How to use Summative Assessments in Early Childhood (2023)

Early childhood educators are very familiar with the requirement to observe and understand a child's learning and development but it seems many become confused and overwhelmed when we begin talking about ‘assessment of learning' or writingsummative assessments.

This might sound familiar to you….

“So I already have to do observations including learning stories, running records, photo collages and more as well as analyse and understand the learning observed then forward plan and extend upon a child's learning journey…now I have to do ‘assessments' as an extra on top of all of this…why?”

I've heard the statement above in varying forms from educators many times via my email,Facebook groupandFacebook page recently. I'm not sure why it has seemingly become an increasing source of concern – perhaps more early years services, leaders, directors and coordinators are now requesting their educators to compile and write summative assessments without clearly explaining the why and how.

So let's break this down and I'll try to help you take action without having that toddler meltdown I know you were building up to…..(yep, I've been there to!)

(Video) Summative assess

What is a Summative Assessment?

Early childhood educators use assessments to give anoverviewof the ‘distance travelled’ by each child on their own unique learning journey. Although many early childhood educators do not like the term ‘assessment' used in relation to young children it is important to realise we are not talking about standardized formal testing, just ticking off checklists or writing out report cards for young children.

We are endeavouring to communicate and tell a story about the child’s progress so far toward certain learning outcomes and goals and therefore enhancethe continuous cycle of our planning. It should bea meaningful and reflective process for both educators and parents.

Now I know you are already sighing and telling me that you already do that with all the observations, programming, photos, checklists, learning stories etc…..and you are right, you do to an extent but we are talking about providing anoverview of all of this information you have already worked hard on documenting and collecting. All of the ‘evidence' you have been collecting needs to come together to show anongoing cycleof planning, reflection and evaluation. We are required to use this information that we have beenregularly recordingto now‘sum up' a child's progress or‘distance travelled'over time.

Thiscan take many forms – you might use a template writing something under each of the outcome areas, you might decide to do a summary of the learning using your own words and the language of the EYLF to highlight and explain progress, you might write a story to the child (and parents) talking about what they have achieved and demonstrated, you might put together a learning journal or portfolio.

There are many possibilities and it can take a little trial and error to work out what best suits your service and programming style.

(Video) Summative Assessment: Overview & Examples

If using a portfolio though you need to make sure you aren't justdocumenting the child's progress but also analysing it to meet current assessment requirements and best practice. If you struggle with understanding what should go in a portfolio or even if you need to do onetake a look at this postfor some tips and essential questions to ask so you aren't wasting your precious documenting time!

The expectation and requirement for Australian educators is basically a 2 step process in regard to assessment oflearning.

1.Use various methods on a regular basis toobserve a child and gatherinformationabout what he knows and what he can do. Educators thenreview and analyse this informationto identify learning against the EYLF outcomes and indicators. To complete this step educatorsuse the information to plan further activitiesand extend upon that child's learning and development. It also helps to identify areas of concern and the possibility for referral and intervention. So this is the documentation youcollect and record each week for different children(& groups).

2.At regular intervals throughout the year educators now must bring all of the above documentation together to form a ‘report' or ‘assessment' of the child's progress and distance travelled on the learning journey to that point. As well asprogress toward learning outcomesit also becomes ageneral summary of the child's interests, needs and participationin activities and experiences throughout the year. You already have the hard work done – you just have to look over what you have collected and then use it totell a child's learning storyin the way that you (or your service, centre, leader) decide best does this. As mentioned above this can take many formats.

For those who prefer to use templates to give a little more direction you can find two to get you started in my FREE Summative Assessments Mini Guide here.

To keep it very simple think in terms of putting a jigsaw puzzle together.A summative assessment willbring togetherall the individual observations, analysis and extensions you have already recorded to build a picture of a child’sprogress over time in care and complete the jigsaw puzzle.

(Video) What is Assessment in Early Childhood Education?

It mightidentify gaps, celebrate strengths and interests, indicate a requirement for early intervention, explain to parents how their child is learning and progressing and help educators to put new goals in place and think about how they can help the child to work towards those goals.

So hopefully you are beginning to see that writing a summative assessment doesn't need to be a whole lot of additional work if you are organised with your documentation sources throughout the year. But organisation is the key here.

