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4 Classroom Assessment and Inquiry The National Science Education comes to measuring outcomes like Standards point out that “assessments “understanding the nature of science provide an operational definition of and the work of scientists.” These standards, in that they define in tests are more likely to require recog- measurable terms what teachers nition and recall rather than in-depth should teach and students should reasoning and application of underly- learn” (NRC, 1996, pp. 5-6). In the ing concepts. As such, they can pose a context of inquiry, assessments serious obstacle to inquiry-based therefore need to gauge the progress science teaching. Teachers are less of students in achieving the three likely to focus on the goals of inquiry major learning outcomes of inquiry- if their students’ performance is based science teaching: conceptual evaluated on district or state-wide tests understandings in science, abilities to that assess isolated facts (Neill and perform scientific inquiry, and under- Medina, 1989). Furthermore, when standings about inquiry. large-scale external examinations take Just as these objectives differ from these forms, teachers tend to create those of other approaches to science similar assessments for their classes education, so assessments of inquiry- (Raizen and Kaser, 1989; Baron, 1990). based science education differ from Assessment in inquiry-based more traditional assessments. Con- classrooms takes a broader perspec- ventional multiple-choice or short- tive on the rich learning called for by answer questions typically ask stu- the Standards. It asks what each dents to identify facts, concepts, or student knows and understands, what vocabulary. Such tests have proven is fuzzy or missing, and what students too broad in their coverage, too can do with what they know. Assess- shallow in the depth of reasoning ment determines whether students required, and too narrow when it can generate or clarify questions, 75 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND INQUIRY

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develop possible explanations, design formative assessments. For example, and conduct investigations, and use Ms. Flores asked her students where data as evidence to support or reject they might find worms and how they their own explanations. At the broad- could build homes for their worms. est level, it measures the capacity of Mr. Gilbert listened as his students students to evaluate the kinds of constructed their models of the earth- questions that scientists investigate, moon-sun system and asked questions understand the purposes of investiga- to assess and further their understand- tions, and assess the qualities of data, ing. Similarly, Mr. Hull observed his explanations, and arguments. students’ drawings of forces to gauge Assessment can take many forms in their understanding. In general, inquiry-based classrooms, and it teachers in inquiry-based classrooms serves many purposes. Assessments are continually assessing to know can range from the questions teachers what to do next, what abilities are ask during a lesson to end-of-unit tests developing, which are still underdevel- and statewide and national examina- oped, and whether the objectives of a tions. Assessment data can be used to particular lesson or unit are being plan a lesson, guide a student’s achieved. learning, calculate grades, determine Formative assessments are impor- access to special programs, inform tant for general planning and guid- policy, allocate resources, or evaluate ance, but they generally are too the quality of a curriculum or instruc- informal and insufficiently docu- tion. In the breadth of its application, mented to answer many of the hard assessment merges seamlessly into questions posed by parents, principals, considerations of the curriculum and and teachers: What have students teaching. actually learned? What evidence An important distinction needs to demonstrates that they are learning? be made between formative assess- How well are they learning it, and at ment and summative assessment. what level of competence? Formative assessments can occur at Formative assessments also are not any time and are used to influence a sufficient to support high-stakes teacher’s plans to meet specific decisions about an individual or student learning experiences and changes in policy or professional needs. Summative assessments development designs. Such decisions typically occur at the end of a learning require summative assessments that activity to determine its impact on provide evidence to parents, teachers, student learning. and policy-makers that a student or The vignettes in the previous class is progressing toward meeting chapter included many examples of the standards for inquiry or falling 76 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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behind. Such assessments require aspects of assessment activities, with a more standardized instruments and a particular focus on students. Finally, it way of recording student responses, looks at “how”— the formats and whether a test, interview protocol, or procedures of assessment. observation guide for a performance assessment. Stable, quantifiable ways WHAT SHOULD BE ASSESSED? of converting student responses to numbers and averages can better The three learning outcomes of support accountability decisions. inquiry-based education involve both The results of summative assess- knowledge and understanding. The ments of student learning can take Standards define these two terms as many forms, from descriptions of follows: individual achievement to formal comparisons across time or with other students. For example, Mr. Gilbert assigned a take-home exam at the end of his session on phases of the moon in which he asked students to summa- rize all of their evidence that sup- ported or refuted their understanding of the phases of the moon. Ms. Idoni assigned as a final assessment a report describing how each student would investigate an unexpected phenom- enon in the lake they had studied. In general, the results of such assess- ments need to be presented in such a way that they can be summarized and compared with other evidence so that judgments can be made. This chapter describes features of classroom assessments that support inquiry and the National Science Education Standards. It first discusses the “what” — what are students supposed to know, understand, and be able to do as a result of their education in science. It then discusses “who” should be responsible for various 77 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND INQUIRY

