Summative, Formative and Developmental

Cartoon-Summative-Tasting Soup...Tastes Great...Formative...Cooking soup...Needs a little salt. Developmental. At the farmers market, what looks good for today's menu.

Over the years I’ve noticed that many of the most influential thinkers carry with them some great metaphors to help describe their work.  It also makes for great cartoon fodder.

Today’s cartoon inspired by Michael Quinn Patton from his book on Developmental Evaluation:

Distinguished evaluation theorist and practitioner Bob Stake has explained, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative” (quoted in Scriven, 1991, p. 169). More generally, anything done to the soup during preparation in the kitchen is improvement oriented; when the soup is served, summative judgment is rendered by the guests who consume the soup. And what of developmental evaluation in this metaphor?

Developmental evaluation begins when, before cooking, the chef goes to the market to see what vegetables are the freshest, what fish has just arrived, and meanders through the market considering possibilities, thinking about who the guests will be, what they were served last time, what the weather is like, and considers how adventurous and innovative to be with the meal.