into your lesson plan for regular assessment of student comprehension doesn’t have to be a challenge. Find out just how easy it is to use Poll Everywhere to engage students with interactive presentations and analyze learning outcomes with quick polls, surveys, and Q&A forms. (All of which work seamlessly with multiple LMSs and presentation tools.)

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Formative, Summative, Standardized? A Guide to Assessment Types

Reimagine learning.

  • Victoria Van Voorhis & Anne Snyder, Ph.D.
  • November 6, 2015

The word assessment has its origins in the Latin verb, assidere, which means “to sit with.”  Ideally, this is exactly what an educational assessment does – it sits alongside a student as he or she learns, and gathers useful information about that learning. 

There are many forms of assessment, and they can be categorized according to when they are given and how they are used. It can get a bit confusing, so here we will break down several common assessment types found in today’s classrooms: 

Formative Assessment:  This type of assessment happens during instruction while students are forming new knowledge. Formative assessments are typically short, frequent, and provide students with feedback that can help guide learning. Feedback is provided quickly so that students can course-correct as they learn.  

formative summative diagnostic

Interim Assessment: Remember the book reports you used to complete in school? A book report is one example of an interim assessment, which takes place over a longer time period than formative assessment. Students are provided feedback after finishing an interim assessment, but typically not as quickly as in formative assessments. 

Summative Assessment:  Just as the name suggests, this type of assessment examines the sum of student learning. Summative assessments provide stakeholders with information about student learning and performance, but provide little or no feedback. Summative assessments are often used to compare students to other students or a specific standard. 

Standardized Assessment:  This is the type of assessment most often discussed in the news. There two sub-categories of standardized assessments. Norm-referenced assessments compare students against a group average in order to rank student performance. Criterion-referenced  assessments, on the other hand, compare students to a specific goal (think those “chapter tests” you used to take in school). 

Diagnostic:  Used to understand what students already know and can do, diagnostic assessments are often given at the beginning of a new unit or at the start of an academic year. Many educators also use these results for comparison to performance at the end of a unit of study. 

To learn about an incredible new trend in assessment, be sure to stay tuned for the next post in this series!

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Multifunctional Digital X-Ray Image Detectors

  • Published: 10 February 2009
  • Volume 42 , pages 256–260, ( 2008 )

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  • S. V. Zhlobinskaya 1 ,
  • O. N. Morgun 2 &
  • K. E. Nemchenko 2  

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N. N. Blinov (ed.) Principles of X-Ray Diagnostic Equipment [in Russian], Meditsina, Moscow (2002).

Google Scholar  

Standard 01-22-04 “Image Receivers used in Diagnostic X-Ray Apparatuses with Digital Image Detection: Parameters and Characteristics of Image Quality and Methods and Equipment for Their Monitoring” [in Russian], VNIIIMT MZ RF, Moscow (2004).

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B. M. Kanter, L. V. Vladimirov, V. A. Lygin, N. A. Medvedeva, and G. I. Chulyukov, Med. Tekh., No. 5 (2006).

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N. N. Blinov and A. I. Mazurov, Med. Tekh., No. 5 (2003).

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Translated from Meditsinskaya Tekhnika, Vol. 42, No. 5, 2008, pp. 32–36.

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Zhlobinskaya, S.V., Morgun, O.N. & Nemchenko, K.E. Multifunctional Digital X-Ray Image Detectors. Biomed Eng 42 , 256–260 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10527-009-9063-2

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