Using Evaluation to Enhance Programs: Conducting Formative and Summative Evaluations

I have always thought that the words evaluation and assessment were interchangeable.  This week, I was exposed to the difference between evaluation and assessment. The goal of an assessment is to identify needs for improvement in teaching strategies and student learning while also providing a roadmap for how improvements can be made.  Evaluation analyzes instruction and student performance to identify needs and plan for the improvements of a program. When one conducts a formative and summative evaluation, they are seeking to identify the needs of a program. The evaluation data may also help instructional designers plan strategies for improving the program delivery and teaching model.

Now that we know the difference between assessment and evaluation, let’s talk about formative and summative.  Formative and summative evaluation guide instructional designers while developing a program and when analyzing the program’s benefits to learners in relation to the objectives proposed, the time and effort spent planning and teaching, and the costs associated with the program implementation.  Formative evaluations take place at the beginning of the teaching and learning process. One will want to identify needs for improvement before spending too much time making the same errors. Formative evaluation provides instructional designers with an idea of how to form or reform the program to meet the needs of the learners as they relate to the proposed learning objectives.  Summative evaluation measures and summarizes the program’s overall performance. How well did the program meet the learners needs as they relate to the proposed objectives? Did the reforming of the instruction and programming lead to greater learner outcomes? Was the program worth the time, effort, and cost associated with the endeavor?
Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kalman, H. K., and Kemp, J. E. (2013). Designing Effective Instruction (7th Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publications.

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