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Scientific knowledge refers to facts, determine whether they can “use data concepts, principles, laws, theories, to construct a reasonable explanation” and models. . . . Understanding (as specified in the K-4 standard), science requires that an individual “develop descriptions, explanations, integrate a complex structure of and models using evidence” (5-8), and many types of knowledge, includ- “formulate and revise scientific ing the ideas of science, relation- explanations and models using logic ships between ideas, reasons for and evidence” (9-12). these relationships, ways to use the Other inquiry abilities, such as ideas to explain and predict other designing and conducting a scientific natural phenomena, and ways to investigation, are more complex apply them to many events. assessment challenges. Champagne, Understanding encompasses the Kouba, and Hurley (in press) have ability to use knowledge, and it proposed that teachers assess student entails the ability to distinguish between what is and what is not a inquiry by examining four phases of scientific idea (NRC, 1996, p. 23). student investigations: precursor, planning, implementation, and clo- Although understanding has a sure/extension. For each phase, the higher status in science education teacher should delineate the expected than knowledge, it is a mistake to products, abilities, and information. think that all instruction or assess- For example, in the planning phase ments should aim for the higher level the products include the plan, its of outcome. Indeed, when students rationale, and critiques of peers’ plans; fail at complex tasks, one never knows abilities include developing a plan, whether they are lacking specific skills explaining it, and revising it; and the or the knowledge needed for success information includes descriptions of unless one also has examined these characteristics of investigations whose requisites. For example, at the methods are well matched to the beginning of their units on the phases question under investigation. of the moon and static forces, Mr. DeJong and Van Joolingen (1998) Gilbert and Mr. Hull probed their have summarized a parallel body of students’ knowledge of the phenom- research done on inquiry abilities and ena being investigated to establish a understandings. Students often are foundation on which to build more unfamiliar with what a hypothesis complex ideas. should look like (i.e., variables and the Some of the abilities of inquiry can relationships between them), are not be assessed in a relatively straightfor- able to state or adapt hypotheses on ward way. For example, teachers can the basis of data gathered, and avoid observe and listen to students to hypotheses that have a high chance of 78 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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meet this standard (New Stan- being rejected. In designing experi- dards, 1997, p. 133). ments, they tend to seek information that confirms a hypothesis, change too Similarly, the AAAS Assessment many variables at one time, or manipu- Blueprint (AAAS, 1998) suggests late variables irrelevant to the hypoth- posing questions that stress reflective esis. Frequent problems in the thinking, requiring the integration of interpretation of data include confirm- information, rather than reflexive ing the hypothesis regardless of what thinking, where a memorized re- the data indicate and difficulty in sponse is called for. As the Blueprint interpreting graphs (Roberts et al., puts it, “Students should be asked to 1997). Teachers benefit from assess- address questions such as, ‘How do ing their students’ initial ideas about we know this?’ and ‘What difference what it means to conduct an investiga- does it make?’ rather than being asked tion and think scientifically and how to reproduce memorized vocabulary these ideas and their skills change items or the like.” over time. Again, many of these strategies It is easy to say that students should were apparent in the vignettes in not simply learn isolated facts or Chapter 3. For example, when Mrs. definitions without understanding. It Flores wanted to assess her students’ is harder to say what the understand- understanding of the idea of a fair test, ing of a concept looks like or how she had them evaluate whether a students should produce evidence of design they had not previously en- their understanding. In the New countered was fair. Ms. Flores also Standards Project, in which several gave her students rich and open tasks states and urban districts are working such as designing soda bottle homes together to develop an assessment for their worms based on their obser- system based on the Standards, vations of the places where they found conceptual understanding is described worms naturally. as follows: However, many of the assessments in Chapter 3 guided the actual day-to- The student demonstrates concep- tual understanding by using a day evolution of lessons, making those concept accurately to explain assessments susceptible to general observations and make predictions judgments and off-the-top evaluations and by representing a concept in of competence. For assessments that multiple ways (through words, carry stakes, whether of passing diagrams, graphs, or charts, as courses or assigning grades, “stan- appropriate). Both aspects of dardized” ways of evaluating knowl- understanding — explaining and edge and abilities are needed, prefer- representing — are required to 79 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND INQUIRY

