May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Shifts in Types of Assessment with NGSS

Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Heather Wygant

With NGSS, we are rewriting our curriculum and reevaluating how we teach and assess our students. Many of us are looking at more Project-Based Learning and incorporating more engineering projects into what we already do. But what about the way we assess our students?

For years we have trained students to take multiple-choice tests, but now we are facing the possibility of more open-ended, problem solving, written tasks for science assessment. How do we switch from the memorization of facts to the understanding of concepts, and what does that look like for assessments in our classroom?

I have given a few assessments this year attempting to make this drastic shift from multiple-choice (MC) to free response. I can state that some assessments have completely bombed! Consequently, I wanted to share some of what I have learned from these experiences.

We, as teachers, will need to scaffold the shift to free response for our students. We cannot just jump from fact-based MC type tests to free response questions overnight, or even within a week. I experienced this clearly when I gave my first astronomy free response assessment the first semester of this year. The Geology Professional Learning Community (PLC) wanted to do a free response type unit exam, so we gave our students 4 questions that encompassed the major themes of the astronomy unit. A few of our brightest and best were able to tackle this with some decent results, but a majority of the students really struggled. Many of them did not know where to even start answering the questions, even though they could explain it to us verbally after the test was turned in. They just did not know how to get it from their brain onto the paper.

This semester, we are working on smaller pieces woven throughout the units, where students have to answer conceptual questions. When we are providing the free response questions, it is not just a simple statement such as the following, “Explain how the density of water affects ocean currents.” Instead we are providing sentence frames, or prompts to help get students started in answering the questions. These frames provide a base for students to start the questions. For example, if asking for a response about the water cycle, the students are given frames such as, “The water cycle begins with…., then it …, from there it …….” These prompts are there to get the sentence started and provide a sequence for students to move through the process, and it does not fill in the content. As adults, we tend to do this automatically, but our students do not always know how to do this even at the high school level. We still need to help students transition what they learn in English classes to our content. This is a new process for teachers that have been teaching fact-based assessment for the past 10 years

Once the group of teachers in our PLC started providing some sentence frames for our students, our free response submissions improved in quality dramatically. We went from seeing a 10% success rate to an 80% success rate in terms of quality of responses after one test just by using sentence frames to help students get started.  I was impressed

Now we are using these sentence starters in our day-to-day lessons. We’re helping them to make successful connections with the Common Core by having our students structure their learning on a more regular basis in class. The goal is to use these frames regularly in the student learning process so that by the time they get to the summary assessments, they will be experts at how to construct free response answers, regardless of the content.

Written by Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill, CA and is a member of CSTA.

One Response

  1. Can classroomscience or CST host a page(s) wehre these prompts can be posted. I am sure many are working on this (including my school) and reinventing the wheel many times is a waste (IMHO).

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.