DCU Learning Innovation Unit: Focus on Assessment and Feedback

Learning Innovation Unit

Summative, Continuous or Formative?

When assessment takes place will be determined by the purpose of the assessment. The most common approaches to assessment in university are summative, continuous and formative:

  • Summative Assessment
    • At the end of the learning process (e.g. exam, written report or paper)
    • Used to demonstrate competence
    •  Usually contributes to final grade in a course, module, or level
  • Continuous Assessment (CA)
    • Usually involves a series of tasks, individually assessed
    • Takes place during the course of learning
    • Used when there are several distinct module learning outcomes that need to be achieved at various stages of a module
    • Used to lessen the burden of summative assessment
  • Formative Assessment 
    • Used to enhance the learning process
    • Provides an opportunity to give feedback and advice on how to improve or progress during the course of learning
    • Does not usually form part of a summative grade or mark.
    • Provides an opportunity for students to evaluate their own learning and progress
    • Used as a diagnostic evaluative tool to assess if students have grasped specific aspects of a topic or course before moving on with the learning process.