Carolina Biological OSE - August 2023


General Science and Teaching


Author Post
Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Scroll to the bottom of our thread and post your suggestions, samples or questions concerning end of the year performance/inquiry based classroom assessments!We could all benefit from idea sharing when we feel as if we've drained ourselves during our busy year. Alyce

Assessment in the science classroom is often compared to a jigsaw puzzle. Assessment takes several 'pieces'of information to make a complete picture of what our students truly know.

Exemplary science teachers will use a variety of assessments to determine how well their students use inquiry skills and the level and nature of their understanding of the science concepts that have been presented.

I would like to share a middle school level 'Scientific Argumentation' that I have introduced to my 6-8th grade students this school year. I have been very excited about the depth of conversation that has taken place among students and in class discussions - I know that it is a direct result of my students becoming actively engaged in their analysis of the material they are reading in current news articles and watching on television!

Let's share some of our classroom assessment strategies!

I'm a firm believer in pedagogy that includes authentic reading assignments. The format used here is very helpful in my opinion, in that, it defines what is considered evidence for a claim. The only other thing that I would add would be some strategies for reviewing scientific articles such as in which section of the paper or article can each kind of evidence generally be found etc. Here are a few online resources that illustrate different strategies: The basic strategies can be presented early on in an age-appropriate way, and then practiced throughout secondary school in preparation for post-secondary.

Elizabeth Dalzell-Wagers Elizabeth Dalzell 9945 Points

Adah, I found your post interesting in stating that Formative Assessment are more important than summative assessments. My school completed the Stiggens book study, and have adopted his theories. As an educator, I do feel that formatives are more important to me because it allows my students and myself to view where they are in their learning. They are able to make mistakes, and that is okay, as long as they are willing to correct and learn from their mistakes. So much emphasis is placed on their Summative Assessments (80%) currently at my school. Parents/Admin are big supporters of this, but I am not sure if this is best practice for my MS students. Thanks for the thought, Liz

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91048 Points

Hi Elizabeth, Adah, Alyce and Everyone! It is great that formative and summative assessments have been brought out in the "open" so to speak. Effective teachers have always used questioning techniques to determine whether their students are "getting it". Now we have so many research-based strategies at our fingertips to help us guide our students' learning. I agree that formative assessing is more important than summative for helping our students to construct their understandings. However, I also know that personally I need to do something with my new knowledge in order for it to stick with me. I see that as the job of a summative assessment. If I didn't have that cummulative test to study for or that big project to complete, I would miss out on putting all the pieces of my learning together. So in some ways the summative assessment is equally important. What do you think? Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91048 Points

I, too, had made an assessment collection, Adah. You found some resources that I did not have. I'll share mine here, too.

Al Byers Albert Byers 4498 Points

This will be a great thread as others chime in. The collection of NSTA resources (and personal) I can tell will be very vaulable. I can't wait to get my wife to use them. She teachers elementary students in Fairfax county, VA. Thanks for sharing them.

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Hi Albert, Welcome to the thread! This will be a fun journey to take as we continue to share our opinions and materials on assessment. I have a personal collection of NSTA probes that may spark your wife's curiosity in the pre-assessment and misconception areas.

Several books have been published in the NSTA series, 'Uncovering Student Ideas in Science'. These books contain quick and easy science probes to administer to elementary through high school students that will assist educators in determining misconceptions and prior knowledge. Each probe also contains several teaching and extension ideas. I especially appreciate the detailed explanation of K-12 standards and the content knowledge that should be mastered at each level

Several individual probes are available free or for a low cost in the NSTA library. I have assembled a personal collection of all the probes that are available as individual chapters. The probes cover Earth, Space, Physical and Life sciences.

I am attempting to review and use as many of the probes that I can, and then submitting a review to NSTA. Some probes are better suited for elementary students, while others work especially well in the high school setting.

I would appreciate all the help that I can get in reviewing the probes. If any of you have used a probe and thought it provided a keen insight into your students' knowledge let us know on this thread, or better yet consider posting a short review (there is a link on the right side of the product that you may click and complete a short comment sheet) so that all NSTA members can benefit from your personal thoughts and viewpoint!

Enjoy your day! Alyce

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64080 Points

Adah  wrote, “I still think formative assessment demonstrates what a student knows and can do much more to help understand were a student is. That's my idea and I am sticking to it!” Hi Adah, I think that as teachers we need to be assessing both formatively and summatively. We definitely should be using formative assessments to help us determine where we need to modify our teaching. Formative assessment allow teachers to make decisions and monitor their instruction based on student performance. However, I disagree with you when you state that a week was wasted giving your state's summative assessment. I agree that it is inconvenient, but I see it as an outside audit of my teaching and my students' retention. The summative assessment provides an outside measure of what my students know. Ultimately, we should use the data from the summative assessment to also help modify what and how we are teaching. Your thoughts?

