Activity 1

Formative, Summative and Diagnostic Assessment

A fundamental distinction in theories of assessment is between formative, summative and diagnostic forms of assessment:

Summative assessment aims to sum up a pupil's achievement and progress. An example might be writing a report for parents or providing certificates at the end of schooling. Summative assessment will usually occur at the end of a piece of writing or at the end of a unit of work, offering a verdict on overall progress and summarising achievement..

Formative assessment aims to gather evidence to decide what a pupil needs to do next, for example, to guide learning or to inform future teaching. Formative assessment offers feedback which can be used both by teachers and pupils to modify the quality of teaching or content of learning.

Diagnostic assessment aims to identify and explain what a pupil is able and not able to do (e.g. to reveal learning difficulties or to build on strengths).

REFLECT: Here is a list of possible purposes for classroom assessment. Put them in your own order of importance and decide whether each is formative, summative or diagnostic.

  • To acknowledge pupils' efforts
  • To motivate pupils
  • To monitor progress
  • To identify pupils with special educational needs
  • To establish evidence of achievement
  • To detect pupil under-achievement
  • To report to parents
  • To support the grouping of pupils
  • To measure achievement at the end of a course
  • To compare pupils
  • To inform planning

WRITE: Write about some of the ways in which you use formative, summative and diagnostic assessment in your own classroom. Are there any ways in which you might want to change the balance between these three assessment approaches? Explain your ideas about these questions in a series of bullet points.

(Allow 25 minutes)