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Classroom Assessment and the National Science Education Standards
complex, pedagogical challenge is heightened because the goals that embody the standards and the related criteria need to be understood by all students.
One of the goals of the Standards is for all students to become independent lifelong learners. The standards emphasize the integral role that regular self-assessment plays in achieving this goal. The document states:
Students need the opportunity to evaluate and reflect on their own scientific understanding and ability. Before students can do this, they need to understand the goals for learning science. The ability to self-assess understanding is an essential tool for self-directed learning. (p. 88)
Sadler (1989) emphasizes the importance of student understanding of what constitutes quality work, “The indispensable condition for improvement is that the student comes to hold a concept of quality roughly equivalent to that held by the teacher...” (p. 121). Yet, conveying to students the standards and criteria for good work is one of the most difficult aspects of involving them in their own assessment. Again, teachers can use various ways to help students develop and cultivate these insights. Following the example of Ms. K's class in the first vignette, students and teachers can become engaged in a substantive, assessment conversation about what is a good presentation, such as a good lab investigation or a good reading summary while engaging students in the development process of assessment rubrics. Another starting point for these conversations could be a discussion about exemplary pieces of work, where students need to think about and share the characteristics of the piece of work that makes it “good.”
In the first vignette, Ms. K facilitates frequent conversations with her class about what constitutes good work. Although these discussions occur at the beginning of the project period, she regularly and deliberately cycles back to issues of expectations and quality to increase their depth of understanding as they get more involved in their projects. In discussions of an exemplary piece of work, she encourages the students to become as specific as possible. Over time, the students begin to help refine some of the criteria by which they will be evaluated. Such a process not only helps to make the criteria more useful; it increases their ownership of the standards by which judgments will be made about their work. For her third graders, Ms. R provides guidelines for planning and presenting their instruments and introduces questions for the students to address as they engage in their work.
WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
Once they have clearly determined where they want to go, teachers and