On the outside, the evaluation process may seem like nothing more than assigning a score, but to the evaluator, the process is significantly more complicated. All evaluations can be divided into two types--summative and formative. Formative assessments are assessments that occur during lessons, while summative assessments are those that take place once the lessons have reached an end. Summative assessments are highly important, as they provide evaluators with arrays of useful information.
The primary purpose of a summative evaluation is to ensure that individuals have mastered the skill in question. When students perform well on this assessment, teachers have proof that they do in fact know the taught material. Without this assessment, the teacher can only guess as to the level of student understanding.
In academic settings, it is often necessary to rank student skill. Summative assessments provide an easy means by which to do this. By ranking students based upon their summative assessment scores, teachers can create a range of student skill, more effectively ranking students based upon ability for future lessons.
In the absence of summative evaluation, students have nothing toward which they are working. When summative evaluations are in place, teachers can craft lessons that build toward these ultimate assessments, allowing students to see that their efforts have an end point and giving them some motivation to continue to strive to understanding.
In some cases, summative assessments are used for the purposes of evaluating instructors. When students complete their coursework by taking a standardized summative assessment, administrators can use these evaluations to rank not just the pupils, but also the educators charged with teaching them. If one teacher's class performs markedly worse on these assessments than another, administration may conclude that this teacher is not as effective as her colleague.
Judging Program Value
These end-point assessments can also be used to determine the value of the program as a whole. If a program aims to prepare students for a specific test, such as a professional certification exam, the number of students who successfully pass this exam can be seen as evidence of the program's success or failure.