The terms formative evaluation and summative evaluation are being redefined in education circles. Many teachers know formative evaluation as the informal, daily type of assessment they use with students while learning is occurring. Summative evaluation was the term used to “sum it all up,” to indicate a final standing at the end of a unit or a course.
Current trends in assessment focus on judging student progress in three ways: assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment of learning. Each assessment approach serves a different purpose.
Assessment for learning is especially useful for teachers as they develop, modify and differentiate teaching and learning activities. It is continuous and sustained throughout the learning process and indicate to students their progress and growth.
Assessment as learning focuses on fostering and supporting metacognitive development in students as they learn to monitor and reflect upon their own learning and to use the information gathered to support and direct new learning.
Assessment of learning is cumulative in nature. It is used to confirm what students already know and what they can do in relation to the program of studies outcomes.
What is now being divided into two approaches—assessment for and assessment as learning—was until very recently seen and promoted under a single focus formally known as formative evaluation or assessment for learning. Formative assessment (comprised of both assessment for and assessment as learning) can be defined as the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers, to identify where the learners are in the learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.
Current research demonstrates that a focus on assessment for learning improves overall learning and can be a powerful motivator for students. For teachers, assessment for learning is invaluable in terms of obtaining diagnostic information