Misty Richmond Misty Richmond 2410 Points

Alyce, I love those books you mentioned put out by NSTA and I have used them in my classroom as well for assessment. One of the things I have found with assessment is that one fo the things that makes it especially difficult in science is too often the experience for students in my classroom is hands-on and yet the assessment doesn't offer this same experience and students can at time become stomped by a traditonal test even when they seem to be sure of the content. One thing I have tried this year and found it to be particulary successful was the idea of a Stations Test. Students moved around the classroom to eight different stations. Some required students to complete a task/investigation and reflect on the outcome, others were traditional multiple choice questions/ others included vocabulary activities, some were essay questions, while some others include science objects we have been using in class that students needed to identify/name. I found that assessment this year to be a much better use of classtime while providing me several ways to assess my students all at once. While I was somewhat fearful of them all moving about they were much more focused and even looked forward to the next station. I also noticed students that tend to burn out halfway through the test were much more engaged with timed stations. Just a suggestion I found success with. I would be willing to share more information with others if interested as well. I shared this idea with a colleague at school who also found success with this method of assessment.

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Colorado's state science assessment is administered in 5th, 8th and 10th grade tests. The discipline focus seems to fluctuate, but there are always several questions on the scientific process. Every year there is "buzz" that with a shortfall of state and federal funds, science assessment may be put on hold. I become frustrated when I hear those rumors, as the test results are a tool for me to use when evaluating my program and materials. I am curious what other states are doing on the state level with science testing? What types of review (if any) do you use before state testing begins? Thanks for your input, Alyce

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

I have also used Page Keeley’s Understanding Student Ideas in Science books – and I love them!! I was able to meet Page in Philly at the National Conference last March, and I even got one of the volumes autographed.

Anyway, I wanted to share how I use them. It has proven quite effective, and the students seem to really get into it. I administer the probe as a bell work question. Students are expected to pick their response or responses and to be prepares to defend their answer. After all of the students have had an opportunity to select their answer and jot down a few notes in defense of their response, I complete an open survey. For example, after reading through the probe, I ask, “Who agrees with answer A? – raise your hand.” I continue through every answer, and this gives me some clue as to what misconceptions the students might have and helps me lay out my next step.

After surveying the students, I then select an answer and ask the students that selected that answer to defend it. This is where it gets interesting. Students debate their answers, mostly with each other. I really do try to stay out of it, because I want them to learn from themselves and others. We continue through all of the possible responses, without me telling them if they are correct or not. Sometimes they work it out themselves, and other times I do need to interject a question or two to get them thinking on the right track. Overall, the experience is very powerful! The students learn how to defend their responses through the scientific process, while applying what they know to what they either don’t know or are not too sure about quite yet.

Also, once you have completed a few, you can even write your own. I have! While I use Page Keeley’s most often, sometimes there is a topic not covered in exactly the way I would like it addressed, so I create a probe of my own. Again, I never just tell the students the correct answer – I have them work through to the correct response by defending their position using scientific reasoning.

I am a strong advocate for the use of formative assessments, and Uncovering Student Ideas in Scienceis an awesome tool to use. I would also recommend Page Keeley's Science Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning - another great read on formative assessments, packed with ideas and strategies.


Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Misty & Sue, What creative ways you are using these tools in your classrooms. I will be trying them both as I begin a new unit (Earth/Moon/Sun) with my students. I start looking around this time of year and wonder if what I'm doing in the classroom can't be moved a notch up. I teach at an alternative middle school and am always searching for creative ways to present and assess the understanding and knowledge of my students. I'm looking forward to "hearing" you share your ideas. Enjoy your week, Alyce

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91048 Points

Wow! I continue to be so very impressed with all the outstanding science teaching I see reflected in all of your shared comments. As I read through this thread again (I have done so several times and pick up something to take back to my classroom EVERY time), I am reminded of something I read in my Sept. 29th issue of Education Week. It is an article by Mike Schmoker entitled, 'When Pedagogic Fads Trump Priorities. He downplays the emphasis being placed on differentiated instruction at the expense of effective instruction. He posits, 'The consistent delivery of lessons that include multiple checks for understanding may be the most powerful, cost-effective action we can take to ensure learning.' He says that the research demonstrates that students learn as much as four times as quickly from such lessons. He states that the 3 things that matter more than all else if we want better schools include: 1) coherent, content-rich, guaranteed curriculum where actual intellectual skills and subject matter don't depend on which teacher a student happens to get 2)ensure that students read, write, and discuss in the analytic and argumentative modes and 3) craft good lessons that start with a clear, curriculum-based objective and assessment, followed by cycles of instruction, guided practice, checks for understanding (the soul of a good lesson), and ongoing adjustments to instruction.
Kudoos to all the great ways you each are weaving these elements into your teaching. Alyce, I especially am interested in your sharing more of your expertise in scientific argumentation. You said earlier:
I would like to share a middle school level 'Scientific Argumentation' that I have introduced to my 6-8th grade students this school year. I have been very excited about the depth of conversation that has taken place among students and in class discussions - I know that it is a direct result of my students becoming actively engaged in their analysis of the material they are reading in current news articles and watching on television!