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ably ways that can be systematically benefit from better formative assess- and reliably reduced to quantitative ment. This approach to assessment form. Knowledge and understanding therefore narrows the gap in perfor- also need to be probed in multiple mance between the highest and lowest ways, thus ensuring that a memorized achievers. definition does not mask misinforma- Involving students in assessment tion or misunderstanding. both reduces the burden on teachers and lets students know what’s ex- pected of them. Unless students can WHO SHOULD DO THE see the criteria by which they will be ASSESSING? judged and examples of successful Assessments originate from differ- performance, assessment becomes a ent parts of the educational system, game of guessing what’s in the including administrators and teachers. teacher’s head. Students frequently But a particularly important form of fail to make explicit the connection assessment is students’ self-assess- between what they have just done and ment. Engaging students in assess- the question or problem posed. In this ment of their own thinking and respect, it is not surprising that lower- performance allows them to be more achieving students benefit the most self-directive in planning, pursuing, from learning the criteria for success monitoring, and correcting the course and being shown examples of how to of their own learning. Self-assess- achieve these criteria. ment nurtures discovery, teamwork, One way of involving students in communication, and conceptual assessment is to engage them in connections. devising the scoring guide for a task In a review of more than 580 or project. Their first person state- articles on formative assessment, ments, “I explain my ideas clearly and Black and Wiliam (1998a) point out in detail,” and “I used words, numbers, that “students should be trained in drawings, tables, diagrams, or graphs self-assessment, so that they can to show my ideas,” are the students’ understand the main purposes of their translations of the performance learning and thus what they need to standards for inquiry abilities. Giving achieve.” Black and Wiliam also found students the rubric before they start that improved formative assessment does not mean giving them the “cor- — including self-assessment — was rect answer” to their investigation. most effective in raising the perfor- Rather, it is giving them the criteria by mance of students at the low end of which the quality of their conclusions the performance scale, although will be judged. students who perform well also An example of such criteria can be 80 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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seen in the Chapter 3 vignettes in the to have conversations instead of journals Ms. Idoni has her students inquisitions is a very powerful way of keep as they conduct their field work. starting to get data into context” By having her students organize their (Rowe, 1991, p. 91). journals according to the inquiry Gallas (1995) also emphasizes the abilities described in the Standards, value of listening to students; she Ms. Idoni provides them with a way of reports gathering her elementary monitoring their own progress in students for open-ended discussions achieving the standards. The concep- around a particular topic or question tual organization of the journals also provides a framework that students can use in their final project at the end of the course. HOW SHOULD STUDENT LEARNING BE ASSESSED? Educators long have known that an effective teacher learns a great deal about what students know and do not know, and how they think about scientific ideas, simply by listening to them. A number of years ago, Rowe that she calls “Science Talks.” She (1974) identified the very effective allows her students to explore their instructional strategy of “wait time,” own ideas, which may or may not be where teachers’ silence allows stu- related to the experiences she has dents to pose and answer more planned for them. “Children know thoughtful questions than they do when we are ‘taking over’ their when teachers quickly break a silence. agenda. They can sense when the ‘I She suggested thinking in terms of wonder’ in their questions is absorbed questions that individual students into a teacher’s ‘let’s find out and bring with them — for example, show’ agenda” (Gallas, 1995, p. 71). questions of values (e.g., “Who She always asks students to draw, cares?”), ways of knowing (e.g., “What right after the talk, an idea or ideas is the evidence?”), actions (e.g., “What that they felt answered the question must I do with what I know?”), and best, which she uses to follow and consequences (e.g., “Do I know what document the progress of their would happen?”). In writing about learning. assessment, she noted that, “Learning Several important dimensions of the 81 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND INQUIRY

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Table 4-1. Assessment Formats and Procedures On demand Over time Formats multiple choice, constructed investigations, portfolios, true/false, response, research reports, journals, lab matching essays projects notebooks Amount of time typically ~1 min 1-2 min short answers days, weeks, or months or even 2-3 min with 5-15 min open-ended months years justifications responses Whose questions? anonymous or anonymous or the teacher’s or the teacher’s or (audience for the the teacher’s the teacher’s the student’s the student’s answer) What kind of posed narrowly posed narrowly posed more varies questions? openly Source of anonymous or the student’s the student’s the student’s answer the teacher’s What kind of right/wrong extent of correctness standards or standards or answers? criteria for quality criteria for quality Resources usually none none or some equipment, equipment, available during equipment references references assessment Opportunity for none usually none usually some from usually some feedback, revision teachers and peers from teachers and peers familiar formats of multiple choice, science community’s criteria for an constructed response, projects, and excellent response to a particular portfolios, are displayed in Table 4-1. question? The challenge for teachers increases Discussions among teachers at a from the left side of the table to the school or district level, calibrated with right, as the products of assessment the participation of outsiders, are a go from being right or wrong to component of most effective assess- having qualities that must be negoti- ment systems. As Daro (1996, p. 260) ated with other members of the school puts it: community. In other words, what are If standards are to have any real the teacher’s, the school’s, or the consequence, it will have to be 82 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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through the engagement of of how much each student had teachers in a professional commu- learned from the lessons. nity holding each other to a Sometimes teachers, like commer- mutually accountable standard. cial publishers and district