It doesn't need to become an extra weight on your already heavy paperwork load. You just need to put a system in place to regularlybring together and review your ongoing documentation (the smaller puzzle pieces showing the child's learning)that works for you.It becomes a way of ensuring that the great work you have done previously collecting information continues beyond just the analysis of learning you made at the time about one specific skill, activity or learning outcome and now becomes a piece of a bigger puzzle to show you an overall picture of that child's journey.

I like to use a simple documentation recording tool that helps me to keep track of all of my sources of documentation and other evidence as I progress – where it is kept, when I last updated it, reflections that highlighted something important and more. It allows me to see at a glance what I have so far completed for each child this year, the documentation sources I have used and gaps in informationthat might need to be addressed.

It also provides an easy way for me to quickly show evidence of an ongoing planning cycle and documentation contributing to forward planning and each child's progress toward learning outcomes and developmental areas.

So with a summative assessment you are making those ongoing observations, checklists, samples of children's work, photos, reflections, parent communication/input, learning stories, jottings etcmeaningful, relevant and also a valuable source of information for parents who may not understand the smaller pieces of the puzzle you have been working on or displaying throughout the year but they understand when they see the whole puzzle put together and presented to them in a clear summary format.

(Video) Using Formative Assessment to Improve Intentional Instruction in Early Childhood

It can also help them tounderstand their child’s strengths and challenges, and plan how they can help extend the learning into their own home.

When writing a summative assessment, keep in mind that you aren't just aiming to sum up and share what you have learnt about the child's journey so far but you arealso taking steps to reflect and identify how you can continue to support that child and extend upon their learning and growth.

You are using the information to createnew learning goalsas you move forward or the child moves into their next phase of learning somewhere new or perhaps as they begin school.

So how do I get started withSummative Assessments?

  1. The NQSdoes not actually specify a format that must be usedfor recording and putting together summative assessments.
  2. Use the information I have shared above to gain a better understanding ofwhat information you want to includeand thepurpose of assessing learningin early childhood settings.
  3. Keep organised and always have your documentation sources ready to come togetherto help you write your assessment. If you have to go searching for bits and pieces of paperwork that you know you have completed throughout the year and ‘have somewhere' it is going to add to your workload and sense of overwhelm with planning expectations. Keep a record of what you have been documenting, where to find it and when you last updated it at the very minimum. I promise a little work setting up a system like this will save a whole lot of time mid year and also allow you to easily show evidence of an ongoing planning process and cycle if requested to do so. You will find an organisation form in mySummative Assessments Guideif you don't want to create one yourself!
  4. Decide on a timeframe to complete assessmentsthat will show aconsistent and systematic commitmentto onging documentation, planning and analysis of a child's progress in relation to learning outcomes and other important developmental factors. There isno set timeframe specifiedbut many early learning services and educators choose to do once a school term, every 6 months or even annually. You need to decide on what works best for your service and the children in your care, trial that process and then review and change if required.
  5. Try out a few different formats and assessment styles to find out what works most effectivelyfor you.Australian Educators– you don't just need to list out all of the EYLF Outcomes then write something underneath each section. This is only one way to record a summative assessment and bring all that you have observed and learnt about the child together . You might decide to use one of the other methods I mentioned earlier. Get creative and think about what might work best for the parents reading your assessment and how meaningful the information you are sharing is to future assessments and planning for the child and other educators who might take over.
  6. After working through the process of summing up a child's progress and reflecting on what you know abut a child youthenneed to identify how to support and extend the learning for that child(even if their time is ending with you). Write downclear and actionable learning goalsthat have been highlighted by the assessment process and identified by you as important to continue the learning progress. I also like to include the steps I will take to help a child to achieve those goals so it informs my future planning.
  7. Don't overthink or overcomplicate it!Use what you have already been working on throughout the year and your knowledge of the child to simply summarise the learning journey so far and develop future learning goals. That's it in a nutshell!

This is really just a basic guide to using Summative Assessments in early childhood settings –it is by no means comprehensive but I hope it has given you a starting point to work with and helped you feel a little more empowered to use assessments of learning as a valuable tool in your documentation toolkit rather than just another piece of ‘required paperwork' that serves no purpose.

