Assessing Student Understanding of Density with Simulation and Standards-based Rubric

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SWBAT demonstrate various practices required to correctly identify mystery minerals.

Big Idea

This assessment places the emphasis on the practices required to arrive at correctly identifying minerals, based on their densities. Using simulations helps mimic the practices needed to perform these tasks.

Density Assessment Overview

45 minutes

Given our access to Google Chrome books, I decided to use a simulation to assess students' present understanding of density. The simulation asks students to correctly measure the mass and volume of unknown minerals. They then need to calculate density and use a table of known densities to correctly identify each of the 4 unknown minerals that they choose.  

In a way this assessment represent the cookie-cutter labs that we are trying to avoid as we implement the NGSS. That being said, perhaps you can look at the cookie-cutter labs that you have given in the past and use them to assess learning in a more summative way at the end of a chapter. 

This quiz assesses students ability to gather information required to calculate the density of each unknown mineral so that they may draw pictures representing the their relative density and identify the unknown mineral (MS-PS-1). Several Science and Engineering Practices (2, 4 and 5) are interwoven into this assessment, which enables me to assess students abilities to measure, as well.  

I also developed a standards-based rubric that will be used to assess student understanding of density and how to use density to identify unknown objects. The more I get into creating NGSS lessons, the more I see the usefulness of assessing students' abilities to demonstrate their understanding with standards-based or 3-dimensional rubrics. If we use backwards design to plan the big ideas of what we want our students to accomplish and then plan the strategies and lesson approaches that will get them to the desired end point, we can take those incremental lessons and turn them into different aspects of 3D learning to assess. It's not always about our students' ability to calculate density, however, sometimes we want to assess their ability to plan an investigation, regardless of the outcome. Teachers can use weighted rubrics to assess each student's ability to perform certain NGSS Science and Engineering Practices or use Crosscutting Concepts to form arguments. 

The point is that NGSS is taking the emphasis off of content as the only thing that we can assess, and placing the emphasis on formulating understanding through investigations, reflections and evidence-based argumentation to explain science phenomena.  In order to assess student learning, we need to create rubrics that give them feedback on how they are advancing in a 3-dimensional way.