A Journey Through Technology

Week 9 Essential Question

on March 25, 2016

How can I use both formative and summative assessment to enhance (or at least not interfere with) intrinsic motivation?

Teachers use both formative and summative assessments to measure students in their classrooms. “[F]ormative assessment is useful both for the student and the teacher – it provides students with feedback and thus aids them in their efforts to meet learning objectives and it gives teachers insight as to how they can best shape instruction to meet student needs.”(Rasmussen, n.d.) “The goal of summative assessment is to measure the level of success or proficiency that has been obtained at the end of an instructional unit, by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.” (Formative vs Summative Assessment)

However, one thing that is hard for teachers to measure is what motivates their students. According to Harlen (2003), students who are intrinsically motivated are motivated from within, by being satisfied by and interested in what they are learning. Extrinsically motivated students are motivated by external means, like rewards or prizes. If teachers want to get their students intrinsically motivated in the classroom, the way they use assessments and the way they grade them can significantly help in reaching that goal.

According to Kellaghan (1996), as quoted by Harlen (2003), “intrinsic motivation is associated with levels of engagement that lead to development of conceptual understanding and higher level thinking skills.” To me, this means if we can get students engaged in our classrooms, they will want to gain a better understanding of concepts, which will lead them to be better learners. One way of reaching these goals is to use differentiation in the classroom. “An effectively differentiated classroom is invested in assessment and grading practices that are in sync with responsive teaching practices – ones that clearly contribute to enlisting the effort of a full range of students to do the hard work of learning.” (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013, p.127) The type of assessments we use and how they are graded can make a big difference in how successful our students can be in our classrooms.

One thing to think about when using assessments is whether to use norm-referenced tests (NRT) or criterion-referenced tests (CRT). NRTs compare students to one another and CRTs measure student performance on specific learning objectives. (Bond, 1996) At the beginning of a unit, I know which concepts my students need to understand to gain mastery of the topic. In order to get an accurate measurement of how well students are understanding the unit, the assessments that I use throughout the unit should be CRTs and not NRTs. “The content of an NRT test is selected according to how well it ranks students from high achievers to low. The content of a CRT test is determined by how well it matches the learning outcomes deemed most important.” (Bond, 1996) Popham (2014) suggests that criterion-referenced assessments allow teachers to “teach students better” because it is a direct measurement of instruction. (p.64)

Designing the assessments is one aspect of trying to motivate students, but an even greater issue is how the assessments are graded. “Grades should derive from summative, not formative, assessments.” (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013, p.130) Students need to practice concepts before they understand them, but that doesn’t mean all of the practice needs to be graded. If we grade everything students do, it can discourage them from continuing in their learning and prevent them from learning. (Tomlinson & Moon, 2013, p.130)

To me, the main way of getting my students intrinsically motivated is to get them engaged in the class. I am working on using differentiation to do that, and a major part of the differentiation process is looking at how I am using assessments and how I am grading them. I need to make sure that my assessments, both formative and summative, are directly measuring learning outcomes, and that the way I grade the assessments doesn’t take away from whether or not they are meeting the learning objectives.


Bond, L. A. (1996). Norm-and Criterion-Referenced Testing. ERIC/AE Digest. Retrieved from: http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-1/norm.htm 21 March 2016.

Formative vs Summative Assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2016, from http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/howto/basics/formative-summative.html

Harlen, W., & Crick, R. D. (2003). Testing and Motivation for Learning. Assessment in Education, 10(2), 169-207. Retrieved March 21, 2016, from http://sohs.pbs.uam.es/webjesus/motiv_ev_autorr/lects%20extranjeras/efecto%20ev.pdf

James Popham, W. p. (2014). Criterion-Referenced Measurement: Half a Century Wasted?. Educational Leadership, 71(6), 62-68. Retrieved from: Egan Library http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=94925708&login.asp&site=ehost-live 21 March 2016.

Rasmussen, J.B. (n.d.). Formative Assessment Strategies. Retrieved March 21, 2016 from: http://www.sonoranschools.org/Downloads/formative-assessment-strategies.docx.

Tomlinson, Carol Ann, and Moon, Tonya R. (2013) Chapter 6: Assessment, Grading and Differentiation. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. Web. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=135&docID=10774725&tm=1428975296051 21 March 2016.



My principal shared a video about motivation with some of the teachers at my school this week and I thought it was quite applicable to this weeks question. It’s a bit long, but I think it provides a lot of insight into why people choose to do certain things.


2 responses to “Week 9 Essential Question

  1. aletakmay says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Sometimes students start out extrinsically motivated and then move toward being intrinsically motivated. Maybe external rewards is the way some students feel affirmed at home or in other classrooms. I do enjoy external rewards as well, such as a paycheck for my hard work at school. But to enjoy what I do is what keeps me wanting to improve beyond what is required of me. I think some children may associate outside rewards with acceptance. I remember well, the one year my mom asked me what two things I wanted for Christmas and which one I wanted the most so she could get that for me rather than my father having the “advantage.” But rewards and sticker charts definitely have limits. Another thought I have is that grading can be very emotional for children.

    It is so true that if we grade everything, we may lead students to fear risk-taking as they learn. Feedback for the teacher helps us prepare what they need next; so going over their work and collecting it to note progress over time, such as gradually building a portfolio, can serve to help me focus on what students need and note progress.

    Watching this video clip was worth the extra time—as it explains why students are motivated intrinsically (mainly because they are people and not horses ☺ ):
    In the video clip, this caught my attention: “When a task gets more complicated, it requires some conceptual, creative thinking, these kind of motivators don’t work!” It is referring here to monetary rewards, and that even the higher the reward makes it less likely to work. Further, the presentation talked about: Autonomy; Self-direction (engagement); mastery (it’s fun, it is satisfying when you get better at it); purpose motive. The profit motive needs to be connected to purpose motive.


  2. clayedet637 says:

    Thanks for sharing the video. I really liked the way that it described the difference between mechanical tasks and more challenging tasks that require analytical problem solving skills. It makes me think about some of the big challenges of education reform when it comes to creating students who care deeply about learning and can think critically about relevant issues. It highlights the fact that in order to promote this type of learning in our students, we need to rethink not just what we teach and how we teach it but how we motivate learners. Purely extrinsic motivation will not get us there.

    Recently I came across a link to a program called Radical Math – Math for Social Justice. I’m not sure if it is still an active program, but I noticed it because it ties learning math to a purpose – that mathematical literacy and problem solving skills for all students is an important component to a democratic society, and that the more students who have access to mathematics the better. I hope to start integrating pieces of this program throughout the next few years to provide my students and I with a stronger sense of purpose.


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