Cells as the Basis of Life, Formative Assessments and Summative Assessment

Formative and summative assessments are both valuable for student learning. Summative assessments are the more traditional assessment that we may know. Examples are an end of unit test or a portfolio showing student work and activities for a unit of study. Summative assessments are normally assigned a grade which are used for student report cards or showing parents student achievement for a unit of study. Summative assessments are also state and national tests whose scores can give information to schools and parents about student levels of achievement.

Formative assessment is defined as a planned process whereby student learning is assessed for the purpose of adjusting a lesson plan or to inform the teacher that they must spend more time learning a subject because the formative assessment showed that the students did not learn it yet or still do not understand what the teacher wants them to know.

For my current unit of study in Life Science “Cells as the Basis of Life” we have done formative and summative assessments. The formative assessment began as I started the unit by asking the students if they had studied cells before and if so, what did they know about cells? We made a list on the board and I would say about half of the students had studied something about cells. For the second lesson of this unit, the goal of the lesson was to learn the different organelles of a cell and their function. There were a couple of formative assessments for this learning target. One was during a lab activity where the students were making a cell model using gelatin and other food items. On a paper, they needed to write down the name of the organelle, which food material they were using for that organelle and then what was that organelle’s function. The following week, the students were doing different stations, and one of the stations was filling out a worksheet where there was a diagram of a cell and they needed to label the cell and state the function of the specific organelles. They needed to do this first without their notes and books and then later they could use their notes.

For a summative assessment for this unit on cells, I wrote a written exam. For knowledge of all organelles’ functions, they needed to match the organelle with its’ function. The next part of the exam was to identify organelles from a picture or diagram.

Overall I was pleased with the students’ knowledge of cell organelle identification and knowing their functions. The students achieved the learning goal I had set and formative assessments helped with this process. I hope to use more formative assessments in my lessons and am eager to learn new ideas, especially for science.

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