Argh! I swear I hit ‘schedule’ on this post, but I’ll go ahead now and apologize for the 24 hour delay…whoops!
Today I’m going to be chatting a bit about two types of evaluation: formative and summative. Now, I had heard these terms thrown around here and there working within my first corporate gig; however, it wasn’t until I began my graduate studies that these terms creeped up more frequently. I’m not sure if they’re traditionally education-specific, but if that’s true, they really should change that! Evaluation is a critical part of each course/product/project, and both formative and summative evaluations are essential to a comprehensive evaluation. Why? Well, just hold on to your horses and I’ll tell you!
Formative and Summative Evaluation Explained
Formative evaluation occurs when a program is rolled out to a small group of people (testers) and is sometimes referred to as a ‘soft launch’. Essentially, this allows the developer to obtain information regarding potential revisions prior to committing to a full launch. Formative evaluation is essential, especially when you’re a one-person show, because it’s really invaluable to have a second (or third or fourth) set of eyes look at something you’ve spent all of your time working on, as these sets of eyes will often times pick up small issues you may have missed in your quality assurance check. Additionally, these reviewers may also provide great insight into modifications that may enhance user experience. Sometimes it can be too late to incorporate these revisions, but often times it’s easy to make a compromise and include some of the smaller revisions while holding out on the larger revisions for a version 2 of the project.
Summative evaluation occurs after the program has been formally rolled out and are meant to assess the effectiveness of the program as a whole. This type of evaluation is important as it allows the developer to revise the program accordingly to achieve maximum effectiveness. In this situation, effectiveness is measured by how well the training program meets the requirements and allows learners to achieve the learning outcomes.
But who has time to evaluate each program?
Great question! Most folks barely have enough time in the day to get all of their work done (come on – Beyonce has a large team of folks helping her out, and it’s just little ol’ me over here), but even if a formal evaluation isn’t in the cards (which is an unfortunate reality for many of the programs I’ve worked on), you should still evaluate each project (internal) and stay on top of client feedback (external) as it will help you grow as a developer. You’ll be able to consult a list (or memory even) of lessons learned and these lessons learned may help to streamline your process in the long run…making you more efficient and getting you closer to success (which often means fewer revisions)!
Still confused? Here are some great resources: