Summative evaluations assess program outcomes or impacts. To determine the relationship of different factors to outcomes, similar to formative evaluations, some information used in summative evaluations is collected early in the life of a program (e.g., baseline data, test scores). Unlike formative evaluations, however, a portion of the information is collected after the program has been completely implemented and adequate time has passed to expect outcomes to occur. In terms of evaluating educational technology, a summative evaluation might ask if teacher technology skills improved as a result of a professional development activity, if teachers are using technology to a greater extent in their instruction, or if technology improved student motivation or performance.
Some advantages of summative evaluations include:
- They can, if designed correctly, provide evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship.
- They assess long-term effects.
- They provide data on impacts.
- They can provide data on change across time.
Summative Evaluation Examples
Examples of summative evaluation follow:
Example A - "Which type of professional development is better?" Administrators at Smalltown High had two different approaches to providing professional development to teachers on the use of technology in their classrooms. One group felt that, since many teachers did not have extensive computer knowledge, it was important to teach them how to use the software before teaching them how to integrate the software into instruction. This group proposed a six-week schedule (one session per week), with three sessions on the software itself and three sessions on integrating it into teaching. Another group felt that teachers would learn how to use the software as a result of it simply being available, so this group proposed a full six sessions focusing solely on curriculum integration. The school decided to test both options. Teachers signed up for professional development and then were randomly assigned to one of the two types. One year after participating, evaluators surveyed the teachers on the use of different types of software in their instruction and observed teachers' use of technology in the classroom.
Example B - "Test scores, test scores." One year after spending a large amount of money on technology, parents of students at Big City Elementary started asking whether the new technology would improve test scores. As the school planned on adding new technology grade-by-grade, a decision was made to follow cohorts of students over time to assess changes in math and reading scores. Specifically, the school was interested in comparing the class of students going through the school two years before the technology was implemented to the class two years after the technology was implemented. To assess long-term impacts, the school would monitor test scores of the students through graduation from high school.