cess when asked to analyze and explain the products and process of their investigation (White and Frederiksen, 1998). Davis and Linn (2000) examined student learning in the context of a computer-based investigation that provided prompts asking students to reflect on their ideas as they engaged in investigations. They analyzed eighth grade students’ performance as they engaged in computer-based investigations in which they collected real-time data and performed simulations and experiments. As students read articles on the computer, for example, they were prompted to state the major claim of the piece. As they evaluated claims, they were prompted to provide concrete concerns and revise claims to more accurately reflect the evidence. Students who used prompts developed greater awareness of their own knowledge and were better able to take advantage of opportunities to learn and integrate their knowledge.

Taken together, these studies (and others: see, e.g., Suthers, 2003) show that interacting with software prompts can help students articulate their understanding as well as provide rationales for decisions that they would otherwise not make explicit. This articulation and reflection is also critical to the success of collaboration, helping students converge on a consensus or uncover unknown disagreements that can determine whether groups are successful or not in their collaboration (Barron, 2003). Rather than considering reflection to be something that occurs at the end of an activity, what emerges from this work is the need for ongoing articulation of understanding and reflection on both the practices and the content of the investigation.

Formative Assessment2

Formative assessment practices present an additional set of strategies that are at a teacher’s disposal. As we have argued throughout this volume and underscored in this chapter, students’ ideas and experience in science are essential to science teaching that will help them make sense of scientific phenomena. Accordingly, teachers must have access to their ideas, as well as a range of strategies they can use to learn what students understand about a given topic. Instruction should fundamentally link what students understand at the beginning of a given unit of study to what they learn by the end. Formative assessment places agency for the improvement of learning on both the teacher and student as they move through a unit of instruction (Shavelson and Stanford Education Assessment Laboratory, 2003). The formative assessment literature frames the importance of better understanding classroom assessment in the move to raise standards and improve learning


This section is based on the commissioned paper by Erin Marie Furtak titled, “Formative Assessment in K-8 Science Education: A Conceptual Review.”

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