The answers to the question "Can summative be formative?" is quite challenging: although the practical difficulties of delivering feedback in a high-stakes assessment context can be overcome, this does not mean that learners will be receptive to the feedback available to them.
Teasing out the logical inconsistencies brings to mind the so-called “catch-22” logic, a term coined by the author Joseph Heller in his book of the same name. Summative assessment is necessary to assure regulators and the public that learners have reached a minimum standard of competence. This minimal competence is not sufficient, hence the need for feedback to help plan further learning. Although feedback can be a very powerful tool for learning, students appear largely unreceptive to feedback when it is given in the context of high-stakes assessments. Logically this should lead to a change away from the summative assessment culture in order that feedback can be valued. However, when we consider changing the assessment culture, stakeholders are very reluctant as summative assessment is seen as so important to assure regulators and the public of a minimum standard of competence. And so the circular argument begins again.
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