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Classroom Assessment and the National Science Education Standards
mance would include the ability to identify the source of the vibration and ways to change either pitch or loudness in two directions (raise and lower the pitch of the instrument or make the instrument louder and softer) or change the pitch and loudness in one direction (make the pitch higher and the sound louder). An exemplary performance by a student would include not only the ability to identify the source of the vibration but also to change pitch and loudness in both directions.
Student understanding of the nature of technology will be revealed by the student's ability to reflect on why people make musical instruments —to improve the quality of life—as well as by their explanations of how they managed to make the instrument despite the constraints faced—that is, the ability to articulate why the conceptualization and design turned out to be different from the instrument actually made. (p. 49)
SOURCE: NRC (1996).
There is no one best assessment system for the classroom. What works for Ms. K or Ms. R in their classrooms may not work in another. What is important is that assessment is an ongoing activity, one that relies on multiple strategies and sources for collecting information that bears on the quality of student work and that then can be used to help both the students and the teacher think more pointedly about how the quality might be improved.
In the first vignette, Ms. K is helping her students by painting the broad landscape so that they can see how their work fits into a wider context. She also reminds them of the criteria for quality work. Thus, she is helping them to develop a clear view of what they are to achieve and where they are going. At this stage, the view is usually clearer to the teacher than to the students. One of her responsibilities is to help the students understand and share the goals, which will become progressively clearer to them as the inquiry progresses.
To chart student progress, Ms. K relies on several strategies and sources: observations, conversations, journal assignments, student work, and a final presentation. These opportunities are part of the natural flow of classroom life, indistinguishable for her and for the students from collecting data, discussing findings, planning next steps, drawing conclusions, and communicating findings about the main concepts they are expected to learn. In helping her students to reach their goal, she bases her actions on multiple pieces of evidence that she gleans from activities embedded in her teaching and curriculum. She uses this information to make decisions about work time, about support she needs to provide, and about resource suggestions.