I've been a science teacher for 16 years in 7th grade. There are various ways you can assess students as you progress through a unit. Here are some examples of what I do.
- "For Now" Models. Ask students to create visual explanations for the unit phenomenon. For example, I just finished a unit on photosynthesis and respiration. By the end of our first few lessons, I asked students to make a "for now" model showing how plants change the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. The reason it's "for now" is because the unit isn't done yet, so they don't have all the DCIs necessary to complete the full model.
- Self-assessments. I've used these at the end of some lessons or at the start of others. I ask students to rate themselves on several "I can explain" or "I understand" statements. As they work, I can circulate and look at their lists and check in on them. Similarly, students can post their questions on a discussion board (physical or virtual) and other students can offer suggestions/advice.
- Review Games. My students LOVE playing review games, especially those like GimKit or Blooket. Students engage in some fun review and at the end I get a detailed report of which concepts were easiest and hardest for students. I prefer Blooket because it adds a randomization factor which means the kids who win are not always the ones who know the most.
- Writing tasks. There are many resources online (e.g. Concord Consortium) that provide tasks for students to complete to show if they met the core of the performance expectations. Check it out! I also develop some of my own written tasks. For example, here is a simple written task I posted on Twitter that students completed at the end of our photosynthesis/respiration unit.
- Final Arguments. Many of our units conclude with a formal argument to respond to the unit phenomenon. This can be a mulit-day activity for students as they need time to process evidence, think of reasoning, draft arguments, peer review, etc. But the outcome is totally worth it! It's amazing how detailed their arguments are.
- Final Models. Students work collaboratively to develop a final model for the unit that visualizes the phenomenon. For example, in our second unit of the year students had to develop a final model to explain why the fossil of the same organism can be found in South America and Africa. Students created models that showed cross sections of earth, divergent boundaries, plate motion, etc.
There are many additional ways to assess, but these are some of my favorites. Models are probably #1 for me because 1) students are highly engaged, 2) IMO it is easier for students to draw an explanation than write and 3) models make it easy to quickly assess a student's understanding and where they're at within a unit. Also, focus on using assessments that reveal a student's sensemaking vs memorization. This is still an area in development and new resources are coming out all the time. But try to use assessments that give the student an opportunity to show how they are making sense of a phenomenon and not what they have memorized from a unit.
Finally, some methods of assessment do tie in very well with other subject areas. For example, ELA is closely connected with writing arguments. I would definitely reach out to those who teach ELA to gather recommendations for writing. My ELA teachers share their tips, strategies, and common language that can be used. But, you should never be afraid to try your own thing with assessments.