Ask the Evaluator banner

What’s the difference between formative and summative evaluations?

In formative evaluation, programs or projects are typically assessed during their development or early implementation to provide information about how best to revise and modify for improvement. This type of evaluation often is helpful for pilot projects and new programs, but can be used for progress monitoring of ongoing programs. In summative evaluation, programs or projects are assessed at the end of an operating cycle, and findings typically are used to help decide whether a program should be adopted, continued, or modified for improvement.

Both evaluation methods are recommended for use, when possible, to provide program staff with ongoing feedback for program modifications (formative) as well as periodic review of long-term progress on major program goals and objectives (summative), and to meet regular reporting requirements (e.g., for a grantor, agency, or organizational manager).

< Back