We discuss topics like this, share activity and environment inspiration and much more in myEmpowered Ed Community on Facebook.join other early childhood educators from across the world to network and connect!


How to use Summative Assessments in Early Childhood? ›

Summative assessment happens at the end of a learning period and evaluates cumulative learning. It helps teachers gauge a child's understanding and proficiency after a unit, lesson, or semester. After the learning period, teachers grade a child's performance against a standard or benchmark.

How is summative assessment used in early years? ›

Summative assessment provides a holistic summary of a child's progress, strengths, needs, interests, how the child learns and how the child is supported. This should not be a time- consuming process and should provide a clear overview to parents and other professionals.

What is an example of summative assessment on children? ›

Summative assessment examples:

End-of-term or midterm exams. Cumulative work over an extended period such as a final project or creative portfolio. End-of-unit or chapter tests. Standardised tests that demonstrate school accountability are used for pupil admissions; SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels.

How do summative assessments support children's development? ›

Summative assessments provide cumulative snapshots to evaluate and report on student learning. Summative data can help illuminate areas of strength and gaps in curriculum and instruction, and especially for student subgroups. Reporting summative results provides information to families and the general public.

How do you use summative assessment in learning activities? ›

Tips for Using Summative Assessments in the Classroom
  1. Make sure all students have a chance to complete the assessment. ...
  2. Be clear about what is expected from students before giving the assessment. ...
  3. Give students enough time to complete the assessment.
Sep 1, 2022

What is an example of a summative assessment for kindergarten? ›

Examples of summative assessment include: End-of-unit or -chapter tests. Final projects or portfolios. Achievement tests.

Which is the best example of a summative use of assessment? ›

Examples of summative assessments include: a midterm exam. a final project. a paper.

What is summative evaluation in childcare? ›

Summative Assessment brings together information on what the child knows, understands and can do. You analyse this information, you tell a story and give an overview of a child's progress so far. This is the basis of summative assessment.

What does examples of summative assessment mean? ›

Examples of summative assessments include midterm exams, a final exam or a final project. Summative assessments are given to students at the end of an instructional period. They are evaluative rather than diagnostic and are used to measure whether a course's learning objectives were met.

What techniques do early childhood teachers use in their assessment activities? ›

Here are a number of early childhood education assessment tools that can be used to better assess the progress of the children in your care:
  • Observation. ...
  • Standardized tests. ...
  • Running records. ...
Aug 25, 2019

When should summative assessments be used? ›

Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year.

How do teachers use summative assessment data? ›

Educators can collect summative data in a variety of ways. Teachers can assign students a midterm, a final project, or a paper and easily collect this type of information. Summative assessments should gauge the overall comprehension of the topics taught, unlike formative assessments, which serve as a quick check-in.

How does summative assessment enhance learning? ›

Assess Comprehensiveness - Effective summative assessments provide an opportunity for students to consider the totality of a course's content, making broad connections, demonstrating synthesized skills, and exploring deeper concepts that drive or found a course's ideas and content.

What are summative assessments for preschool? ›

Summative assessment happens at the end of a learning period and evaluates cumulative learning. It helps teachers gauge a child's understanding and proficiency after a unit, lesson, or semester. After the learning period, teachers grade a child's performance against a standard or benchmark.

How are summative assessments used by teachers to plan instruction? ›

Summative assessments can help measure student achievement of course learning objectives as well as provide the instructor with data to make pedagogical decisions on future teaching and instruction. Summative assessments can also provide learning opportunities as students reflect and take ownership of their learning.

Is a worksheet a summative assessment? ›

Worksheets can function as both formative and summative assessments.

What is summative assessment in Montessori? ›

Summative assessment measures a child's progress at a specific end period (such as the end of a month or quarter), often using diagnostic and standardized tests.

What are the three 3 components of a summative assessment 5 explain? ›

Summative assessments are classified into three components, namely, Written Work (WW), Performance Tasks (PT), and Quarterly Assessment (QA). These three will be the bases for grading. The nature of the learning area defines the way these three components are assessed.

