Assessment

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Several years ago, I did a series of workshops entitled “What’s in Your Assessment Toolkit?” so I appreciated both the cover and the theme of this month’s issue of Science Scope. Whatever vocabulary we use (assessment, test, exam, etc) the purpose, according to the editor, is the same: to determine what students know before a lesson starts, to monitor if they are “getting it” as the lesson unfolds, and to measure what they have mastered at the end of instruction.
A professor of mine once said “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” Having a variety of tools in our toolkits helps us to use different ways to determine what students are learning.

At the beginning of a lesson or unit, pre-assessments often uncover student misconceptions. A Different Spin on Coriolis: Applying Frame of Reference describes common misconceptions about the Coriolis Effect and includes several activities to help students understand the concept better. (A teacher-created video on frame of reference was recently shared in the NSTA listserves) (SciLinks: Coriolis Effect)
We all want our students to perform high-level tasks, but students may not have the prerequisite skills. Deconstructing to Instruct shows how a teacher broke down the tasks she was asking students to perform into chunks of knowledge and skills and then provided appropriate instruction in the missing pieces (such as compare/contrast or interpreting a data table). There are examples of how the author structures her assessment to learn where students need additional instruction.
Using Formative and Alternative Assessments to Support Instruction and Measure Student Learning is a mouthful of a title!  But then again, this article has lots of ideas. The author describes her journey in helping students learn through using a variety of assessments. She incorporates formative assessment (ungraded) into bellringers and pretests, and she also uses lab reports to identify misconceptions and learning gaps. There is also a discussion of differentiating assessments, including examples and rubrics.
If it’s science fair time in your school (and science projects can be a form of summative assessment), see the article Putting the Science Back in the Science Fair, which focuses on a challenging component: finding researchable questions (this topic is also the theme of the December 2010 issue of Science and Children). The article includes a rubric for science projects. (SciLinks: Science Fair)
Students (and adults!) have many misconceptions about the phases of the moon. But changing these misconceptions requires more than just telling people the correct information. A High-Stakes-Test Intervention shows how teachers used engaging, hands-on activities that were purposefully designed to improve students understanding. The authors include instructions (based on the 5E model), examples of student work, and samples of assessment questions. (SciLinks: Moon Phases)
SciLinks also has resources related to the science content of several articles:

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