When working on this unit a pre-assessment was given. I was not sure how much my students had learned in previous classes. It gives me a baseline for what they know and where to head with my lessons. The pre-assessment also allows me to see the growth from the beginning to end of the unit. When given the assessment I am very clear on them just doing there best to help me plan. They are used to this approach because I do it in math and ELA. Students are given time to try the test, they also realize that this will be the same test at the end. To the class, getting the chance to see the test before its a grade sounds fun.
When developing the test, it was critical to move past a simple multiple choice. As a grade level team, we have decided that our assessments need to be more aligned with the Common Core and model some of the formatting they will see on state assessments. To do this, we used diagrams and pictures from the FOSS kit and other sources to create short answer sections where students would have to explain the diagram, possibly label it, and justify their thinking.
At the end of the unit, I remind the class that they will be taking the same pre-assessment that was given to them at the beginning of the unit. I let the class know that they will be able to use their science journal to help them. The other perk to taking a test is that each student will get a Dum Dum Sucker to have while they work. Our saying is that when we take a test we have to get rid of all the Dum Dums. Tests are our time to show off.
After the test was given, I graded and checked students thinking. I find that tests where students explain their thinking can be often subjective in nature. In order for students to really demonstrate learning, I believe that you have to give them multiple opportunities to show they have learned the skills they need to know. It also might require talking with students to understand what they were thinking when writing their explanations. I want to make sure that students learn how to explain their answers and use their knowledge from experiments to add support to their thinking. When students have retaken the test, we go over each question as a class using the document camera. I like when students can explain their thinking and help others to understand the answers.