officials, They can only hold each other to rely on multiple choice formats standards they understand in because they are easy to score accu- terms of their own students’ work. rately, or because teachers are encour- Thus, deliberating upon their aged to prepare students for state or students’ work with their col- district tests that are in that format. leagues in open but moderated However, it can be difficult to assess scoring discussions will be needed understandings, inquiry abilities, or to make standards a reality for inquiry understandings using just a teachers and thereby for students. multiple choice format. One way to In choosing the appropriate format make multiple choice questions more for an assessment, the nature of the meaningful is to ask students to justify standard needs to be examined. Is it their selections, both by saying why something that can and should be they think their choice is best and why assessed “on demand,” with little time the others are not satisfactory. for reflection or revision? Multiple An additional consideration involves choice and short-answer responses students with limited proficiency in are convenient for assessing the the language of the assessment. things that students should know “at Students who are still acquiring basic the drop of a hat” or “cold.” Many of knowledge of English vocabulary, the things valued in the Standards, syntax, and semantics can have however, require at least the time for problems both understanding and reflection (more than a couple of responding to language-based assess- minutes). Consequently, many ment items. It therefore is important assessments require formats that take to distinguish between what students more time. know in a subject area and how well The vignettes in Chapter 3 empha- they can interpret and respond to size assessments on the right side of specific questions. Table 4-1, in part to demonstrate the The State Collaborative on Assess- varied uses of assessments. But the ment and Student Standards under the full range of assessment formats and Council of Chief State School Officers procedures could be used in any of the (1999) has developed procedures and lessons described in Chapter 3. In materials designed to produce more particular, a combination of evaluative appropriate assessment of English tools likely would be needed to language learning students. These conduct the summative assessments materials point out that assessments 83 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND INQUIRY

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can be affected by linguistic issues (4) life, earth, and physical sciences. (such as the omission of certain The portfolio system includes exhibits letters or sounds that are unknown in for conceptual understanding, scien- a native language), cultural influences tific thinking, tools and communica- (different ways of interpreting a tion, and investigation. Having differ- question), and the degree of familiar- ent exhibits highlights the different ity with English (whether at a social or types of evidence that need to be academic level). Certain patterns of presented for these qualitatively difficulties emerge among students different types of standards. who are learning English, and a The expectation for quality in the knowledge of these patterns can help portfolio is higher than the expecta- make assessments more accurate. tion on the exam, as adequate time, The most comprehensive assess- feedback, and opportunity for revision ment systems include a variety of are in place for the former. Some of instruments. For example, the system the performance standards, such as developed by the New Standards working productively in a group, can Project has three interrelated compo- best be assessed by teacher observa- nents: performance standards, tion, so certification forms for such examinations, and portfolios (New expectations are included in the Standards, 1997). The performance portfolio. Successful implementation standards translate the National depends on the development of a Science Education Standards into cadre of teachers who are experienced statements that indicate the kinds of in scoring against a standards-based activities through which students rubric and on an abundance of ex- could demonstrate competence in a amples of standards-setting work from standard. These standards also a diverse range of students. include examples of student work with A similar system of multiple formats commentary that explains what has been employed in California for aspects of the work illustrate the several years by the Golden State standard and why it is appropriate for Exam in High School Biology, Chemis- that grade level. The examinations try, and Integrated Science. The use a combination of selected and examination includes multiple choice constructed response items, including items, constructed response items, hands-on performance tasks, to yield and laboratory performance tasks. scores in (1) conceptual understand- The portfolio is optional and thus is ing, (2) scientific thinking: design and used only to improve a student’s acquisition of knowledge, (3) scientific score, not to lower it. thinking: analysis and evidence, and 84 I N Q U I R Y A N D T H E N AT I O N A L S C I E N C E E D U C AT I O N S TA N D A R D S

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CONCLUSION measure learning, including large- scale (district-wide, state, national, or This chapter has demonstrated that international) assessments. Summa- assessment for inquiry-based science tive assessments also must meet a education differs from more familiar, number of additional criteria: they traditional assessments for a number should be systematic, replicable, of reasons: the nature of inquiry, the reliable, equitable for all students, goals of inquiry-based instruction, the comparable across classes and alignment of inquiry with the Stan- schools, and interpretable. By meet- dards, and the capacity of a particular ing these criteria, summative assess- assessment to measure actual ments can provide evidence needed to progress toward the Standards. make fair high-stakes decisions — These differences in assessment whether about an individual student’s extend both to formative assessments grades or a system’s need to redesign done to guide learning and to professional development approaches summative assessments designed to for its teachers. 85 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND INQUIRY