Assessment is more than testing students and reporting grades! The purpose of assessment is to provide evidence of student learning. Teachers and schools share accountability for instructional outcomes and are responsible for making sure these are clearly outlined and measured. Within the North American Division (NAD), the core curriculum of Adventist education, K-12, focuses on four stages. These stages are defined by the Adventist worldview and its philosophy for teaching students the content and skills to serve society: purpose, plan, practice, and product.1 The last stage—product—addresses assessment and aligns well with research conducted by Marzano2 and McTighe.3 Both educational researchers advocate the use of formative and summative assessments to enhance student achievement, thus making it clear that assessment involves more than merely giving students grades. The products should be representative of the various assessment approaches used within the classroom.

The purpose of this article is to explain each area within the product stage and to provide selected K-8 classroom assessment samples and web links for teachers to use. Products for conducting formative and summative assessments come in various forms.4 Traditionally, paper-and-pencil tests have been used for both types of assessments. In the 21st century, teachers also have access to both nondigital and digital classroom assessments. These products can be used for individual and group evaluations. They can be collected before, during, and at the culmination of instruction to provide evidence of student learning. These products can assist in remediation and advancing instruction; they also can offer evidence that schools are accountable to their standards and learning outcomes. Most importantly, how the products are created, evaluated, and validated as a measure of learning depends on the teacher’s knowledge and use of formative and summative assessment tools.

Differences Between Formative and Summative Assessments

Most people think that tests are the primary type of product available to assess learners. However, there are two difference types of assessments—formative and summative—that should be used to evaluate the learning of subject matter. Many classroom products can contribute to each type of assessment. The differences between formative and summative are shown in Chart 1:5


Teachers need to ask this question, “What information should be collected to inform instruction?” prior to implementing the lesson. Pre-assessment is a way to determine what students know about a topic they receive instruction about it. It helps to identify learner profiles and to activate prior knowledge.6 Learner profiles can be compiled by using a worksheet or conversation that helps teachers learn about students’ skills, strengths, interests, barriers to learning, and even about their family dynamics. Using learner profiles can help teachers build relationships and adapt lessons for students. They should be used regularly in all curricular areas. At the beginning of each lesson or unit, pre-assessments should be used to make instructional decisions about the strengths and needs of students, to create flexible groups, and to determine which students need remediation or advanced instruction. Chart 2 describes four basic types of pre-assessment tools that are commonly used in classrooms:

Formative assessments are evaluations of students’ classroom learning progress. Teachers can use a variety of types of assessments in addition to pencil-and-paper tests to gain an understanding of their students’ progress. Common formative assessments include individual assignments, games, group activities, projects, and presentations. They work best when used on a regular basis (for example, weekly quizzes or unit projects). Formative assessments can involve self- and peer evaluations which allow for more flexibility and creativity in evaluating how well students are learning. Formative assessments enable teachers to pace their lessons and to vary the tasks in order to address students’ strengths and needs.7

Concept-based and Skill-based Assessments
The NAD core curriculum, which can be adapted to curricula used in other nations, includes two types of formative assessment by which classroom teachers evaluate learners’ conceptual knowledge and skills. The first one, Formative Concept-based Assessment, focuses on conceptual knowledge. Throughout their instruction, teachers need to ask: What evidence is being collected to demonstrate that learners understand the concepts?” The general view among philosophers, cognitive psychologists, and educators is that human beings come to understand concepts through an active process of being taught and observation, allowing them to adapt the learned concepts to new and different experiences,8

Conceptual (Declarative) Knowledge refers to the knowledge or understanding of concepts, principles, theories, models, classifications, and relationships. It cannot be learned by rote. “Conceptual Knowledge is best learned through reading, viewing, listening, experiencing, or thoughtful, reflective mental activity.9 Therefore, teachers must regularly conduct various formative assessments to document students’ levels of conceptual understanding in meeting standards as described in Chart 3.

