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Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning
through the engagement of teachers in a professional community holding each other to a mutually accountable standard. They can only hold each other to standards they understand in terms of their own students’ work. Thus, deliberating upon their students’ work with their colleagues in open but moderated scoring discussions will be needed to make standards a reality for teachers and thereby for students.
In choosing the appropriate format for an assessment, the nature of the standard needs to be examined. Is it something that can and should be assessed “on demand,” with little time for reflection or revision? Multiple choice and short-answer responses are convenient for assessing the things that students should know “at the drop of a hat” or “cold.” Many of the things valued in the Standards, however, require at least the time for reflection (more than a couple of minutes). Consequently, many assessments require formats that take more time.
The vignettes in Chapter 3 emphasize assessments on the right side of Table 4-1, in part to demonstrate the varied uses of assessments. But the full range of assessment formats and procedures could be used in any of the lessons described in Chapter 3. In particular, a combination of evaluative tools likely would be needed to conduct the summative assessments of how much each student had learned from the lessons.
Sometimes teachers, like commercial publishers and district officials, rely on multiple choice formats because they are easy to score accurately, or because teachers are encouraged to prepare students for state or district tests that are in that format. However, it can be difficult to assess understandings, inquiry abilities, or inquiry understandings using just a multiple choice format. One way to make multiple choice questions more meaningful is to ask students to justify their selections, both by saying why they think their choice is best and why the others are not satisfactory.
An additional consideration involves students with limited proficiency in the language of the assessment. Students who are still acquiring basic knowledge of English vocabulary, syntax, and semantics can have problems both understanding and responding to language-based assessment items. It therefore is important to distinguish between what students know in a subject area and how well they can interpret and respond to specific questions.
The State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards under the Council of Chief State School Officers (1999) has developed procedures and materials designed to produce more appropriate assessment of English language learning students. These materials point out that assessments