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K-12 assessment strategies: an overview of the top marking strategies

Assessing students’ ability to learn and retain information is a vital aspect of education. For centuries, it’s been the default standard for measuring academic performance, aptitude, and as a benchmark for knowledge retention.

While marking may seem simple at the surface, it’s a lot more complicated than a simple letter grade. In fact, modern education already uses several methods of marking to determine how well a student is performing, from summative to diagnostic assessment methodologies.

So, which of these marking strategies should modern education use? Unfortunately, answering this question isn’t that simple. Each of these methods come with their own advantages and disadvantages, resulting in modern education using a blend of these different methods.

Read on to learn more about the most popular K-12 marking strategies, how they work, and which one is best for your students.

Marketing and Education: A Look at the Trends

Many schools throughout the world operate on some incarnation of a letter grade system, whether it’s the traditional A-F or 0-100 point system. 

The different styles of marking influence the points earned throughout a student’s time in a specific course. For example, a summative exam is typically worth more points than a formative quiz in a balanced approach. However, an educator who leans towards a summative marking methodology will put far more weight on a final exam than any formative exam.

Studies have shown that only 20% of K-12 students have been exposed to formative assessments, which aim to provide an adaptive learning experience. Initial research into formative assessments has demonstrated strong academic performance so far. 

Why is this the case? Instead of educators simply imparting the information and telling students if they passed or failed, a balanced approach that includes a formative pedagogy allows educators to understand how students are doing throughout the course. Armed with this valuable and actionable data, educators can make adjustments in the middle of the course, or reach out to struggling students to encourage them to receive tutoring. 

Unfortunately, truly determining the performance of a student in a classroom is a difficult endeavor. There are three popular types of marking that aim to assess a student’s performance throughout a given course, and educators will need to employ them all to provide students with a positive learning experience. Today, we’ll be examining the common types of marking and discuss how they can each be useful in the classroom to evaluate a student’s progress.

What Are the Different Types of Marketing?

Different types of marking have risen and fallen since education has become a formalized experience. The goal with each marking methodology has been to determine how a student is performing or has performed in a given course. 

An educator will typically form an individual take on a method of pedagogy throughout their time teaching. An educator’s pedagogy will encompass everything from how they choose to teach the classroom to the weight they put on classroom activities. This means that a teacher’s pedagogy is largely informed by the types of marking that they employ.

While there are certainly other types of marking out there, the following three types of marking are most commonly seen in schools around the world. It’s time to break them down and see how they impact the student’s experience.


A summative marking method places most, if not all, of the weight on the final examination of the course. The purpose of this methodology is to ultimately determine how well a student has absorbed the information imparted throughout the course. 

The primary example of a summative assessment is a final exam that will ultimately determine if a student passes or fails the course. This methodology is particularly common in higher education environments, but it can also be found at all levels of education. 

Even though summative evaluations can be a good way to determine how well a student understood a course, research into the methodology has found a number of flaws. Perhaps most importantly, a summative assessment does not account for a student’s cognitive and developmental abilities. 

Instead, summative evaluations strictly provide a quantitative type of data that is entirely focused on the outcome. The conclusion of one study into summative evaluations concluded that the data generated by summative examinations is certainly meaningful, but should be combined with other qualitative processes to provide a well-rounded image of success.

It’s worth noting that there is another reason why summative assessments are so common: they are used to evaluate educators themselves. Stanford University highlights how they can even grant educators and insight into their pedagogical strengths and weaknesses. If an entire classroom performs poorly on a final exam, it will usually reflect poorly on the teacher. This is another reason why using a mixed marking approach is ideal.


Formative evaluations are an ongoing process that engages students throughout the course to determine how they are absorbing the information. A formative approach to education involves regular quizzes and exams with a low point value that primarily aims to understand a student’s progress during the course. 

A pop quiz is a common example of a formative assessment. It’s typically not worth enough points to be detrimental to students if they fail, but it is an effective tool to help understand how students are performing. 

The core philosophical difference between a formative methodology and a summative methodology is that a formative methodology is focused on nurturing a student’s experience throughout the education process. An educator who has embraced a formative approach will adjust future plans based on the results of midterms or other quizzes. For example, a biology teacher might discover that she needs to revisit cell division stages after the results of a short quiz. 

The formative approach is a back and forth learning environment that some research has shown has a positive effect on student achievement. The study published by the National Center for Education Statistics evaluated 22 rigorous individual studies that aimed to determine the effectiveness of formative evaluations in elementary schools. The results showed that students with formative assessments performed better academically than those who did not, especially in topics like mathematics and sciences. Another study published in 2018 echoed the same findings: formative assessments lead to better academic performance.


Formative and summative assessments are more directly opposed to each other. One focuses on a back-and-forth learning experience, while the other is more focused on the final result of the course. However, a diagnostic marking methodology is not opposed to either methodology, and is instead a valuable tool for all learning environments.

A diagnostic evaluation is given at the beginning of the course to determine how well a student already understands the subject. They are typically not worth any points and only serve to help the educator provide a better student experience to those who may already be struggling with the topic. 

In many situations, the same or similar diagnostic evaluation is given to students again at the end of the course. The goal is to understand how a student has improved throughout the course. 

Both summative and formative marking methodologies will benefit from including diagnostic evaluations. These early exams provide an educator with plenty of information that will help them provide a better student experience to everyone, especially students that are already struggling with the topic.


Why a Balanced and Flexible Approach is Required

It’s no secret that education is changing faster now than ever before. For the first time, remote learning entered the K-12 world on a massive scale. Even as schools return to in-person learning, many schools are embracing remote learning as an ongoing option.

Now more than ever, educators need to have a balanced and flexible marking approach to adequately evaluate how students are performing. There is room in any classroom to utilize summative, formative, and diagnostic marking methodologies. 

Furthermore, educators need to be prepared to teach students who may have struggled with the material in previous grades or classes. Many students struggled to perform well when learning remotely, in part due to frequent interruptions at home while learning, and that will impact their education going forward. Educators who employ diagnostic exams will quickly become aware of any knowledge gaps. If a formative approach is adopted, educators can continually examine how students are grasping information throughout the course.

Summative evaluations are still important in a child’s education. These exams ultimately show how well a student performed throughout the entire course. They also prepare younger students for future summative-style exams such as the SATs and ACTs. However, educators should use caution on weighting summative evaluations too heavily. The goal should be providing students with an equitable learning experience, which will require the inclusion of diagnostic and formative evaluations.


Practice Flexible Marketing with Edsembli

Educators must be armed with the correct technology that allows them to adjust their marking style as needed. If a teacher wants to lower the point score of a final exam, they should easily be able to do so. 

Edsembli empowers school districts and teachers by making marking flexible and adaptive experience. With Edsembli, educational institutions of all sizes can embrace a balanced marking approach. 

Edsembli’s K-12 platform allows both management and educators to customize their grading systems to reflect a more balanced marking methodology. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to see how our software can enable a flexible marking approach.

Book your demo with an Edsembli education specialist today

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