The formative use of summative assessment in a Chinese context

David Robert CARLESS, Yiu Chun LO

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


The research evidence in favour of formative assessment has been well-articulated (Black & Wiliam, 1998), yet classroom implementation remains an ongoing challenge. The influence of summative assessment impacts deeply on the prospects for formative approaches, often in a negative way. For formative assessment to flourish, initiatives aimed at supporting positive links between formative and summative functions of assessment are sorely needed (Broadfoot & Black, 2004). Whilst there is a rapidly burgeoning international literature on the implementation of formative assessment in schools, it is comparatively under-explored in Confucian heritage culture settings. A ‘testing culture’ may crowd out formative assessment or prompt teachers to downplay it. In a Chinese context, where examinations have characteristically dominated, the challenge of creating synergies between formative and summative assessment represents both an opportunity and a threat. This paper casts light on these issues by using case study data drawn from two primary schools in Hong Kong. In both schools, one of the key strategies used by teachers was systematic periods of ‘test paper review’ designed to review, consolidate and extend student learning. These processes served a dual aim of improving students’ test scores and supporting their ongoing learning. The strategies bear some similarities to the formative use of summative tests as described in Black et al., (2003). The paper concludes by outlining some of the successes and challenges of the strategies employed. Issues addressed include: how teachers viewed assessment; the effectiveness of different modes of feedback; and the potential gains of providing additional support for less able students. Wider implications are outlined with respect to the development of synergies between formative and summative assessment and the implementation of formative assessment in Chinese contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


Carless, D., & Lo, Y. C. (2006, November). The formative use of summative assessment in a Chinese context. Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association (APERA) International Conference 2006: Educational Research, Policy and Practice in an Era of Globalization, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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