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Best Practices: Three Assessment Types

Three major types of assessments—pre, formative, and summative—are essential for an academically rigorous classroom. A teacher who understands and integrates the different types of assessments can design lessons that will target areas of weakness in the class as a whole while supporting areas of strength. Assessments are also an important part of providing necessary remediation or enrichment for individual students.

Pre-Assessments

Pre-assessment or diagnostic assessment occurs before introducing a new concept. This type of assessment provides valuable information for the teacher to create lessons at appropriate levels for the students and to supplement any necessary information a student needs to be ready for new material. Teachers should also present information the students may not be ready to learn yet, but will learn in future lessons. Looking forward will engage the students’ thinking and encourage excitement in learning. Pre-assessment should be present throughout the whole learning process so the teacher can continually provide appropriate instruction as students progress in understanding.

Our student editions and our teacher editions both have resources and suggestions for pre-assessment activities. In our teacher editions, we offer guidance on how the information gathered from pre-assessments can inform lesson planning. One example of pre-assessment could be asking your students to consider the big-picture questions that frequently occur the beginning of a unit in most of our textbooks, including  heritage studies, literature, and math. Other math pre-assessments occur at the beginning of each lesson with practice and review activities and math board activities to gauge students’ retention and understanding of prior materials. Some other pre-assessment examples could be brainstorming, concept maps, think-pair-share activities, self-evaluations, student interviews, and journals.

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are most effective when the teacher gives immediate and constructive feedback while the students practice skills. This type of assessment helps the teacher to evaluate the students’ progress toward thinking critically about the material. By providing immediate feedback at this stage, the teacher can identify areas of weakness and strength in the students’ understanding. The process of formative assessments encourages students to reflect on and refine their skills as they develop understanding.

Formative assessments appear most often in our student editions in the form of reviews. In our math and science textbooks, we have section and unit reviews to reinforce the necessary skills and concepts. In our science textbooks, ethics boxes help apply students’ understanding of the material to real-life situations through a biblical worldview. Our literature textbooks have review questions in the After Reading section so students can refine their reading comprehension and analysis skills. For certain grade levels in language arts and math, afterschoolhelp.com has additional formative assessments to further and enhance student abilities. Essays, class discussions, questionnaires, and take-home assignments are all types of formative assessments in our materials. We tailor the questions and practice exercises in our textbooks to develop students’ higher-level thinking skills. Questions that involve critical thinking allow the teacher to assess students’ understanding, not just their memorization skills.

Summative Assessments

Summative assessments come at the end of an instructional unit in order to gauge the students’ learning progress. Typically, summative assessments align with a predetermined standard or benchmark, and the performance on a summative assessment heavily influences a student’s grade in the subject. These assessments must evaluate a student’s understanding based on the objectives the teacher establishes at the beginning of the unit or chapter. If assessments before the final assessment are not focused on the unit’s objectives, the summative assessment, which focuses on the unit objectives, will be an inaccurate representation of the material the students prepared for. If the students are inadequately prepared, both the teacher and the students will be frustrated when the students perform poorly.

Major examples of summative assessments are unit tests, chapter tests, midterm exams, and final exams. Summative assessments can also be performance-based, such as a final projects, writing assignments, or presentations. Teacher Tools Online also provides ExamView which allows for customizable, online assessments.

In the assessment process, students can easily become discouraged when they believe they fall short of expectations. As a teacher, you can remind students that assessments are to help them see their progress. Encourage them to improve from one assessment to the next and not to compare their progress with other students’ progress. While assessments are necessary to help students develop and display their understanding, the goal is not a high grade on the assessments. Teachers can show students the value of developing perseverance and a passion for learning. Properly executed assessments can help students see beyond the grades they receive on assessments and develop a love of learning.

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Category: Assessments