This week I have decided to write a blog discussing whether assessing pupils and students in educational environments is beneficial or not and will be discussing the formative vs. summative assessment debate.
Assessment in learning environments has been previously defined as the act or purpose of gathering data in order to gain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of student learning (Thomas, 2007). According to Chris Rust (2002) the purpose of assessment in learning is beneficial for a range of different reasons including motivation, creating learning opportunities, to provide feedback, in order to grade, and as a mechanism to assure the quality of learning and understanding. Moreover Gareis (2007) stated that assessments play an essential role in public schools in order to provide equal and impartial educational opportunities to all students.
Furthermore, Rust (2002) proposed that there are two different types of assessments. One being the formative type and the other being the summative type. He stated that because formative assessments such as assignments and essays involve providing students with feedback which they can use in order to improve their performances in the future, students and pupils benefit from being assigned to these types of tasks. However summative assessments such as end of semester exams provide only a single grade as a form of feedback and therefore Rust (2002) argued that whilst assessments are beneficial in educational environments, it is essential that education is not too often focused on the summative form of assessment as students will benefit much more from opportunities on which they can build on their personal strengths and learn from the mistakes that they make through the feedback that is provided from the formative type of assessing.
Dominic & Harry (2009) published an article that supports the argument that was made by Rust (2002). They reviewed previous research and other evidence regarding the development of the national curriculum assessment in England since 1988 and it’s impact on both teachers and pupils. They too concluded that a greater use of formative assessment strategies and providing feedback from the teacher to the pupil in primary schools are more beneficial.
Weimer (2010) claimed that up to 50% of students admit to ‘cramming’ information before an exam or a test. Weimer suggests that when students cram, the information is stored in the short-term memory and will not enter the long-term memory. Students in the high-cramming category will only remember 27% of the content after 150 weeks of the course ending. They suggested that summative assessments including essay and multiple-choice exams encourage this type of study and therefore support previous arguments that formative assessments are more beneficial to learning.
However Thomas (2007) suggested that examinations are equally as important in education because they allow students to demonstrate the knowledge they have acquired throughout a specific learning period and to also demonstrate the students’ ability to process that knowledge in order to use it within a context.
There is a limited amount of evidence in order to suggest that summative assessments are beneficial to educational environments whilst many theorists who have reviewed previous research and evidence argue that formative assessments are essential to learning. Therefore I conclude that whilst assessing students and pupils is important, it is essential to include formative methods to an academic environment whilst exams, tests and other forms of summative assessments are not effective and therefore are not absolutely necessary in education.
Dominic. W., Harry. T. (2009). The development and consequences of national assessment curriculum for primary education in England. Educational research. 51. 2. 213-228.
Gareis. C. (2007). Reclaiming an important teacher competency: The lost art of formative assessment. Journal of personnel evaluation in education. 20. 1-2.
Rust. C. (2007). Principles and purposes of assessments. Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development. 1.
Thomas. S. (2007). Exams as learning experiences: One nutty idea after another. Beyond tests and quizzes: Creative assessments in the college classroom. 71-83.
Weimer. M. (2010). Why students cram for exams. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/why-students-cram-for-exams/ on February 2013.