Summative Assessment Question

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8 thoughts on “Summative Assessment Question”

  1. Tim I am thinking that you have a perfect opportunity here to do the summative assessments (I would assume two per year) in the form of stories. Doing that fits every requirement you describe above.

    Plus, with that exam day at 50% of their grade you could have a field day reminding them maybe once a week during the school year: “Hey guys, how are you going to do on the final if what we are doing now IS the final exam format?”

    What I would suggest is to create a story in each class the day before the final exam period, which I am assuming is from two to three hours. Then, during the exam period, you can do this:

    Having made sure that you got the story done in the class prior to the exam period, because you need to have the story ready to project at the start of class during the long exam period:

    1. Project the story. Now during the first part of the exam period you can change anything you want and generally banter back and forth with the kids, negotiating meaning with them. That could take from 30 min. up to an hour.
    2. After you have the story finished, and the artists feel that their drawing of it is ready, and if you use a quiz writer they have their quiz ready for you (obviously there is no need for a story writer now because they gave you that in the class before the exam), you can go through the Reading Options (formerly Reading Option A). You can literally spend well over two hours and thus the rest of the three hour exam period doing this work with reading, there is so much to do in each of those 22 reading options. You would have to watch the clock during this reading time to leave about 45 min. for the actual “exam” part of the exam.
    3. Now the actual exam can happen in the remaining time. I don’t think you would need an hour, and perhaps 30 min. is too little time. Maybe 45 min. is what you will need. The actual exam:

    1. Of course, either you, before the exam period, or the quiz writer, if you use one (I don’t anymore bc a good quiz writer seems hard to find these days), will have come up with a good 10 question yes/no quick quiz as usual. Or you could make it 15 or 20 if you feel guilty because it’s summative. Give the quiz. 10-15 min. tops.
    2. Project the story in the form it ended up in. They do a written translation of it into L1, leaving blanks/drawing a clear line where they don’t understand something. It will take you all of a few minutes to grade an entire set of exams because all you have to do is make sure they could retell the story in written form. Literally, I can grade one of these translations in about 5 seconds. Piece of cake for anyone who stayed conscious during the two exam periods and so most kids, since I always use a 10 scale, get 8 or above.

    If you have gotten enough reps on the facts of the story, and you certainly will have given the total of up to three hours or more before the actual exam – and the kids will be locked and loaded on the facts at this point because what is going to happen then is 50% of their grade – the kids will all score high and that is our purpose in this work, and not to tear them down because they can’t memorize something.

    If you are not using the old TPRS format based on target structures but class-created images, you will probably have A’s from all the kids, because they will have learned it all, because, as happened with my kids in India, they forgot it was even an exam.

    I like this plan for a summative exam because it is such a shame to have a “dead” exam period where no fun CI happens, because when CI isn’t happening – when you are “testing” (which is such a bullshit word) – no gains are happening and what a shame to waste all those precious CI minutes.

  2. Another thing to keep in mind is that a “summative assessment” does not have to look different from a “formative assessment”. What differentiates them is the use to which they are put, not their format.

    Formative assessments should give feedback to students so that they know areas in which they are weak and areas in which they are strong in order to improve performance.

    Summative assessments are intended to indicate where students are at that particular moment without reference to feedback for improvement. Summative assessments often have a “gatekeeper” function, either allowing or denying entrance to the next course, level, module, etc.

    Perhaps a sports illustration will help understand.

    Before the season begins, many teams play a series of “friendlies”, “exhibition games”, “scrimmages”, or whatever you wish to call them. The purpose is to see how prepared the team is for regular season or league competition. The season might be considered “interim assessment”. Post-season play is summative: if you win, you move on and eventually win the trophy; if you lose, you’re out. (Of course, there is feedback value even in these games, but their purpose is to “weed out” teams.)

    The thing to note is that the nature of the assessment did not change, only its function. A football team does not play a different game or suddenly introduce different rules simply because they are playing post season. It’s the same game. So, there is no reason why a summative assessment cannot take a form that you have used all year long, e.g. Ben’s reading assessment.

      1. I would say that it should seek to replicate it, though the nature of school assessments is such that this is often not possible.

        BTW, I think I know why so many teachers give Scantron/Multiple Choice tests for finals. They’re quick and easy to grade: just run them through the grading machine. At the end of the school year, we have finals on two days and then must turn in grades by noon of the day after finals. That’s not much time . If you haven’t figured out how to give a final exam similar to the one Ben suggests, you have to find another way to cut the turn-around time. Or you do a project and grade it before finals, using finals days for oral presentations. (Boring but quick to grade)

  3. This short article appeared this morning in my e-mail box. It comes from CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) at the University of Oregon.

    Topic of the Week: Ensuring Summative Assessments Are Also Formative

    By Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

    Concurrent with national trends in education, second language classrooms have faced an increasing emphasis on high stakes, large scale assessments. While there are certain benefits to this approach, an unintended consequence reported by many teachers has been a decreased emphasis on opportunities for formative assessment throughout the learning process.

    Formative Assessment is typically understood as a low-stakes task, with minimal point value, that is designed to monitor student progress and determine strengths and weaknesses. Summative Assessment, in contrast, is defined as high stakes measure designed to evaluate student learning at a specific period of time, often measured against a set of standards or benchmark (for further detail see, for example, Garrison and Eringhaus, 2013). However, despite this common distinction, the reality is all assessment, regardless of whether it is delivered in high stakes or low stakes contexts, should be addressed as part of the learning process.

    Using reflection and analysis, every time a student is evaluated, affords the learner a unique opportunity to reflect on their own skills and adapt his or her learning process. As teachers engage in assessment practices, a number of techniques can be used make assessments useful for ongoing learning.

    1. Whenever possible, meaningful reflection and analysis of high stakes assessments can be highly valuable. Whether it is a national-level test or a chapter exam, an opportunity to reflect on the results of the assessment can be extremely useful for the learning process. This can include, for example, having learners make a list of the five things they did best and five things they would like to improve as a result of the evaluation. They can then try the task again, with help, to further improve their abilities.
    2. Formative evaluation can also be given more prominence in the classroom by adding points, or other “value” to the process. Teaching learners how to self-reflect, set goals, and evaluate their own language skills can be built in to everyday classroom practices and included as part of an evaluation rubric. By valuing the process and the product, students are taught to be reflective learners, while simultaneously improving their language skills.
    3. Give feedback as soon, and as often, as possible. Very often, chapter exams are given and then returned two weeks after the test was taken, making reflection more difficult. Furthermore, as part of this process, any opportunity to allow students to keep the assessment adds value to the reflection process. Allowing learners to keep exams may not always be possible, but should be considered in cases where it might be.
    4. Use the same tasks as both high stakes and low stakes tasks. In other words, allow learners the opportunity to engage in meaningful assessment tasks in a variety of contexts. This can be, for example, a communicative task embedded at the end of a class session to an experiential exam given at the end of a chapter or course. As learners engage in meaningful evaluation, instructors can ensure the assessment process and outcomes are valuable and impact learning.


    Garrison, C. and Eringhaus, M. (2013). Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom. Association for Middle Level Education. Available at:

    I draw particular attention to point #4: USE THE SAME TASKS (Sorry for shouting)

    If anyone is interested, you can subscribe to the CASLS newsletter and receive articles, etc. on various aspects of SLA. You can tailor the subscription to your interests. Go here:

  4. Results of the first tests I gave to my Spanish 1 and 2 kids: The averages were around 95%. Median was around 98%. The kids knew the stuff, and were thrilled when they got the test back. It’s fun – when an assessment can be a celebration that they have learned a lot of language, rather than a punishment for not focusing hard enough. And while they all said the test was somewhat easy, they also said they couldn’t have done well on it at the beginning of the year and that they are learning a ton. So, the pure translation of a class story as an assessment seems to be a win.

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