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Evaluation and Assessment

Assessing Inquiry Without Checking Notebooks

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Jason Garner Jason Garner 135 Points

I am a fifth grade teacher. My students use science notebooks (I'm no expert with these either) to record observations, sketches, questions, etc. However, I teach three other subjects as well and have two classes for science. It is too time consuming to go through 48 science notebooks each day/every other day to assign points/grades for their partcipation/effort on inquiry-type activities. For example, yesterday we were observing the phenomena of a balloon inflating on top of an empty soda bottle when squeezed and moving a drop of water with a toothpick (anchor phenomena for matter and particles). However, Monday we will be doing our next lesson and I will not have time to go through their notebooks. We will be conducting another (guided) investigation about the three states of matter. I would rather have them record observations/questions in their notebooks instead of a sheet of paper because of organization, etc. However, I would like to find some simple way to have them share their learning with me (individually) or their observations. I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this? Thank you.

Gabe Kraljevic Gabe Kraljevic 4564 Points

Hello Jason,

I forget who first said this but I have used this quote often: “School should not be a place where young people go to watch old people work.”

There is nothing that requires you to correct and grade everything a student does.  In fact, marking everything is not good – because a learner’s early mistakes and errors are now incorporated into their grade.  Giving formative feedback is necessary, but there are some strategies to help you reduce the workload while not diminishing the learning that is taking place. 

The easiest manner to accomplish this is to ask students for some written work on exactly what you want them to take from your lessons.  Whether it be observations, conclusions or a self-reflective piece, you will get what you need without having to read entire notebooks. 

Mark notebooks only periodically.  Give students checklists for students to complete and have them attach this to their notebooks.  They can even self-assess their work using a rubric that you can supply. My teaching was revolutionized by an online rubric maker that is still up and running:  You can quickly and easily make rubrics and save them. 

Peer assessment is an excellent learning strategy that also reduces the work for you. To read over someone else’s work and give them feedback tests your own understanding (as you have probably observed in yourself!).  I would incorporate this into almost everything your students are doing.  This can be done in pairs or in groups – just spend some time teaching students how to do these assessments.  I used to give small, coloured slips with questions that would guide the students in their assessment and have it attached it to the work. These coloured papers are easy to thumb to in a notebook for quick checks.

Hope this helps!

Callie Cook Callie Cook 714 Points

If you wanted to asses all of the students each day you could include it as an exit ticket. You can either have them rewrite a summary or give them a question to answer that should already be answered in their notebook. When grading I would only look to see if they have the key item you are looking for, and of course see if they are completely off track with what you did in the lab. It is hard to really grade every single thing so you could also include the students in it if you wanted to really grade everything. You could have the students switch at the end of the day and have them grade looking for particular items. 

Jake Schulke Jake Schulke 1035 Points

Thank you for sharing your challenge. I teach 8th Grade Science, with 192 students across 6 periods. Rest assured that I do not grade 192 notebooks (anymore). Going digital with a lot of things makes it a little easier for me, but there is no ideal digital analog to a science notebook. The practice of keeping and referring to their own notes is important. I like the other ideas posted about assignments which require them to refer to their notes to reference prior information and solve problems, allowing you to then use their single-page assignment as an indirect gauge of how well their notebooks are assembled. Tragically, teaching has a tendnecy to want to assign a point value to everything that a student does. How can you encourage the use of a science notebook in a way which will make obvious the advantages of collecting good data, without you having to read 48 or 192 or effectively infinite notebooks? Are you teaching them to be scientists, or how to complete tasks?

Apartment Patino MARIO PATINO 1295 Points

Thanks for sharing this challenge. Having students document their inquiry is very important in learning the skill of collecting data/evidence. So I encourage you to continue this practice. In my experience provide students opportunities to peer or self-assess against a rubric that they helped you to create. Self evaluation promotes metacogntive skills and peer evalaution promotes interpersonal skills in communication. As a result of these evaluations, create a portfolio where students can share their work with you on a regular bases. I hope this helps you.


Brittany Joachim Brittany Joachim 315 Points

I agree.  I do not think it is necessary to always grade these notebooks.  The discussions and learning from the notebooks is important.  However, as an 8th grade science teacher I grade them once in a while to keep students accountable.  I love the idea of having students self-assess and grade their own notebooks.  I will try that and see what kind of grades students give themselves and go from there!  I also think this is a struggle many science teachers have and there is no easy answer.  You have to impliment what works for you!

Jeremy Goforth Jeremy Goforth 1456 Points

I have found it difficult if not impossible to review and grade every assignment that my 7th grade students complete. What I have done is to review and grade some but not all of their work. This might be two assignments each lesson or one assignment every two lessons depending on my time budget. I do not tell my students which assignments that I will enter into the gradebook. If students want to turn in late work, they must complete all assigned work for that lesson to receive credit for the assignment that was entered into the gradebook and that was turned in late.

Katelyn York Katelyn York 570 Points

This is a great question to ask and I think there are a lot of different ways you could go about that. One way would be to have them do their observations and notes in the notebooks then have them answer a short question as an exit ticket to assess at the end. You could even have them do the exit ticket in partners or small groups so you don't have 48 to go through. Another thing would be to have them do the exit ticket online (if possible) on a platform like google forms where they virtually answer a question or two. Then it would be easier to go through them (even at home) if you didn't want to take all their notebooks home or stay at school to grade. You can also teach the students how to self-assess their notebooks. This could be done by giving them the answer or a rubric/ criteria then record their answers. I love that you're having them use notebooks and it is a great way for their work to be organized in once place. And remember, you don't always have to take a grade on everything. Some things can be assessed simply through observation and taking notes as you rotate around the room during them filling out their notebooks to assess their progress. 

Amanda Robin amanda robin 1395 Points

I have 120 5th grades. I grade their science journals using a rubric but not for if its right or wrong. I do have to grade based on if they complete the journal. If not, I struggle with students doing their work. :( If anyone else has other strategies I would love it hear it. 

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