How do you implement assessment in the classroom? ›

These might include:
  1. recap quizzes.
  2. concept maps.
  3. brainstorming and recording students' ideas on a whiteboard.
  4. journal writing.
  5. role play.
  6. drawing understanding or writing a sentence on an 'exit-card' handed in at the end of the lesson.
  7. holding up fingers or number cards in response to mathematical problems.
Jun 25, 2019

How do summative assessments help teachers? ›

Summative assessments help educators make adjustments for future school years. By analyzing how well a class has retained information, a teacher can decide whether to make changes when they teach the course again. Ideally, this process allows teachers to improve their lessons every year.

What are the three function of summative assessment? ›

The assessment process has the following functions: Measuring students' uptake of different curricula, both in parts and as a whole. Supporting students in developing a sense of personal responsibility for learning. Helping students to link what they learn in class to their actual lives and knowledge building.

Which tools of summative evaluation are frequently used? ›

Surveys, test or assessments, financial indicators, and focus groups or interviews are common data sources for summative evaluations.

What is an example of summative assessment feedback? ›

Examples of summative feedback techniques include exams, final projects, and research reports.

What are the different types of assessments in early childhood education? ›

Types of Early Childhood Assessments
  • #1: Developmental Screenings. ...
  • #2: Developmental Assessments. ...
  • #3: Functional Assessments. ...
  • #4: Curriculum-Based Assessments. ...
  • #5: Norm-Referenced Assessments. ...
  • #1: See what your child's needs are. ...
  • #2: Determine the purpose of the assessment.
May 13, 2022

How do you write a good summative assessment? ›

When writing a summative assessment it should:
  1. emphasise children's strengths and make their learning visible.
  2. draw on the family's knowledge about their child so that the documentation reflects the child's life at home as we as at the service.
  3. be free from bias.
  4. be written in clear, easy-to-understand.
Nov 7, 2021

How often do you do summative assessment? ›

Summative assessments are always at the end and are a one-off test or assignment, whereas formative assessments are on-going and can happen as many times as a teacher feels is appropriate for their class. This means that summative assessments tend to be more formal than formative ones.

What is a summative sentence example? ›

Williams says, “With a summative modifier, you end a segment of a sentence with a comma, then sum up in a noun or noun phrase what you have just said, and then continue with a relative clause.” Original version: He finally faced his biggest fear that had plagued him since he joined the team.

What is the most used assessment technique used in early childhood? ›

1 Observation

Observations offer an informal assessment method for everyday use. Watching how the child performs various tasks, interacts with peers, speaks and moves provides a glimpse of the child's abilities.

Which method works best with early childhood education? ›

The play-way method is the most popular and accepted method worldwide. Children can learn easily through different activities indoor and outdoor as well. In this method, different activities take places such as role-play, audiovisual, singing, dancing, and hands-on demonstrations.

What is formative and summative assessment in early childhood education? ›

Summative assessments are quizzes and tests that evaluate how much someone has learned throughout a course. In the classroom, that means formative assessments take place during a course, while summative assessments are the final evaluations at the course's end.

Why is summative assessment effective? ›

Effective summative assessments provide students a structured way to demonstrate that they have met a range of key learning objectives and to receive useful feedback on their overall learning. They should align with the course learning goals and build upon prior formative assessments.

What is a summative technique? ›

Summative analysis is a collaborative analytic technique that enables a wide range of researchers, academics, and scientists to come together through group analysis sessions to explore the details of textual data. It uses consensus-building activities to reveal major issues inherent in data.

When creating a summative assessment What should the teacher consider first? ›

When creating a summative assessment, what should the teacher consider FIRST? The TEKS provide the objective and the rigor with which the objective is assessed. This should be used to guide the objectives assessed on the summative assessment.

How are formative and summative assessments used in the classroom? ›

What Is the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment? If formative assessment measures how a student is learning during a course of study, summative assessment is designed to measure “how much” a student has learned after a unit or course has reached its completion.

What is the impact of summative test? ›

Students often view summative assessments as opportunities for failure rather than opportunities to demonstrate their skills or competencies. As a result, students who achieve their desired outcome (e.g., a passing grade) have low or no motivation to consider the feedback they receive through these assessments.

