Formative Evaluation

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Posted by: Kultar Singh
Category: Monitoring and Evaluation
Formative Evaluation

Based on the objective of the evaluation, evaluation procedures may be classified as formative or summative.

Formative Evaluation: 

As the name suggests, formative evaluation gives the early input necessary to improve an intervention or policy design. Typically, formative evaluation is conducted on an early version of the product while it is still being developed and improved (Scriven, 1991).

Formative evaluations are conducted to determine if a programme is operating well. In case it’s not, it also helps determine what improvements are necessary. It is also a method for determining the efficiency of a programme (McClintock, 1986). In the early phases of a programme, it is customary to inform providers and stakeholders about the implementation of the programme alongside identifying the barriers and facilitators of implementation. The results of the formative evaluation are then included in the programme with any necessary adjustments made to improve programme execution.

A formative evaluation may also utilize methods such as need assessment which identifies the programme’s needs from the viewpoint of all stakeholders, and feasibility assessment which evaluates the implementability of a programme, policy, or idea. It evaluates the technical and economic feasibility of an intervention. Formative evaluation can also include landscaping and diagnostic research to look into or improve a programme implementation component.

Process evaluation is often called formative evaluation, although it is theoretically useful to distinguish formative evaluation from the process evaluation. Process evaluation is classified as a distinct category in the evaluation typology and may contribute to both formative and summative evaluation. Process assessment may give incredibly helpful information about the process of executing a programme. It also plays a crucial role in assessing how a particular set of procedures, as outlined in the project document, have been applied at the field level and have enhanced results. In addition, process assessment may supplement outcome and impact evaluations.

Comparing Formative and Summative Evaluations:

The primary purpose of formative evaluations is to collect information that may be used to improve or strengthen the functioning of a programme. Typically, formative evaluations are conducted during the early-middle phases of a programme’s implementation. Summative evaluation is more precise than formative evaluation. They are carried out towards or after a programme or programme cycle and attempt to determine the influence of a programme’s actions and tasks on the achievement of its goals.

Formative evaluation attempts to assess the impacts or results of a programme or intervention by determining if the outcomes correspond to the intended objective. It determines the programme’s total influence beyond the immediate objectives. Summative evaluations are also helpful in determining if a programme should be prolonged, repeated, or restricted, while formative evaluations are intended to assist programme designers, managers, and implementers in overcoming obstacles to the programme’s effectiveness.

Summative Evaluation may also be classified into Outcome Evaluation and Impact Evaluation. Outcome evaluation attempts to determine the long-term effects of a programme. Additionally, it searches for unintended results that may prevent programs from achieving their anticipated objectives. Impact evaluations are specific types of evaluations that attempt to attribute the impact of a programme to a project’s intervention. Essentially, it aims to establish the causal relationship between project intervention and project outcome. In contrast to other methods of assessment, the primary objective of impact evaluation is to establish the causal relationship between the change and project intervention.


Baker, E.L. and Alkin, U.C., 1973, Formative evaluation of instructional development, AV Communication Review, 21(4), 389–418.

Flagg, B.N., 1990, Formative evaluation for educational technologies, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.

McClintock, C. (1986). Toward a theory of formative evaluation. In D. S. Cordray & M. W. Lipsey (Eds.), Evaluation studies review annual (Vol. 11, pp. 205-223). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Scriven, M., 1967, The methodology of evaluation, In Tyler, R.W., Gagné, R.M. and Scriven, M. (Eds.), Perspectives on curriculum evaluation (pp. 39–83), Rand McNally, Chicago.

Scriven, M., 1991b, Beyond formative and summative evaluation, In McLaughlin, M.W. and Phillips, D.C. (Eds.), Evaluation and education: At quarter century (pp. 19–64), University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Kultar Singh – Chief Executive Officer, Sambodhi

Author: Kultar Singh

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