Summative Assessment

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Summative assessments seek to measure student achievement of course-level learning objectives or competencies. Comprehensive summative assessments seek evaluate student achievement of as many course objectives as possible. Ideally all of the course objectives would be covered by the comprehensive assessment, though this is not always possible. When we consider our strategy for a comprehensive assessment, it is helpful to think about it in connection with the smaller assessments in the course.

Some smaller assessments scaffold student learning in ways that help learners achieve the comprehensive assessment. When minor assignments build toward the comprehensive assessment, this increases student motivation to spend time on the earlier assignments. We call these lead-up assessments.

Other assessments may be required to measure student achievement of learning objectives or competencies that are not covered by the summative assessment. These may be minor assessments that do not lead toward the summative assessment. We call these coverage assessments.

One of the most common methods of comprehensive summative assessment is a final exam. Although it is possible to measure some of our learning objectives with an exam, others are very difficult to measure that way. In addition, when it comes to online learning, exams are much more difficult to administer to geographically dispersed students with the same level of accountability as a proctored exam in the classroom. However, exams are merely one method of measuring student learning. Other methods of assessment can be just as effective—in some cases even more effective—at measuring our learning objectives.

The following list of assessment methods could be used for the comprehensive assessment at the end of the course. They could also be used for lead-up and coverage assessments during the course.



  • Subject/topic summary
  • Literature review
  • Article critique
  • Self-directed learning assignment


  • Simulation
  • Debate
  • Peer-review


  • Critique or evaluate a case study and post conclusions in a forum
  • Problem-based learning
    • Groups have to solve a messy real-to-life problem & present their strategies
    • Non-graded discussion forums where groups can discuss the case study


  • Student showcase 
  • Website (Google site) 


  • Reflective journals
    • Student reflects on personal application of course materials
    • Student reflects on an experience applying the material in real life
  • Student (and) faculty course evaluations


  • Google slides / PowerPoint
  • Student-generated video/audio presentations (screencapture)
  • Blogs
  • Group presentations
    • Consulting
    • Collaborative reserach
    • Learning foci: Analyze / Evaluate / Create

Formative Assessment
Scaffolding, Alignment, and Distribution