The Insect and the Spider

    Titles in this example emphasize some of the components of the assessment process. In the vision of science education described in the Standards, teaching often cannot be distinguished from assessment. In this example, Ms. M. uses information from observations of student work and discussion to change classroom practice to improve student understanding of complex ideas. She has a repertoire of analogies, questions, and examples that she has developed and uses when needed. The students develop answers to questions about an analogy using written and diagrammatic representations. The administrator recognizes that teachers make plans but adapt them and provided Ms. M. with an opportunity to explain the reasoning supporting her decision.

    [This example highlights some elements of Teaching Standard A and B; Assessment Standard A, 5-8 Content Standard B, and Program Standard F.]

    SCIENCE CONTENT: The 5-8 Physical Science Content Standard includes an understanding of motions and forces. One of the supporting ideas is that the motion of an object can be described by the change in its position with time.

    ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY: Students respond to questions about frames of reference with extended written responses and diagrams.

    ASSESSMENT TYPE: This is an individual extended response exercise embedded in teaching.

    ASSESSMENT PURPOSE: The teacher uses the information from this activity to improve the lesson.

    DATA: Students' written responses. Teacher's observations.

    CONTEXT: A seventh-grade class is studying the motion of objects. One student, describing his idea about motion and forces, points to a book on the desk and says "right now the book is not moving." A second student interrupts, "Oh, yes it is. The book is on the desk, the desk is on the floor, the floor is a part of the building, the building is sitting on the Earth, the Earth is rotating on its axis and revolving around the Sun, and the whole solar system is moving through the Milky Way." The second student sits back with a self-satisfied smile on her face. All discussion ceases.

    Ms. M. signals time and poses the following questions to the class. Imagine an insect and a spider on a lily pad floating down a stream. The spider is walking around the edge of lily pad. The insect is sitting in the middle of the pad watching the spider. How would the insect describe its own motion? How would the insect describe the spider's motion? How would a bird sitting on the edge of the stream describe the motion of the insect and the spider? After setting the class to work discussing the questions, the teacher walks around the room listening to the discussions. Ms. M. asks the students to write answers to the questions she posed; she suggests that the students use diagrams as a part of the responses.

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