Please let us know more about how this is working in your classes and some helpful hints on how to implement argumentation.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91048 Points

Hi Arlene and Everyone,
I agree with you that there should be choices in how students might approach summative assessments. You wrote:

I do have issues with assessment design which does not incorporate multiple ways for students to demonstrate their understanding.
It takes a lot of time for teachers to create choices, but students will usually choose to create an instructional game or an interactive website over doing a paper and pencil assessment. The other choices always take much longer, but the students feel less stressed and (I must say) provide greater depth of understanding when they construct their own understandings of the material through these kinds of summative assessment (and more authentic) venues.

Another question was:

What are you thoughts about test construction ?
I agree that providing formal instruction on this is key. So often teacher tests do not consider all of the intricacies of good test construction. Even the text-provided ones do not test what is important for students to know and understand. As all of the states 'buy in' to national science standards, I see test construction experts at the national level helping with this important component of learning. It is important for students to have opportunities to not only show where their evolving understandings of a particular concept are, but they also need a format to be held accountable for learning the important content information that is determined by the standards. Being able to choose how to 'showcase' their knowledge from a variety of assessment options seems doable and appropriate. We can align authentic assessments to learner objectives just as we are able to tie assessment questions (on a common summative assessment) to specific standards to see if students have mastered specific content areas.

Misty Richmond Misty Richmond 2410 Points

So interested to hear that other districts are testing at certain grade levels too. Our test tend to cover 10% of every topic imaginagable which is so difficult to handle as a teacher. I think as long as people are out there teaching the way I have read in this thread students are sure to do well with these test. I often worry as our students don't tend to do as well as I think they should. Are others finding this true also?

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37108 Points

Good test construction is an extremely complex process. In my day job, I am the elementary science assessment cordinator for the state of VT. Currently Vermont is part of the New England Cmprehensive Assessment Project in science. we work with two other states..NH and RI and measured progress to construct a state assessment of which we are very proud. We assess at grades 4, 8, and 11. Each of these assessments is composed of multiple choice, constructed respponse and an inquiry performance task at grade 4 & 8 and a data analysis at grade 11. From my own experience I can tell you that test construction is a very important and complex process.

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

I'm looking for sugggestions and examples on how and if you document student interactions and learning when they participate in online simulations or content sites.Do you usually develop an activity sheet that students complete while on the site? Or do your students react and/or write a summary in a science log?

Do you believe partner grouping produces a higher level of understanding and interaction?

I'm anxious to hear your thoughts, viwes and ideas!

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64080 Points

[i]Hello, I'm looking for sugggestions and examples on how and if you document student interactions and learning when they participate in online simulations or content sites.Do you usually develop an activity sheet that students complete while on the site? Or do your students react and/or write a summary in a science log? Do you believe partner grouping produces a higher level of understanding and interaction? I'm anxious to hear your thoughts, viwes and ideas! Alyce[/i] Hi Alyce, I find with most sites that a response sheet that they fill as they go works best for understanding. I do not believe that partner grouping produces a higher level of understanding or interaction because one student participates in the simulation and the other one just sits there. If it was necessary for you to use partner grouping because you lacked enough computers for individual use, then I would structure the activity so one partner is playing the simulation and the other one is recording. Then at some point in the activity, I would have the partners switch roles.

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Hello Ruth and Assessment Thread Readers,
The points you addressed concerning optimum computer time related to understanding and growth is critical! I strive to have my alternative middle school students record their observations and/or data, no matter how minimal it may be. The recording emphasizes the importance of critical review and being held accountable in their learning process.

I conducted an Advanced Search from my NSTA Learning Center home page with the keywords 'assessing activities' and was able to locate twelve resources ranging from free NSTA book chapters to journal articles. I'm going to add the resources to My Library, read them in the next few days and hopefully develop some additional note-taking or guide sheets for my students to use when they are reading and utilizing science related websites.

