The model not only provided a rough assessment instrument that could reveal whether students had and used knowledge about program structure, but also served as a set of cognitive objectives in the form of a highly detailed group of productions that could guide instruction and assessment. Klahr and Carver also devised a process for teaching children both the productions and the reasons why they were useful and efficient. The instruction combined explaining to students, posting visual examples of mappings, and engaging children in practice with increasingly subtle bugs. Students achieved the goals of this instruction and were able to transfer these skills to another, nonprogramming procedure, such as written instructions for following a map or recipe. This example shows how characterization of cognitive objectives in the form of productions can provide powerful guidance for instruction and assessment, even when the teaching and assessment methods are fairly conventional.
The preceding three examples are representative of the many cases in which a connection between theories of cognition and learning and the processes of instruction and assessment has been forged. Efforts such as these seek to provide clearer benchmarks of student thinking so that teachers can understand what preceded and is likely to follow the student performance they observe in their classrooms. Having good formative benchmarks helps channel teachers’ attention toward important components and landmarks of thinking. These types of programs therefore emphasize ongoing classroom assessment as an integral part of teaching practice, while still allowing teachers the flexibility to decide which kinds of assistance from their repertoires of informed practice will best achieve the learning goals. Thus the effectiveness of assessment based on cognitive theory rests on a bedrock of informed professional practice.
There are several other examples in the literature in which cognitive principles have been applied to instruction and assessment. Some are not as tightly linked to a highly explicit underlying model of cognition. Marshall’s (1995) schematic problem-solving system for teaching elementary school mathematics is an example. Others, discussed more fully later in this report, include Hunt and Minstrell’s (1996) DIAGNOSER and White and Frederiksen’s (1998) Thinkertools programs for teaching high school and middle school science, respectively. Records of students’ interactions with these programs are a rich source of information about which strategies students use, how well they are able to recognize and repair flawed strategies, and in which situations they see particular knowledge as relevant. As discussed later in this report, efforts such as these provide a foundation for exploring new