• To describe summative assessment
  • To provide examples of summative assessment


Summative assessments are typically high stakes and performed at the end of a learning unit (e.g. midterm exam) or course (e.g. final exam). Summative assessments often reveal whether or not a student has fully engaged with and understood the learning goals of a course. While summative assessments play a critical role in most educational experiences, monitoring student progression in learning purely through summative assessment does not typically provide students with timely feedback or room to improve their work. Thus, breaking up summative assessments into smaller formative pieces may better guarantee that a student achieves the learning goals in a course. 

Examples of summative assessments: 

* All of the following summative assessments can be broken down into smaller formative assessments where students can practice components of the assessment and get feedback before turning in their final project * 

Forward-looking assessments or real-world assessments: Present a scenario or situation where students will have to integrate and apply what they have learned in class. 

Portfolios: A collection of writing and multimodal engagements with course content that students collect over the course of the semester and where students can reflect on their learning gains and setbacks throughout the course. Example of portfolio assignments can be found on the Foreign Languages and Literatures website here at Lafayette. 

Writing Assignments: Essays are common summative assessments given at the end of a course. There are also other writing assignments that you can give to summatively assess students like: research papers, op eds, blogs, instructional literature, websites, children’s books, screenplays, graphic novels, comic strips. You can pick a number of ways for students to write to your course learning goals but try to align the writing assignment with your desired learning goals so that the writing will clearly showcase student learning.

Community-based learning and research assignments: Work with the Landis Center to create an end-of-year project where students showcase how they engaged with a community partner. This could be an explanation of how they solved a problem for the community partner, how they enhanced a community partner’s mission or the research they performed for the community partner more generally. 

Performance: Students can use information from class texts or from their own research to work as a group or individually on a performance that brings to light different concepts in the course. 

Research Presentation: Students can present their findings and answer peer and instructor questions regarding their research. 

Short Video: Have students create a short video that explains a course concept or presents a more nuanced argument around a course topic. 

Digital Scholarship: Work with Lafayette librarians to create a digital scholarship assessment that showcases a digital collection that engages with course concepts. 

Lesson Plan for Younger Students – Have students reconstruct course concepts for a younger audience. 

Final Exam or Midterm: A range of multiple choice, fill-in-the blank, problem sets and short essay questions can be given at the end of a learning unit or at the end of a course. Consider having space for students to showcase what they studied for even if it is not on the actual midterm or exam. 

Exhibition: Students display their work from the semester (e.g. writing, art, video, science project, research poster, etc.) for their classmates or the larger Lafayette community. During the exhibition, students are given a chance to explain their work to others, dialog and then write a reflection on the experience.   

Recital: Students perform a wide range of works that they have practiced over the course of the semester for their peers and the wider Lafayette community. 

Case examples:

Forward Looking Assessment: At the beginning of a course, the instructor tells students that they will be tasked with solving the real-world problem of ensuring social security is readily available to the US population for years to come. Throughout the course they are encouraged to tackle the problem from different angles as they acquire different sets of economic, social and political concepts. At the end of the course, students work in groups to present their case on how they will solve the precarity of social security. 

Community-Based Learning and Research and Lesson Plan for Younger Students: A group of students from an introductory course are tasked with creating a curriculum for 3rd graders that explains the course concepts they learned in engaging and memorable ways. 


Quality summative assessments encourage students to engage with course materials in ways that are interactive, based in the real world and necessitate a synthesis of ideas. Challenging students in this way encourages higher order thinking and can lead to better retention of information once the class is over. 


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24783.