The second formative assessment within the NAD core curriculum is Formative Skill-based Assessment. When focusing on skill development, teachers need to ask: “What evidence will be collected to demonstrate that learners apply new skills?” Skill-based assessment is designed to measure skills required for competency in each domain. During instruction, there should be many opportunities to assess students’ ability to demonstrate the processes in a specific area of the subject matter, as illustrated in the writing-development checklist in Chart 4.13

While there are many Subject Matter Worksheets/Handouts in textbooks, I have found these selected K-12 online resources can provide excellent skill-based exercises for both regular and special-education students. The assessments not only provide grades on the materials, but also analytics on how students are processing the content within a digital environment.14 The 10 digital resources in the sidebar also can be added to your toolbox to facilitate supplemental learning:

Products as Summative Assessment

The final stage of assessment is summative assessment. At the conclusion of student learning, teachers need to ask themselves: “What standards-based assessments measure these learners’ achievement?” A follow-up question for consideration is: “Which assessments are being used and documented to accommodate students with learning disabilities and other special needs?” Summative assessments are evaluations of what a person has learned in class as well as how prepared he or she is to progress to the next academic level.15 Common summative assessments include unit tests, final exams and projects, research papers, and portfolios. They are often cumulative and used to evaluate learners’ long-term retention of concepts and skills.

Unless teachers break a course into manageable chunks, summative assessments almost always take place at the end of a course, unit, or term. Reflection and critical thinking are necessary skills for students to prepare for the next step to succeed from formative to summative assessments. At the end of their reading unit on “Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story” by Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan,16 I asked my middle school students to write a 300-word paper on what reading the book meant to them. I used a summative product example—a rubric—to evaluate their unit papers in terms of word choice, organization, reasons, fluency, and mechanics. (See Rubric example below.)

Rubrics for Formative and Summative Assessments

Finally, one type of evaluation that can be used for both formative and summative assessments is a rubric. Brookhart defines a rubric as “a coherent set of criteria for students’ work that includes descriptions of levels of performance quality on the criteria.”17

There are two types of rubrics:18

Wholistic – overall impression of a learner’s work, resulting in single score;

Analytic – separate scores for each distinct trait, dimension, or criteria.

A teacher can choose a wholistic rubric or use one facet (analytic) to create a rubric. However, a rubric is never complete for summative assessment until it has been used several times in order to sharpen the descriptor within each criterion. Teachers can tweak the rubric after the assignment or reuse the rubric with a new group of students to improve its scoring criteria.

This data analysis will confirm its validity and reliability. In the unit paper rubric shared earlier, I worked with other teachers to identify the standards for the written paper, after which we worked on each criteria and descriptor. We also field-tested this rubric with one class and made revisions before using it the next term.

Assessment and Teacher Effectiveness

Teachers need to avoid overusing assessments in determining students’ placement in school, as Black and Wiliam advised that “assessment cannot be understood without a consideration of the wider context within which that assessment takes place. Teachers and schools are constrained, at least in the short term, by the cultural traditions, the political and public expectations of education, and the norms of the various institutions within which they operate.”19

Many learners can overcome their challenges in life, including having low scores on assessments. God’s focus is on restoring relationships more than about academic achievement: “‘“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’” (Mark 12:31, NKJV).20 The qualities that the world sees as necessary for success do not always align with what God values. A well-known author put it this way, “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children. . . . Before the student there is opened a path of continual progress, an object to achieve, a standard to attain that includes everything good, pure, and noble.”21

An example of this is demonstrated by songwriter and singer of “I Can Only Imagine.” Bart Millard wrote about his troubled childhood and poor relationship with his father. However, in school, Bart learned to use his many talents through football and choir activities, and collectively, these experiences helped him to wholistically grow and develop into a professional musician.22 Educators need to assess all aspects of academic, physical, social and spiritual development for students to have life options, not life limitations.

Research has found that teacher effectiveness has more impact than teaching effectiveness.23 Teaching effectiveness refers to the effect of teaching on student learning. Teacher effectiveness refers to a teacher’s influence on students, families, communities, and colleagues. Teacher effectiveness is measured by the impact a teacher’s characteristics (disposition) and qualifications have on teaching and student achievement. Teachers should consider assessing their relationship with their students and others by using the self-reflection questions listed below:


For both teaching effectiveness and teacher effectiveness to function well in the classroom, teachers need to use their assessment knowledge and skills to ensure documentation for and of student learning. For student learning, teachers need to set meaningful goals and give students choices in the assessment process. For example, students could collaborate in designing a quiz. This allows them to practice writing and answering test items (instead of just relying on a study guide).

