Diagnostic Assessment Task

girls test tubes

Pairs of students are asked to make a T-Chart about liquids.  In one column, they answer the question: What have we heard about liquids?  In the second column, they make a list of questions they have about liquids.  Results are shared with the whole class to create a single class T-Chart about liquids. 

Formative Assessment Task


Students, working in pairs, are given a bag of the materials seen here.  These are fossil crinoid stems collected in North Georgia.  In this task, students are asked to make at least ten observation of the crinoids, and three inferences.  Each team reports to the class, the three most important observations, and one of their inferences.  

Summative Task

looking thru microscope

Students are asked to make observations of three slides of different cells.  For each they are to make at least three observations, and two inferences.  

Diagnostic, Formative & Summative Assessements

Science as Inquiry advocates a multi-dimensional approach to assessment that includes diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment strategies. Chapter 8 of the text explores each of these assessment strategies and includes many examples of each.

Diagnostic Assessment.  Eliciting students' prior knowledge on a topic is helpful not only to us as teachers, but to the students, for it gives them the opportunity to consider their current understanding of the concepts and ideas they are to learn about.  Uncovering students' prior knowledge  can be achieved in a variety of ways.  Least effective is giving students a paper and pencil "pre-test."  Most effective is engaging the students in an activity, discussion, interview, or conference where they can express their ideas verbally, visually, in writing, or kinesthetically. 

Formative Assessment. Formative assessments are everyday methods that we use to help students improve their learning and understanding of science, as well as a way for teachers to inform and improve their teaching abilities. Teachers who use formative assessment use intellectual tools to provide insight into the nature of their students' understanding and reasoning in science.  These kinds of assessments occur daily, and are called "formative" because they provide evidence for the "forming" or developing understandings that emerge through daily instructional activity.  Formative assessments are not always connected to an assigned grade.  Class discussions and review sessions, the student questions and comments that emerge during instruction, and the way teachers learn to read student engagement, are all types of formative assessment.  Others include student writing in learning logs, lab groups posting answers and data online, and having students listen to and respond to well-chosen questions.  All of the assessments that follow in this section are formative if the teacher is using the substance of these methods and interactions to improve teaching and learning.  Here are a few formative assessment strategies including: observing students, asking questions, student talk, T-Chart conversations, word webs, student writing, alternative multiple choice questions, open-ended questions.  The student log and portfolios can be used for both formative and summative assessment. 

Summative Assessment.  Summative assessment refers to the assessment of learning and summarizes the learning that students have shown for a particular period of time.  It is generally accepted that summative assessments are used to determine what students know and do not know at a particular time.  It is also assumed that these assessments be linked in some way to established standards, and in the case for science, the standards are the National Science Education Standards.  In Science As Inquiry, summative assessments have been expanded to not only include paper and pencil tests, but a whole range of qualitative assessments that be used to provide realistic assessment of student learning.  These include concept maps, portfolios, performance assessments, journals, samples of student work, video tape of student activities, project-based products.