Summative Evaluation-the-sage-encyclopedia-of-educational-research-measurement-and-evaluation

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Summative Evaluation-the-sage-encyclopedia-of-educational-research-measurement-and-evaluation

Summative Evaluation

In: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research,

Measurement, and Evaluation

By: Anthony Jason Plotner

Edited by: Bruce B. Frey

Book Title: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation

Chapter Title: “Summative Evaluation”

Pub. Date: 2018

Access Date: June 19, 2022

Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc.

City: Thousand Oaks,

Print ISBN: 9781506326153

Online ISBN: 9781506326139


Print pages: 1636-1637

© 2018 SAGE Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This PDF has been generated from SAGE Research Methods. Please note that the pagination of the

online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.
An evaluation is a systematic and purposeful collection and analysis of data used to document the

effectiveness of programs or interventions. Rigorous evaluation can determine if programs or interventions

should be maintained, improved, or eliminated. The term summative evaluation (sometimes referred to as ex-

post evaluation or outcome evaluation) was first introduced in the mid-1960s by Lee Cronbach and Michael

Scriven and refers to a process of evaluating a program’s or intervention’s impact or efficacy through careful

examination of program design and management. It is often used to assess the accountability of a program

or intervention. As such, summative evaluation is outcome focused more than process focused and most

often undertaken at the end of the project, when the program or intervention is stable and/or when program

services are implemented with consistency (otherwise known as fidelity). Furthermore, there are some types

of summative evaluation that require the collection of baseline data in order to provide a before and after

understanding; thus, it is important to factor this into the evaluation. Summative evaluation is undertaken to

determine whether the program or intervention achieved its goals, objectives, or outcomes; how the program’s

impact compares to different programs; and to better understand the process of change, what works, what

doesn’t, and why.

Understanding Summative Evaluation

Summative evaluation is also often conducted or undertaken by people considered independent or external

of the responsible project. The methods used to gather the data used in a summative evaluation should

incorporate a detailed step-by-step procedure that is carefully designed and executed to ensure the data are

accurate and valid. A balance of both quantitative and qualitative methods can help researchers obtain a

better understanding of project achievements and information that led to these achievements. The various

instruments or tools used to collect data when conducting a summative evaluation include interviews,

questionnaires, surveys, observations, and testing.

Summative evaluations are conducted to determine the value of a program or intervention—its merit or worth,

often in comparison with other programs or interventions. Summative evaluation can enable stakeholders

to make decisions regarding specific services and the future direction of the program that cannot be made

during the beginning or middle of program or intervention implementation. By contrast, formative evaluation

(also known as process or implementation evaluation) is designed to form or improve the program or

intervention being evaluated by examining aspects of an ongoing program in order to make improvements

as the program is being implemented. Most evaluations can be summative (i.e., have the potential to serve

a summative function), but only some have the additional capability to serving formative functions. One way

to truly understand summative evaluation is to differentiate between formative and summative evaluation. It

is considered good evaluation practice to include both formative and summative evaluation. Table 1 shows

some fundamental differences between formative and summative evaluation.

Common Types of Summative Evaluation


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SAGE Research Methods

Page 2 of 4 Summative Evaluation

There are a variety of types of summative evaluations. Some of these types include cost-benefit/cost-

effectiveness analysis, goal-based evaluation, outcome evaluation, secondary analysis, meta-analysis, and

impact evaluations. Cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis address questions of efficiency by

standardizing outcomes in terms of their dollar costs and values. Goal-based evaluation determines if the

intended goals of a program or intervention were achieved. Outcome evaluation investigates whether the

program caused demonstrable effects on specifically defined target outcomes. Secondary analysis examines

existing data to address new questions or use methods not previously employed. Meta-analysis integrates

the outcome estimates from multiple studies to arrive at an overall or summary judgment on an evaluation

question. Impact evaluation is broader and assesses the overall or net effects—intended or unintended—of

the program or intervention.

Table 1 Fundamental Differences Between Formative and Summative Evaluation

Formative Evaluation Summative Evaluation

Why? Purpose

Analyze strengths and weaknesses

Shape direction


Improve a program or intervention

Goal achievement

Unintended consequences

How to improve


Determine value or quality

When? Context

Project implementation

Primarily prospective

Project implementation


Primarily retrospective

What? Information

Needs assessment








Who? Evaluators Primary internal supported by external evaluators Primary external supported by internal evaluators

See also Evaluation; Formative Evaluation; Program Evaluation; Summative Assessment


Web Center for Social Research Methods:

Anthony Jason Plotner


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SAGE Research Methods

Page 3 of 4 Summative Evaluation


Further Readings

Coryn, C. L. S., & Scriven, M. (Eds.). (2008). Reforming the Evaluation of Research: New Directions for

Evaluation, Number 118. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Coryn, C. L. S., & Westine, C. D. (Eds.). (2015). Contemporary trends in evaluation research. Sage

Benchmarks in Social Research Methods (Vols. 1–4). London, UK: Sage.

Scriven, M. (1967). The methodology of evaluation. In R. W. Tyler, R. M. Gagne, & M. Scriven (Eds.),

Perspectives of curriculum evaluation (pp. 39–83). Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.

Scriven, M. (1991). Beyond formative and summative evaluation. In M. W. McLaughlin & D. D. Phillips

(Eds.), Evaluation and education: At quarter century (pp. 19–64). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Wholey, J. S. (1994). Assessing the feasibility and likely usefulness of evaluation. In J. S. Wholey, H. P.

Hatry, & K. E. Newcomer (Eds.), Handbook of practical program evaluation (pp. 15–39). San Francisco, CA:



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SAGE Research Methods

Page 4 of 4 Summative Evaluation
Summative Evaluation
In: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation