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.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…