HARLEN - Assessment for formative and summative purposes

Wynne Harlen
What do you mean by assessment?
 Is there assessment when:
1. A teacher asks pupils questions to find out what ideas
they have about a topic before starting it?
2. A teacher observes pupils carrying out an investigation
without controlling a key variable. He asks them to
investigate the effect of this variable before continuing?
3. A teacher holds a discussion with pupils on how to write a
good report of their work, leading to a list of criteria that
they then use in producing their reports?
4. At the end of a unit of work a teacher asks pupils to write
answers to some questions devised to see in they can
apply the ideas they have gained?
Meaning of assessment
A process of collecting evidence
and using it to make inferences
about what pupils know and can
Purposes of assessment
 Formative – to help learning and foster deeper
engagement with it
 Summative for ‘internal’ school uses - for keeping records
and giving reports on progress to other teachers, parents
and children
 Summative for ‘external’ uses - including certification,
selection and meeting statutory requirements, eg for
national tests or assessment
Processes and procedures
 Formative assessment - also called ‘assessment for
learning’ (AfL) - involves processes of “seeking and
interpreting evidence for use by learners and their
teachers to decide where the learners are in their
learning and where they need to go and how best to
get there” (ARG 2002).
 Summative assessment – also called ‘assessment
of learning’ (AoL) - involves processes of summing
up by reviewing learning over a period of time, or
checking-up by testing learning at a particular time.
 The difference between formative and summative
assessment is in the uses of the evidence
 There is no method of assessment that is inherently
‘formative’ or ‘summative’.
 Formative has one use – to help learning of
individuals and groups directly. It if doesn’t help then
it isn’t formative.
 Summative has several uses, some relating to
individuals, groups or populations and for making
different decisions (selection, ranking, accountability,
Formative assessment
 A continuing cyclic process in which information
about pupils’ ideas and skills informs on-going
teaching and helps learners’ active engagement in
 Involves the collection of evidence about learning as
it takes place, the interpretation of that evidence in
terms of progress towards the goals of the work, the
identification of appropriate next steps and decisions
about how to take them.
 Helps to ensure progression in learning
 Regulates the teaching and learning processes to
ensure learning with understanding, by providing
feedback to both teacher and student.
Model of formative assessment
Students’ activities
How to get there
Designing effective
learning environment
Collection of evidence
relating to goals and
success criteria
Where students are
Interpretation of
evidence in terms of
Where they need to go
The evidence base of the impact of
formative assessment
 Review of research by Black and Wiliam (1998)
 Implementing formative assessment can raise student
 The effect is larger than for any other intervention
 Lower-achieving students gain most
 The gap between higher and lower achieving students
is decreased
Value of formative assessment in IBSE
 Formative assessment is integral to inquirybased teaching and learning
 Using formative assessment ensures that students have
the kinds of opportunities needed for real understanding
 Teachers using formative assessment:
 are clear about the goals of their work and the criteria of
quality to be used in judging where pupils are in relation to
the goals
communicate these goals and criteria effectively to pupils
observe and question pupils and use their reports and
artefacts to gather information about on-going learning
interpret this information, identify progress and next steps
give feedback to pupils and use it to adjust teaching
involve pupils in self- and peer-assessment.
Summative assessment
 Judgement in terms of goals of a topic, course, end
of stage, or progressive criteria
 Evidence collected by
 Test – internally or externally set, internally or
externally marked
Summary of observations made by teacher (for
formative assessment) judged by teacher
Judgement of portfolio of work selected by
Embedded tasks observed/marked by teacher
Combination or variations of these.
Problems with tests
 Limited number of items – leading to sampling errors
 many students given incorrect grades (Wiliam 2001)
 Preference for reliably marked items reduces validity –
trade-off between validity and reliability
 Context effect in assessment of skills
 Individual skills rather than whole investigations
 Difficulty of ensuring application rather than recall
 communicating an unfamiliar context makes demands on
reading, interpretation of representations
 Other features of context (beyond familiarity) may affect
 High stakes uses of results leads to ‘teaching to the test.’
The impact of using test results for school
evaluation and accountability
(As reported in the Cambridge Primary Review, Alexander (Eds) 2010)
 put children and teachers under intolerable pressure
 are highly stressful
 constrain the curriculum
 subvert the goals of learning
 undermine children’s self-esteem
 run counter to schools’ commitment to a full and
rounded education
 turn the final year of primary school into a year of
cramming and testing (p316)
What is needed to assess inquiry skills?
 Situations in which students are
 Observing, raising questions, planning investigations
 Collecting, analysing and interpreting data
 Drawing conclusions, communicating and applying
 Real contexts which engage their thinking
 Content which enables development of their
understanding of big ideas
All these are situations which inquiry-based
classroom science activities should provide and
are opportunities for teachers to collect data for
Some advantages of assessment by teachers
 Potential for the full range of goals to be included as
teachers collect evidence as part of their normal
work with students
 Can relieve the pressure, on pupils and teachers, of
terminal tests and examinations
 Teachers can use information about students
formatively as well as summatively
 Can release resources (time and other costs) for
alternative use.
Some disadvantages
 Teachers’ judgements often perceived as being
 Increase in work load for teachers
 Can lead to the same distortion of teaching as
testing if the results are used for high stakes
Increasing the reliability of assessment by
 Moderation procedures
 Provision of detailed progressive criteria
 Exemplification – ‘worked examples’
 Group discussions of assessed work
 Standardised tasks or short tests used to check
Importance of assessment for IBSE
 What is assessed and reported influences what is
valued and given priority in teaching
 So summative assessment must reflect the full range
of goals of inquiry-based science education
 How the assessment information is collected (by
tests, by teachers, etc) influences what is assessed
and reported
 Process of summative assessment has an impact on
the use of formative assessment.

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