No one really agrees on what the definition of formative assessment should be but here is our shot at definition.
Assessment is a process of gathering and analysing information from multiple sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do.
Assessment can be done at various times during a school year and an assessment strategy will include both formative assessment and summative assessment.
The point at which the assessment occurs determines if an assessment is formative or summative.
Summative assessments are designed to allocate grades. They happen at the end of a teaching/learning cycle.
Formative assessments, on the other hand, are not designed to allocate grades and they happen during a teaching/learning cycle.
The main purpose of formative assessment is to help teachers monitor their students’ progress and to modify the instruction accordingly. It is used to detect if the teaching/learning is working or not. It usually also helps students to monitor their own progress.
We often will classify assessments as “Summative” or “Formative” which is a bit tricky because most assessments can be summative but only some can be formative. An assessmentitem is only formative or summative because of the way it is used.
If an assessment is done to collect evidence in view of adjusting instruction, while learning is in progress, it is formative.
The following article contains examples of when assessment is formative and when it is not. (Click on Download )