How can assessments be used to improve learning? ›

Assessments can provide evidence of learning

A system of well-constructed formative and summative assessments allows students to demonstrate their abilities and knowledge and then reflects how close they are to meeting educational goals and standards. Evidence from assessments can be directly beneficial to students.

How does summative assessment affect the lesson planning? ›

Results of summative assessment are not used in lesson planning; rather, they are used to evaluate the mastery of material. It can take the form of a question and answer or paper and pencil approach like the formative assessment.

What are summative assessments for early learning? ›

Summative assessment involves stepping back to gain an overview of children's development and progress. When daily interactions involve observing, reflecting and deciding how best to support a child, practitioners hold in their mind many details of each child's development and learning.

What is the purpose of assessment in early childhood education? ›

The purpose of assessment in early childhood is to determine students' strengths and set goals for instruction.

What is summative assessment principle of teaching? ›

Summative assessment is a form of appraisal that occurs at the end of an instructional unit or at a specific point in time, such as the end of the school year. It evaluates mastery of learning and offers information on what students know and do not know.

What is summative assessment of teacher performance? ›

Summative evaluations are designed to measure instructor performance following a sustained period of teaching with the focus on identifying the effectiveness of instruction.

What is an example instrument of summative assessment? ›

Summative Assessment Examples

Half-yearly, mid-term and end-of-term exams. Unit tests or chapter tests. Projects, assignments and creative portfolios. Tests that are standardized and demonstrate the proficiency of a school.

Is quiz an example of a summative assessment? ›

Quizzes are a formative way of assessment. Summative assessment is better to test with an exam, because you're testing what students have learned during the entire instruction. Formative assessment measures small parts of the instruction and quizzes are a good way to test that.

What are the summative assessment tools for reading? ›

Examples of summative assessments include: graded unit tests, Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) and other standardized tests, portfolios (such as Guided Reading notebooks), and final grades.

When should summative assessment take place? ›

Summative assessment often comes at the endpoint of learning, whether at the end of a unit, course, or curriculum, serving largely as a pure evaluation of knowledge.

What are the three types of summative assessment? ›

Types of Summative Assessment
  • Examinations (major, high-stakes exams)
  • Final examination (a truly summative assessment)
  • Term papers (drafts submitted throughout the semester would be a formative assessment)
  • Projects (project phases submitted at various completion points could be formatively assessed)

What are summative evaluation methods? ›

Because summative evaluation typically focuses on participant outcomes, it is common to assess changes over time (pre-post tests) or differences between participants and nonparticipants. Surveys, test or assessments, financial indicators, and focus groups or interviews are common data sources for summative evaluations.

What do teachers do with summative assessment data? ›

Summative assessments catch learning roadblocks

This data gives provides information about individual function and classroom performance, and can be particularly good for helping teachers to identify learning roadblocks or overall curriculum dysfunction.

What are the benefits of summative assessment? ›

1) Summative assessments offer an opportunity to refresh students' memories of what they previously learned. 2) Summative assessments reinforce the overall learning objectives of the course. 3) Summative assessments provide a snapshot for class members to see if they know the collective language points or not.

What is summative assessment in primary? ›

Summative assessment sums up what a pupil has achieved at the end of a period of time, relative to the learning aims and the relevant national standards. The period of time may vary, depending on what the teacher wants to find out.

How do you conduct an assessment in early childhood education? ›

Assessment is a cycle.
  1. Instruct.
  2. Observe. Observe children in various situations.
  3. Document, Reflect. Record while observing or as soon as possible.
  4. Analyze, Evaluate. Study the data with assessment tools. ...
  5. Summarize, Plan, and Communicate. This informs a child's specific needs and future curriculum.
  6. Instruct.


1. How to Use (Summative) Assessments in the Classroom (Part 1 of 2)
(The ETI Academy)
2. Summative Assessment Options in Remote Learning
3. Assessment in Early Childhood Education
(Adam Weiss)
4. 4 Types of Summative Assessment Methods in eLearning
(eLearning & Instructional Design for Beginners)
5. An Introduction to Observation, Assessment & Planning
(Kerry Murphy)
6. PLCs at Work: Analyzing and Using Summative Assessment Data
(CLAS Network)


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