Sunday, 7 November 2010

Formative and summative assessment- what's the difference?

Sir Ken Robinson

Ken and the Dalai Lama

Sir Ken Robinson is the creative educator's guru and has been discussing for a long time how to teach and educate 'the complete individual'. Sir Ken, originally from Liverpool and now based in LA, consults with world governments and peace makers like the Dalai Lama, to campaign on behalf of creative education and point out that a creative approach to problem solving will assist developing economies or rescue flagging ones as well as improving the way we live.

Ken is very good at explaining the importance of fostering enjoyment in a subject area and developing the creativity we all had as small children. He believes creative thinking is not focused on nearly enough as we grow up and in many cases is lost, as we emphasise linear and knowledge based courses within the curriculum. He is very keen on formative assessment to develop life skills. Without the pressure of passing or failing we have the freedom to experiment and trigger new ideas that have real value.

In fashion, we use formative assessment a lot in the way that Sir Ken suggests. He realises that there is more than one way to learn. A student asked me the other day what is the difference between formative and summative assessment and why do we need both?

There are constraints within the UK education system which sometimes make us wish we all lived in LA with Ken. However, we are able to use formative assessment to show breadth and links within subject areas. This is very useful to demonstrate methods and techniques to develop students, show varying approaches to learning and track student progress but not in a pass or remediate situation. It can be fairly informal or structured.
Formative assessment methods used this term have been individual discussion, discussion groups and demonstrations with discussion. We take students on field research trips and track that some of this formative learning shows up as findings in final assessment work. We run workshops, blogs and suggest other places to look for information rather than just in the classroom.
The formative learning is carried out by the student and the formative assessment is carried out by the teaching staff to see how you are doing and check that the group is ready for final, marked assessment. This is all very valuable to students who need to become independant learners to make a living. In fashion, this is key to employability as it is a fast changing and research based sector. These are life skills with the 'how to' taught in the classroom. The rest is up to you. The more you put into your learning, the more you get out of it in the long term. In the UK today, it is no longer enough just to have the certificate, you have to demonstrate to employers/universities that you understand how to use what you have been taught and how it affects fashion collection development and promotion. in other words, what the implications are for decisions made and paths followed.

Summative assessment is different and comes after formative assessment. It is used to pass and result students. This is directed, in our case, mainly by SQA, who set guidelines with set standards for different levels. This type of assessment is directed within each subject by specific learning outcomes that each give new knowlege and skills which the learners use to generate evidence for us to look at then decide if the work meets the standards. If it does, you pass. If it doesn't there are chances to remediate. The conditions for summative assessment are formal, controlled and recorded. Once you have passed the required number of individual modules/ units, you pass the overall qualification and graduate. Good luck, work hard.

1 comment:

  1. Sir Ken Robinson's lectures on TED are great and have many truths in them about art education.
    TED is a great resource you can search it by subject and you will find great inspiration and treasure.