Classroom-Based Assessment Practices and Student Learning Outcomes

In the form that supports learning, assessment is a ubiquitous aspect of classroom activity and is rarely a discrete event. It involves observing students at work and listening to what they say (Hogan, Nastasi, and Pressley, 2000), being clear with criteria, and making sure the criteria capture and reflect what counts in the subject area (Resnick and Resnick, 1991). It also involves analyzing student work in light of that criteria and paying attention to what they are thinking, attending as much to their reasoning as to what they don’t understand. It involves engaging students as active participants in an assessment activity or conversation, so that it becomes something they do, not merely something done to them (Duschl and Gitomer, 1997; White and Frederiksen, 1998). Finally, and most importantly, all kinds of formative assessment demand using assessment information in a way to inform teaching and learning (Black and Wiliam, 1998a).

The majority of studies cited in this review were performed in middle school classrooms. Thus it is difficult to make any kind of claim about the differences in abilities of students of varying ages to participate in formative assessment. We can confidently say that the formative assessment strategies summarized here suggest middle school students are capable of participating in and benefiting from formative assessment to various degrees. More research needs to be performed in K-5 classrooms to determine if the result is similar for students of that age.


This chapter has presented a range of instructional approaches that can support the four strands of our framework for science proficiency. The programs of instruction we have discussed differ in the aspect of scientific practice they choose to make central—creating well-designed experiments, making sense of scientific phenomena through experiments, applying theories to make sense of data, constructing scientific explanations and models, and convincing a scientific community through scientific argumentation. Although the aspect of scientific practice that is emphasized varies, several common themes are in evidence across these interventions.

The four strands of scientific proficiency come together in instructional approaches that involve learners in scientific practice. Rather than treating scientific content, scientific processes, epistemology, and participation independently in instruction, these proficiencies can be brought together as complementary aspects of science by engaging learners in such practices as investigation, argumentation, explanation, and model building. Teaching science as a practice brings these proficiencies together as they support one

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