Thank you for sharing! Alyce

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

There has been an interesting line of discussion taking place on NSTA's Physical Science Listserv. I am posting a bit of the conversation on our thread and invite your viewpoints and responses. I hear similar frustrating comments as I mentor new and seasoned veteran educators in all content areas. Alyce Ellen Cunningham, M.Ed., Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School posted: An 18 year veteran PS teacher in VA asked, [i]'There are so many ideas, new pedagogy, new technologies available to educators (that)Im having trouble sorting out what to use, what to let go. For example: Online simulations - should we use them, should labs be truly hands on, should labs be discovery or confirmation technology??? Do I get the probeware out and freak kids out with graphing calc... Do kids make plezzies, wikis, blogs, movies, web pages?? all?? Demonstrating knowledge - do kids take mc tests, essay tests, create projects? If so, are the projects all the same or should they be different? Do I demand science fair? How do I meet the needs of EMR kids and ESOL kids and Academic Gifted kids? This is a ramble of what is concerning me about my educational practices. . . . Im not a trained scientist but just a person with a MS science endorsement. If anyone has insight as we move towards our long awaited winter break I would appreciate it.' [/i]

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

What follows is one response to Ellen Cunningham's above post, written and submitted by Peggie Mueller, Houston TX. [i]"Great questions! I think many of us are struggling with these same questions as we try to find the right balance between new technologies and traditional pedagogy! For now, I only use simulations when the lab or demonstration is too dangerous or complex, the necessary equipment/chemicals are not available, or I want to guarantee good results. I have also run a lab and then a similation of the lab so that the students have both experiences. It is interesting to compare the results. I have resisted probeware for years thinking that I want the students to understand techniques but have just received a grant to buy some for our middle school. I think the more accurate results, faster turn around, and additional capabilities will improve my students overall experience. As education moves toward increased student-driven learning, it will be up to us teachers to decide on the balance between what worked in the past and what can be improved. It is an exciting time for educators who are innovative and interested in having their students more involved in the learning process. I look forward to reading the responses your note will incite. Thanks for opening this discussion topic!" [/i]

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91048 Points

Not only do we have to be concerned about how we assess our students, but we are always assessing the effectiveness of our school science programs. I just wanted to remind interested assessment thread readers about Jan Tuomi's webinar tonight. Here is what she said about it: "I am getting ready to host a web seminar on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 eastern on how to evaluate your science program. I'm excited about a super-quick assessment that can get you started. Its not really fair, since a high-quality program is a system and all the elements must be attended to! But you have to start somewhere, right? The seminar is intended for supervisors--like principals, department heads, coaches--but anyone can join. If you haven't registered yet, please join us! If you can't make it then, check back here for the archived seminar and to check out what participants have to say."

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Hi All! After chatting with a colleague doing a research paper and using an article from the Journal of College Science Teaching, we opened a thread under physics teaching in the large Physical Science Forum as a means of discussing a specific NSTA resource and using it as a jump-off into assessment and e-learning in the physics classroom. How do you use physics tutorials and how do they offer means of assessment. You may wish to join that discussion in the Physical Science Forum or take it from another angle in this forum. I will attach the article and see what blossoms. Have a good day :=) patty ps, there are other resources available in the learning center but I was hoping that we could focus on this particular NSTA resource first.

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Hi Friends, We have begun the last quarter of our school year and am interested in the types of assessments and evaluations that you are doing in your classrooms. I don't mean the "manufactured" state tests, or computerized scantron testing - I'd love to hear about the performance and inquiry based evaluations that you may be assigning your students! What I'm hoping is to gather some creative ideas to use with my own middle school students. :) Thanks for sharing, Alyce

Therese Houghton Therese Houghton 7210 Points

Hi All, This morning, I read a very good NSTA book chapter on assessment entitled, " A Rational for Assessment". This actually should be called, "A Rationale for Assessment", and the chapter presented an excellent overview of the field of assessment and its connection to standards and educational theory. There's a helpful teacher checklist and other informative tables and exhibits. It's well worth a read, and buying the book, if you are interested in further targeting your assessments.

Apartment Patino Mario Patino 1295 Points

Hello fellow science educators. One resource I have used over the last three years is 'Classroom Assessment and Grading' by Robert Marzano and 'Fair Doesn't Mean Equal' by Rick Wormeli. What I learned from these publications are three important things- 1. Assessment should be ongoing and represent established criteria (i.e standards). 2. A grade should represents what is learned and understood. 3. The scale you use to report academic achievement should be accurate, fair, and free of non academic factors.

Today I have collected enough data to justify the replacement of several practices:
1. Today 95% of the grade is based the performance of multifaceted summative assessments.
2. Formative assessments drive instructional practice and determine when summative assessments are given. The use of formative probes has enhanced learning.
3. The use of a even distribution scale (i.e The 4 Point Scale) has replaced the 100 Point Grading Scale.

I'll I was skeptical in applying research based theories into practice. Now that my data supports much many of the published findings, I am sold on how effective such practices have impacted learning in my classroom. I hope with the use of Designing Effective Science Instruction (DESI) and the use of the Content-Understanding-Environment (CUE) model, I can make even more progress. Anyone use the 4 point scale? Or DESI?

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