Smith and Ragan, “Formative and Summative Evaluation”

In this chapter, Smith and Ragan discuss the evaluation of instructional materials. This usually happens at two, bookending points in the instructional development process. The first kind, “formative evaluation,” “evaluates the materials to determine the weakness in the instruction so that revisions can be made to make them more effective and efficient” (p. 327). From this evaluation the designer can then determine “whether the instructional materials are ‘there’ yet, or whether [the designer needs] to continue the design process” (p. 327). The second second kind, “summative evaluation,” is conducted “after the materials have been implemented into the instructional contexts for which they were designed,” at which point “designers may be involved in the process of evaluating the materials in terms of their effectiveness in order to provide data for decision makers who may adopt or continue to use the materials” (p. 327).

I haven’t yet seen too much behind the scenes (or too much of how the sausage is made, perhaps) for primary and secondary education. All the factors involved in design, implementation and evaluation seem extraordinarily complex. And, as Smith and Ragan note throughout their discussion in this chapter, budgetary concerns are an omnipresent force in all these considerations. I cannot imagine being an educator having to conduct all of these activities amidst budget crises.

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