Assessing to Empower Learners • Summative Assessment

Summative assessment is the measurement of knowledge and skills at the end of a process of learning. What we're trying to determine is the amount and the quality of the learning.

What we find is that summative assessment is usually an assessment of content learning because it's very difficult for the teachers or the librarian to assess the skills that were used when you're just looking at the final product. But I would say that librarians can play a huge role in summative assessment in a few ways.

First of all, librarians must collaborate with classroom teachers to design the final assessments. We can design engaging, authentic and thought-provoking final products. To that end, I worked with my fellow librarian, Judy Pitts, to develop a taxonomy of research reactions—and you'll find a handout called REACTS taxonomy. I recommend that you look at it, adapt it, adopt it. I think it's going to really get you excited about the whole idea of designing thoughtful research products. The whole idea about this, though, is that they're authentic. This taxonomy, and the examples, they're based on the real ways that we communicate in the world.

So here's a couple of examples. At the explaining level, where we're just asking students to explain the ideas that they have gathered, we could ask them to dramatize a particularly exciting event associated with the research and do it in an on-the-spot report. For example, an on-the-spot report of a gladiator fight at the Colosseum in ancient Rome.

At the analyzing level, I love the example of writing a recipe. That really is an analysis type thinking skill, but you could do it on an historical event, like the space shuttle disaster, and think about what was the process, what were the ingredients, what was the final outcome of that space shuttle disaster?

Now, a second way beyond co-designing these assessment products is that we can take responsibility as librarians for teaching the production skills that students need for many final products. Many, and more all the time, require the use of technology or the use of some other design techniques. Well, we can teach that and, actually, teachers love for us to step up to that. What we know is that somebody needs to teach it because students will spend all of their energy trying to learn how to use the technology and that's not our focus.

There's a third way that I think we can have a role in assessing final products and that is assessing the product itself. Now, be careful, because teachers naturally know that we know how to assess bibliographies, but you don't want to be thrown into that role. There's so much more that you can do besides just assessing a bibliography. You can look at a final product and see how students have used inquiry skills. You can see the use of evidence to support conclusions and claims, the level of thinking that the student exhibited in the final product, and the quality of production and presentation, especially if they're using technology.

Let teachers know that you can help in assessing the final products but in that way and not just looking at citations or bibliography. You can use summative assessment to solidify your role as a powerful, collaborative partner and co-teacher throughout the process of inquiry.

MLA Citation Stripling, Barbara K. "Assessing to Empower Learners: Summative Assessment." School Library Connection, November 2019,

View all citation styles

Entry ID: 2228083

Back to Top