Learning from your writing for formative and summative assessment
Induction into writing for a mixture of two complementary assessment purposes is an important feature of your academic apprenticeship. You can speed-up the development of your expertise as a writer by making yourself aware of these two purposes and considering how you can learn from both formative and summative assessment.
At the very beginning of your postgraduate or doctoral studies, who you know matters more than what you know. You are likely at first to experience an assessment process that is informal and directed towards your learning. As a postgraduate student, you may be writing for assessment by critical readers who you get to know well from personal experience: course tutors giving feedback on your draft assignment, or your supervisor giving feedback on draft sections of your masters dissertation. As a doctoral research student, you may be writing your research proposal or chapters of your doctoral thesis for your supervisor.
The purpose of this assessment is formative, to support your learning to think and write like an expert management researcher. The main focus is on you as a learner. So you have two main learning tasks:
Once you are comfortable with submitting your academic writing for assessment and receiving constructive feedback to help you learn, your work will typically be subject to formal examination. The purpose of this assessment is summative, directed towards judging how much you have learned and the quality of what you have to say. What you know now matters much more than who you know! You may not know all the academics well who act as your examiners - you may not even know who some of them are. Maybe you have to submit a final version of your assignment for marking, sit a postgraduate examination, or present the final version of your dissertation or thesis for examination.
Here the main focus is on your work as a candidate for the award of a degree, and judging how far you have learned to write, and so to think, like an experienced management researcher (as reflected in the criteria for the award). Your major learning tasks are therefore:
You will probably feel that writing for summative assessment is an even more serious matter than writing for formative assessment. The outcome of summative assessment could mean your success or failure as a degree candidate. Will you be judged to have fulfilled the requirements for the award of your postgraduate or doctoral degree? You can expect to receive some information indicating how well your work was judged to have met the assessment criteria. But you may receive little or no feedback to help you learn how to improve your academic writing. You may be left to reflect for yourself on how you could do better in future.
Take a moment to identify all the pieces of work you have yet to write which are to be summatively assessed. Make a mental note to concentrate as you develop your written work on meeting all the official criteria of good practice as fully as possible.