Sample Assessments of Student Science Achievement

To illustrate the assessment standards, two examples are provided below. The content standards are stated in terms of understandings and abilities; therefore, the first example is about understanding the natural world. This example requires a body of scientific knowledge and the competence to reason with that information to make predictions, to develop explanations, and to act in scientifically rational ways. The example focuses on predictions and justifying those predictions. The second example is about the ability to inquire, which also requires a body of scientific information and the competence to reason with it to conceptualize, plan, and perform investigations. (These assessment tasks and the content standards do not have a one-to-one correspondence.)

Assessing Understanding of the Natural World

The content standards call for scientific understanding of the natural world. Such understanding requires knowing concepts, principles, laws, and theories of the physical, life, and earth sciences, as well as ideas that are common across the natural sciences. That understanding includes the capacity to reason with knowledge. Discerning what a student knows or how the student reasons is not possible without communication, either verbal or representational, a third essential component of understanding.

Inferences about students' understanding can be based on the analysis of their performances in the science classroom and their work products. Types of performances include making class or public presentations, discussing science matters with peers or teachers, and conducting laboratory work. Products of student work include examina

Clearly relating assessment tasks and products of student work to the valued goals of science education is integral to assessment plans.

tions, journal notes, written reports, diagrams, data sets, physical and mathematical models, and collections of natural objects. Communication is fundamental to both performance and product-based assessments.

Understanding takes different perspectives and is displayed at different levels of sophistication. A physicist's understanding of respiration might be quite different from that of a chemist, just as a cell biologist's understanding of respiration is quite different from that of a physician. The physicist, the chemist, the biologist, and the physician all have a highly sophisticated understanding of respiration. They bring many of the same scientific principles to bear on the concept. However, each is likely to give greater emphasis to concepts that have special significance in their particular discipline. A physicist's emphasis might be on energetics, with little emphasis on the organisms in which respiration takes place. The physician, on the other hand, might emphasize respiration as it specifically applies to humans. The context of application also contributes to differences in perspective.

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