Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

University Assessment Resources: Formative and Summative Assessments

Formative and Summative Assessments

Our SACS-COC Vice President recently informed us of new program assessment requirements to maintain institutional accreditation.  In addition to assessing student mastery of program learning outcomes, faculty must also assess student learning at a formative level and make program improvements based on the results of these formative assessments.

Formative assessments are conducted at a point in the curriculum where students are developing, but have not yet mastered, the knowledge/skills/values described in student learning outcomes.  These assessments are used to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses mid-way through the program and to make changes to improve student learning in courses in which students are introduced to and develop knowledge and skills related to the learning outcomes.

Summative assessments, on the other hand, measure students’ knowledge/skills/values at or near graduation, when students should have achieved the highest level of knowledge and skills in the program.  Summative assessments measure students' mastery of the learning outcomes (mastery at the level expected for the degree).

Guidelines for Student Learning Outcomes Assessment

For information about basic requirements for the annual assessment of student learning, click here, or download the documents posted below.

Formative Assessments

Suggested direct, formative assessment:

  • You can take advantage of existing course assessments by using embedded course assignments and exams as direct, formative assessments.
  • A single exam or assignment can be used as a direct measure of multiple learning outcomes, but the parts of the assignment or exam related to each learning outcome should be scored separately.  For example, if a class paper is used to measure students’ writing skills as well as their understanding of core concepts in your discipline, rate the writing quality and discussion of core concepts separately and report the results separately.  (Rubrics are useful for this type of scoring.)

Suggested indirect, formative assessment:

  • A short survey to measure faculty’s perceptions about mid-level students’ development of the knowledge and skills described in your programs’ student learning outcomes is a good, indirect, formative measure.
  • There is a survey tool on Canvas that may be useful for distributing surveys to faculty and collecting survey data.

Forms and Documents