September 06, 2007

We're watching you!

Writers about assessment make the distinction between formative and summative modes (see Definitions below). It is too often seen as a black-and-white dichotomy. As part of a plea for shades of grey, let me suggest suggest the watched or moderated mode of assessment.

In watched mode, students are allowed a limited or unlimited number of attempts at a given test (or at several variations of it). All their activity is recorded, and they know that their teacher or assessor has access to their results and that the information may be used to form an interim judgement about their commitment, to discuss their progress, and to provide feedback, even though their marks do not influence their progression or their degree.

Other “shades of grey” please.

Definitions of Formative/Summative Assessment

There are many descriptions of these concepts. Here are two I feel happy with in the context of a degree course:
  • Formative assessment is designed to inform development, and to give learners practice at the assessed activity and feedback on their progress; but it does not contribute to the overall assessment.
  • Summative assessment contributes to the final outcome of a student’s degree and may include unseen examinations, essays, dissertations or presentations.

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