Using Hands-on Performance Assessment in K-12 Classrooms: Assessing Student Mastery of Both the Science Practices and DCIs

a. Focus
The nation has new framework and vision for K-12 science education as well as new science standards. Several states have adopted them. Whether or not states adopt the NGSS, the NRC’s vision will guide science education for many years. This new vision advocates for new instructional and assessment strategies. Our beginning teachers have the opportunity to learn several assessment strategies. This workshop provides a learning experience for science teacher educators.

There is a new insistence for alternative assessment strategies with the release of the NGSS. Dr. Helen Quinn, Chair of the Committee on A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, reminds us that the NGSS are “written as performance expectations, require multi-dimensional performance tasks, and stress what students can do with knowledge, not memorized knowledge.”

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) pre-service 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 instruction 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.”

We learn from a recent study (Aydeniz and Southerland, 233) that “standardized testing has a significant influence on science teachers’ instructional and assessment practices in ways that are counter to the learning goals promoted by science education reformists.” Implications for science teacher educators from this study include placing “ a greater emphasis on pre-service science teachers’ understandings of different purposes of assessment.” (ibid., 254)

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 presented directly with their beginning teachers.

Because our students will be faced with mastering the NGSS performance expectations, our teachers need a variety of strategies to assess student progress. Hands-on assessment measures mastery of 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 new national vision for science education.

b. Learning activities

Learning outcomes:

• Complete a hands-on performance task (read background information; predict; test three 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)
• Score their own responses
• Score samples of student work
• Create a plan for implementation, e.g., development and field-testing of a hands-on performance task with their own students.

Instructional strategies: facilitating hands-on instruction/assessment; interactive discussion; modeling; probing

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, 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. (15)

2. Introduction and setting the context for the assessment. Review example instructional plan connecting assessment to instruction and demonstrating scaffolding for the specific assessed practices. (15)

3. Complete the hands-on task. Read background information; predict; test three 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. (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. Debrief the activity; connect it to standards (NGSS and CCSS) and to their own classrooms. (20)

6. Reflect and plan to implement strategies/resources in own professional learning communities and methods courses. Whole group sharing. (20)

c. Target audience

This workshop is of interest to ASTE members as it fulfills the mandate to provide high-quality, timely professional development opportunities for pre-service teachers. Within the ASTE membership, methods instructors responsible for providing instruction in science assessment strategies would be most interested in this presentation. This workshop would be of interest also to curriculum 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 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.

ASTE members also align their work with current research. The new framework (NRC, 2012, 262) states, multiple-choice assessments “can measure some kinds of conceptual knowledge, and they also can provide a snapshot of some practices. But they do not adequately measure other kinds of achievements such as the formulation of scientific explanations or communication of scientific understanding. They also cannot assess students’ ability to design and execute all of the steps involved in carrying out a scientific investigation or engaging in scientific argumentation.”

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 would be of interest to ASTE members by providing a means to grow their expertise in science assessment and be able to share relevant information with their beginning teachers and colleagues.

d. Presenters

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; Sacramento 2010, Clearwater 2012, Charleston 2013, San Antonio 2014, and Portland 2015. Deborah’s doctoral research looked at the characteristics of effective professional development providers. She has worked in this field for over 20 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. “… integration of the dimensions results in greater student understanding of science, therefore the NGSS reflect that and the assessment will need to as well.” (Pruitt, 155)

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)

On-going communication with workshop participants is always encouraged. We provide our email addresses and 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 can provide similar workshops in local areas; e.g., Deborah has presented a similar workshop to pre-service students at CSU Long Beach.

e. Budget

Each participant will be charged $20.00.

We would like 30 as our maximum attendance number.

The budget for the workshop includes the materials participants will take home and the cost of some consumable materials during the workshop.
Each participant will be provided:
One individual kit @ $15.00
Copies of task booklets, score guide, student work samples, references list, pertinent NGSS and CCSS @ $4.00
Consumable materials during the workshop @ $1.00
For this workshop, we need a room with tables. Round tables are preferred allowing enough space for participants to work with shared items in the table’s center.
Also, a LCD projector and screen are needed.