There are many paths to the same destination: 6 + 3 = 9, but so does 3 * 3! Although we flexibly assess students using formative assessment all of the time, once we get to that anticipated "End of the Unit", it has been customary to give students a summative assessment to find out how much they got out of a unit. If we give space in our classrooms for multiple paths to the destination, why not offer multiple tools to assess what they know?
This lesson illustrates how to prepare for and administer choice in summative assessment. The resources are specific to MS-PS2 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions, however, the framework could be applied to any unit. This lesson is linked to Forces and Motion Assessment Review - a lesson that helps students self-assess and review their performance on their assessment.
In order to ENGAGE students in this lesson, we create a "Pros and Cons Chart" on the board:
Students generate different assessment types: oral, written, test, project, poster and speech are some examples students have experienced. Together, we discuss the benefits (pros) and challenges (cons) of each assessment type. For an example, view: Pros and Cons of Assessment Choices. During the discussion, I steer students toward recognizing that assessment is necessary and doesn't need to feel stressful while also highlighting how different types of assessment may be better matched to different learning styles or preferences.
Teacher Note: This discussion can turn into a complain fest of epic proportions. It may help to set the tone by starting with a discussion about why assessment is an important part of scientific practice and the learning process.
The EXPLORE stage of the lesson is to get students involved in the topic so that they start to build their own understanding. To help students explore their assessment choices, we review the Assessment Choices Student Handout together. As we read the three choices, students carefully consider the pros and cons of each choice based on the amount of time they have, an honest assessment of how much they understand, their ability to work independently and their learning style. I explain that all assessment choices will be weighed equally for the grade and are due at the same time. The three choices are:
Choice 1) Unit Test: Review and complete a test based on the objectives for the unit.
Choice 2) Online Portfolio: Complete a portfolio on your science Web site. You will choose an activity or artifact for each of the objectives for the unit that demonstrates your understanding of the topic and write a short reflection explaining how the artifact shows your understanding.
Choice 3) Experimental Design or Research Project: Plan and conduct an investigation from start to finish on one of the three topics:
For a student explanation of making an assessment choice, view here:
For additional information on the three different assessment choices, visit this section's reflection: Designing Alternate Assessments. Here you will find all the support resources for each assessment.
The EXPLAIN stage provides students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far and figure out what it means. While students are working on review activities following their Forces and Motion Assessment Review Checklist, it is important to check in with each student to listen to their explanations about their assessment choice. This conference is a pivotal strategy that allows a "gentle steering" of students toward a choice that is better suited to their unique skill set. One pitfall I encountered was an initial enthusiasm about the choices that require more independence (portfolio and experimental design). However, student enthusiasm waned once they realized they would need to invest time outside of class in those assessments. It is important to prevent having students avoid an assessment altogether!
Teacher Note: I follow a specific pattern for each unit. Students receive a "Pre/Review Guide" (Forces and Motion Study Guide) and a graphic organizer for their warm ups and essential questions (Forces and Motion EQ and Warm Up Organizer) at the beginning of each unit. At the end, students use the guide to self-assess their level of understanding. The Forces and Motion Review Notes Student Handout (and associated Forces and Motion Review Notes Answer Key) are an additional review and self-assessment tool that is strategically designed to match the unit objectives. Since there is a student need for learning how to study and help organizing their review activities, the Forces and Motion Assessment Review Checklist and Forces and Motion Review Stations Instructions are good strategies. Students are expected to use both class time and time at home to work through the review checklist.
The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. There are two levels of evaluation in this lesson:
Level 1) Student assessments are evaluated by using rubrics (Forces and Motion Final Assessment Rubric and Review Presentation, Science Portfolio Rubric and Complete Experimental Design Rubric) on their level of understanding with respect to the unit objectives. For a student example of an excellent portfolio, view: Forces and Motion Portfolio - Student Advanced Exemplar. For a moderate experimental design that could use some fine-tuning, view: Experimental Design Plan - Student Example. In my class, several students pitched their own ideas. Here is a creative assessment designed by a student that was really above par:
Level 2) Students evaluate their own learning. For more information about this self and peer evaluation process, visit an associated lesson: Forces and Motion Assessment Review. This lesson addresses the question, "What do we do when students haven't learned yet?" Developing re-assessment resources like this one: Forces and Motion Final Assessment Retake will be discussed in more detail in that lesson.