When assessing student learning, teachers can use multiple measures of what students understand and have mastered as the result of the instruction. Collecting and displaying classroom products from these various measures is one way. Using the four product stages within the North American Division Adventist elementary core curriculum will enable teachers to design, implement, and assess students’ progress. Teachers will also have opportunity to gather various forms of products to showcase the learning of the whole child and to reflect on the effectiveness of their use of instructional methods.

This article has been peer reviewed.

Charline Barnes Rowland

Charline Barnes Rowland, EdD, is Department Chair in Education at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, U.S.A. A former classroom teacher and reading specialist, she has published and presented on literacy instruction and assessment, culturally responsive pedagogy, and professional development of educators. She was a 2003 U.S. Core Fulbright Scholar at the University of West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, Barbados. Dr. Rowland also was an elected board member (2003-2006) of the International Reading Association (now International Literacy Association), and recipient of the 2012 IRA Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading Award.

Recommended citation:

Charline Barnes Rowland, “What’s the Product? Using Formative and Summative Assessments in K-8 Classrooms,” The Journal of Adventist Education® 82:3 (July-September 2020).


  1. North American Division, Adventist Education: A Journey to Excellence, “Core Curriculum”:
  2. Robert J. Marzano, Classroom Assessment & Grading That Work (Alexandria, Va.: Association of Supervision and Curriculum [ASCD], 2006).
  3. Jay McTighe, “Three Key Questions on Measuring Learning,” Educational Leadership 75:5 (February 2018): 14-20.
  4. Catherine E. Garrison and Michael Ehringhaus, “Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom,” Association for Middle Level Education (August 2013): para.    1-3.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Thomas Guskey, “Does Pre-Assessment Work?” Educational Leadership 75:5 (February 2018): 52-57.
  7. Carmen E. Sanchez et al, “Self-Grading and Peer-Grading for Formative and Summative Assessments in 3rd through 12th Grade Classrooms: A Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Educational Psychology 109:8 (November 2017): 1,049-1,066.
  8. Paul R. Pintrich, “The Role of Metacognitive Knowledge in Learning, Teaching, and Assessing,” Theory Into Practice 41:4 (2002): 219-225.
  9. Training Industry, “Conceptual Knowledge”:
  10. Donna M. Ogle, “K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text,” The Reading Teacher 39:6 (1986): 564–570.
  11. Joseph Donald Novak, Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations (Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1998).
  12. Vicky Zygouris-Coe, Matthew B. Wiggins, and Lourdes H. Smith, “Engaging Students With Text: The 3-2-1 Strategy,” The Reading Teacher 58:4 (November 2011): 381-384.
  13. North Central Special Education Cooperative, “Skill-Based Assessments, Skill- Based Writing Inventory, K-6 (Written Development)”:
  14. Kristen E. DiCerbo et al, “Modeling Student Cognition in Digital and Nondigital Assessment Environments,” Educational Assessment 22:4 (February 2017): 275–297.
  15. Catherine E. Garrison and Michael Ehringhaus, “Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom.” Association for Middle Level Education (August 2013): 1-3.
  16. Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan, Four Perfect Pebbles: A True Story of the Holocaust (New York: Greenwillow Books, 2016).
  17. Susan M. Brookhart, How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading (Alexandria, Va.: ASCD, 2016).
  18. Cult of Pedagogy, “Know Your Terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics” (October 3, 2017):
  19. Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam, “Classroom Assessment and Pedagogy,” Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice 25:6 (2018): 551-575.
  20. Bible texts marked NIV in this article are quoted from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Bible texts marked NRSV are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  21. Ellen G. White, True Education: An Adaptation of Education by Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2000), 12.
  22. Sandi Angulo Chen, “‘I Can Only Imagine’―Movie Review.” Common Sense Media: Ratings, Reviews, and Advice (March 15, 2018):
  23. Alexander Groschner, Tina Seidel, and Richard Shavelson, “Seven Methods for Studying Teacher and Teaching Effectiveness.” In International Guide to Student Achievement, John Hattie and Eric M. Anderman, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2013), Chapter 6.
  24. Mario Lupia and Laura Esposito, “Ten Students Who Overcame Massive Obstacles to Achieve Their Dream of an Education,” Advice (February 21, 2017):
  25. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  26. Rebecca Louick,, “How to Teach Growth Mindset to Kids (The Four-Week Guide),” Big Life Journal (July 5, 2019):
  27. Regina Moffett, “The Perfect Teacher’s Prayer for Every Morning,” The Faith-filled Teacher (January 22, 2018):