Hands-on Performance Assessment for K-12 Students: An Effective Formative Assessment Strategy for 3D Learning

Focus and relevance of the workshop

There is a new urgency for alternative assessment strategies for beginning teachers with the implementation of the NGSS. In fact, for veteran teachers as well, effective, relevant assessment strategies are needed. This workshop focuses on hands-on performance assessment and how ASTE members can facilitate deepening understanding of both (1) using this type of assessment in K-12 classrooms, and, (2) beginning science teachers’ understandings of different purposes of assessment.

In an effort to appeal to a broad cross-section of ASTE membership, several of the NSTA Standards for Science Teacher Preparation (2012) addressing not just disciplinary core ideas, but science practices as well, will be included.

2a – Plan multiple lessons using a variety of inquiry approaches that demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of how students learn science.
2b – Include active inquiry lessons where students collect and interpret data in order to develop and communicate concepts and understand scientific processes, relationships and natural patterns from empirical experiences.
2c – Design instructional and assessment strategies that confront and address naïve concepts/preconceptions.
5a – Pre-service teachers will collect, organize, analyze, and reflect on diagnostic, formative and summative evidence of a change in mental functioning demonstrating that scientific knowledge is gained and/or corrected.
5c – Engage students in developmentally appropriate inquiries that require them to develop concepts and relationships from their observations, data, and inferences in a scientific manner.

This workshop is relevant for another reason. The research is directing us to explore and examine additional and new assessment strategies. Released in December, 2013, the NRCs Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards advocates, “New kinds of science assessments are needed to support the new vision and understanding of students’ science learning.”

With the “ongoing struggle toward developing pre-service teacher competencies with regard to performance assessment,” (Paulson, 2010), this workshop focuses on a deep understanding of hands-on performance assessment as a means to increase both student conceptual understanding and competence with the practices. Workshop participants will be able to use the relevant strategies and information immediately.

Because our students will be faced with mastering both DCIs and practices, students demonstrate their abilities and understandings with actual hands-on materials and investigations. Firsthand, or concrete, learning involves . . . “manipulations of real objects, not abstractions of reality. One cannot say enough about the value of firsthand experiences, which activate a multiplicity of our five senses, the only avenues into the brain.” (Lowery)

This workshop, besides being research-based and addressing several Standards for Science Teacher Preparation and ASTE Professional Knowledge Standards, is timely and responds positively to the national vision for science education.

Those most interested

A broad cross-section of the ASTE membership will be interested in this workshop, although methods instructors responsible for providing instruction in science assessment strategies will be most interested. In addition to methods instructors, this workshop will be of interest also to curriculum developers and assessment developers, looking for assessments addressing the performance expectations to include in their curriculum units. Educational researchers may choose to use hands-on performance assessment within a teacher professional development project (Clary, et al.) to measure teacher growth with both DCIs and practices and/or with students of teachers in such a project to measure similar growth. Workshop participants are able to replicate the relevant strategies, materials, and information presented directly with their beginning teachers or in their own classrooms.

Methods instructors can influence the kinds and variety of assessments their beginning teachers use. It has been said, “assessment instruments are key levers of change.” Hands-on performance assessment can serve as one of those levers. In fact, “teachers’ practices can be changed by providing them with [alternative] assessment instruments.” (Millar)

Standard 3.a from the ASTE Position Statement on Professional Knowledge Standards for Science Teacher Educators states, “Expertise in assessment of educational outcomes should be both theoretical and practical (as with knowledge of curriculum and instruction).” This workshop contributes to the world of science teacher education and will be of interest to ASTE members by providing a means to grow their expertise in science assessment and their ability to share practical, relevant information with their beginning teachers and colleagues.

Presenters’ background

Deborah Tucker, Ed.D., and Grant Gardner will present this workshop. They presented similar, well-received, 1-hour sessions and workshops at previous ASTE conferences. Please note that this proposal includes a few new features, e.g., a template (which serves as a scaffold when constructing one’s own tasks) for participants to de-construct the performance task and a small group activity on the rationale for hands-on learning and assessment.

Deborah’s doctoral research looked at the characteristics of effective professional development providers. She has worked in this field for over 25 years. Grant has developed materials for science and math assessments, educational materials, and custom science and custom math curriculum kits for 25 years.

These presenters have developed various hands-on performance tasks, stay current in their research fields, and feel strongly that science classrooms must always include hands-on instruction and assessment. Hands-on instruction, including assessment, is engaging for learners. “Student engagement measures have been shown to correlate positively with achievement and negatively with the likelihood of dropping out of school. Engaged students are more likely to earn better grades and perform well on standardized tests.” (Fredricks, et al., 2)

Learning outcomes of the session

• Complete a hands-on performance task (read background information and scenario; predict; test two variables using materials provided; collect and analyze data; create explanations based on collected data; critique predictions based on data collected; apply learnings to a real-world scenario) that connects to the real world
• Score their own responses
• Score samples of student work
• De-construct the performance task; connect it to DCIs, SEPs, and crosscutting concepts.
• Create a plan for implementation, e.g., development and field-testing of a hands-on performance task with their own students.

Instructional strategies used in the workshop include facilitating: hands-on instruction/assessment; interactive discussion; modeling; probing; using models; encouraging student-student interactions and interdependence as well as student independence; asking participants to use evidence to support their conclusions; and meaningful discourse. We anticipate that through the use of these instructional strategies that transparency in the teacher talk around artifacts of practice will support the development of ideas and new assessment tools. Much as researchers found the importance of artifacts present in professional learning helps to focus teacher conversations around classroom practice. (Heredia, et al.)

The effectiveness of the workshop will be determined as participants complete each of the learning outcomes. Evaluation for learning occurs as participants first complete the hands-on task, score sample student work, de-construct the task, and create and share their “next steps” for implementing hands-on assessment with their students.

Workshop activities (120 minutes)

1. Brief overview of types and uses of assessments. (10)

2. Introduction and setting the context for the hands-on performance assessment. Review an example instructional plan connecting assessment to instruction and demonstrate scaffolding for the specifically assessed practices and small group activity on the rationale for hands-on learning and assessment. (20)

3. Complete the hands-on task. Read background information and scenario; predict; test two variables using materials provided; collect and analyze data; create explanations based on collected data; critique predictions based on data collected; apply learnings to a real-world scenario. The task we plan to use as an example of a hands-on performance assessment task was designed and used in grade 8. It is a physical science task that addresses Newton’s Third Law asking students to: design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects, and, plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. We use this middle grades task as our example as it clearly demonstrates several steps on science investigation and includes using multiple values for two distinct variables. (30)

4. Score own assessment and sample student work with provided rubric. Lots of discussion (regarding assessing student understanding, calibrating readers, anchor papers) is generated. (20)

5. De-construct the performance task; connect it to DCIs, SEPs, and crosscutting concepts. Use this format to develop tasks for your own classroom. (25)

6. Reflect and plan to implement strategies/resources in own professional learning communities and methods courses. Whole group sharing. Responding to any further questions on the extensive references list we provide. (15)

Workshop follow-up

Yes, we will make ourselves available. On-going communication with workshop participants is always encouraged. We reach out to participants. We provide our email addresses and business cards. We follow-up with emails to participants who chose to sign our roster. Often, conversations continue at the next ASTE meeting or at other conferences (e.g., NSTA, NSELA, and state teachers association) during the year. We offer similar workshops in local areas; e.g., Deborah has presented a similar workshop to pre-service students at CSU Long Beach. Workshop participants are welcome to contact us as they implement their plans for hands-on performance assessment in their methods courses and own learning environments.