What are Formative, Summative, Benchmark, and Diagnostic Assessments and How Should the be Used in a Classroom?

The four types of assessments: formative, summative, benchmark, and diagnostic, are an important part of student learning in my classroom. They help to guide my instruction planning and increase accountability from the very beginning because I have a clear set of goals for myself as well as my students. While there are benchmark and diagnostic assessments that are a regular part of my high school learning support classroom, I find that formative and summative assessments give me and my students a clear idea of progress and areas of strength or need.

I use several formative assessment practices in my teaching practice almost every day. Due to learning disabilities and low English language proficiency in many of my high school learning support classes, I use formative assessments like think pair, share, and “thumbs up”, or dry erase boards, for answering and problem solving during instruction. This allows the students to talk their answers over with a team or a partner before answering. This encourages teamwork and allows the students to defend their choice if they think it’s correct.

I also use several strategies when I design summative assessments. First, I give my students a variety of types of summative assessments. Many of my students do not perform well on timed tests or assessments that require extensive writing. For this reason, I include these types but also allow students to choose to present answers orally or represent them visually with oral presentations and artwork. I give them a rubric that outlines what I need to see for them to pass the assessment, and show them the scored rubric so they can see if they met these requirements. This not only helps me build future instruction, but also helps them see the areas that they excel in and where they might need more practice.

It’s important to have a variety of assessments that evaluate learning for several reasons. Teachers assess what they think is critical for students to know. Having a variety of assessments helps to teach students that outside of school there will be many different ways to demonstrate knowledge. I use a variety of assessments because the workplace and real-world scenarios require a mix of skills. Also, a variety of assessments helps me maintain a high level of communication and respect in the classroom. A variety helps students to express themselves in different ways, and they appreciate being listened to. We discuss the different types of knowledge and skills that people have, and this builds respect for each other.

It’s critical for the assessments created to be aligned with the standards because standards offer a clear path to mastery and learning goals. The standards help me stay on track throughout the year and help me stay focused when planning units of instruction. I also list standards for students to view so they can also see the goal and the skills they need to master. When assessments and daily lessons match the standards, my classroom is more efficient and focused overall. Aligning assessments with standards also helps me and my students look back to see how knowledge and skills build on items previously covered, so students can see that mastery is a step by step process over time.

I can ensure that assessments are fair, motivating, and aligned to student interests by encouraging students to not only give helpful feedback to each other, but to also learn how to receive feedback in a respectful and understanding way. We practice giving and receiving feedback on formative assessments and using constructive criticism to maintain a level of respect and encouragement. By allowing students to sometimes choose the type of assessment they want to complete, I align their interests and spark their individual creativity.


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