Day 142 (of 187) when summative matters… (and yet sucks)

Day 142 (of 187) when summative matters… (and yet sucks)



One of the best things in sports is playoff hockey. A multi game series that puts all the formative assessment of the regular season into a summative assessment.



There are a multitude of components – numbers of wins – points scored – +/- – goals against average = all the key items that make hockey pools so fascinating to many of us. How the teams play over the season matters and influences what the coaches do – how the players play, interact and react matters.





The best hockey player in the league does not mean the team will make the playoffs.



The best hockey team during the season does not guarantee a first round win (or this year even a win in the first round).



The formative matters. The Presidents Trophy. The Rocket Richard award. Lady Byng – many trophies handed out for individual achievements…and team successes.  The goal (standard) is to be in the top 8 in the conference in order to make ‘the second season’ – the playoffs. Where the summative assessments and high stake tests lead to the ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat – where (unfortunately like school) there are winners and losers.



And sure there are excuses/reasons for failure. Injuries. Leadership. Chemistry. Planning. But at the end of the day – athletics and arts have the ultimate formative assessment: showtime. The Washington Capitals enter the playoffs as defending Stanley Cup Champions – but find themselves entering overtime…in game seven (in a best of 7 series for the non-sports-fans)  And the only thing better than watching NHL overtime…is double overtime…which makes one yearn for “you can’t feel bad if you lose – its almost a coin flip” – which is great for the outsiders… much like the expectations for Avengers Endgame: opening night is tomorrow (from this blog) and the expectation is that it will earn a billion dollars in the first weekend (maybe first week). A billion dollars.  Which means anything less than that would be seen as a failure. Even though the producers directors stars and background workers have dedicated years of work to it. Even though the fans and critics have been eagerly waiting it (and giving it a ludicrously high rotten tomato score) – the end result cannot be predicted.  The Washington Capitals, with a better regular season and better “talent on paper” lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in one of these high stakes formative assessments. They were not successful.




If Avengers Endgame is not in the top 5 money making movies of all time…it won’t be considered a success – yet even if it does, the odds of it winning an academy award beyond technical awards are ridiculously low (the joy of math – but that’s another blog).




Focusing only on the summative is crazy. The playoffs are crazy – puck bounces and specific matchups can change the tone of a shift..of a game…of the series – an editing error or mis-casting of an actor can make a movie feel….off…. despite the amount of work and effort put into the series – the end result.




The focus of summative is effective with deadlines: there is a date for a movie to open. The puck will drop at a set time. Kickoff is set. The drama production has an audience entering the theatre…. the math test? the socials report? the science project? the essay? the learning – does it need to have a summative deadline? Do we believe that learning happens at different rates and times? Or does the birth year determine what you need to know by June 30th no matter what day…or month…you were born in?




And yes – formative is not “everything” – when I played football, we had a kicker who could kick the ball 60-70 yards every practice… every game it was more like 20-30. The summative (game time) result was a kick that would frustrate the coaches.  The formative (practice) authentically showed everyone what was possible. He was a great kicker and a below average kicker….both were true statements.




Summative hurts – except for the winners….is that the takeaway we want in school?

Sometimes formative tells the truth – is that something we can also emphasize in school?




Does it have to be one or the other? Can it be the best case scenario? (I’ll rant about averages later). But at least for reality television – we can focus on the agony of defeat for everyone except one…ooh – time for survivor and amazing race…. (it is fun to watch these competitions after all)

About technolandy

Principaling on the Pacific in Powell River BC Pushing 'technologization' in education: blending technology and curriculum seamlessly. Advocate for better understanding of Anxiety in Education (and use of self-regulation) Utilizing ePortfolios & Descriptive Feedback to personalize learning!
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