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Classroom Assessment and the National Science Education Standards
students need to find out where students currently stand in relation to the goals. Of course, the process is not quite so linear. It is not unusual for the goals to change somewhat as the students and teachers get more involved in the study.
Variety Is Essential
Ms. K's and Ms R's classrooms demonstrate the many ways assessment information can be obtained. In the first scenario, conferences with students allow Ms. K to ask questions, hear specifics of project activity, and probe student reasoning and thought processes. She can get a sense of how and where the individuals are making contributions to their group 's work and help to ensure that they share the work at hand, including development of an understanding of the underlying processes and content addressed by the activity. The information she learns as a result of these conferences will guide decisions on time allocation, pace, resources, and learning activities that she can help provide. After observations and listening to students discuss instruments, Ms. R made the judgment that her students were ready to continue with the activity. The journals prepared by Ms. K's students and the individual reflections of Ms. R's provided the teachers with an indication of their understanding of the scientific concepts they were working with, and thereby allowed them to gain new and different insights into their respective students' work. The entries also provided the teachers with a mechanism, though not the only one, to gain some insight into the individual student's thinking, understanding, and ability to apply knowledge. In Ms. K's class, the journal writing was regular enough that the teacher's comments and questions posed in response to the entries could guide the students as they revisit previous work and move on to related activities and reflections.
Through such varied activities, the teachers in the vignettes are able to see how the students make sense of the data, the context into which they place the data, as well as the opportunity to evaluate and then assist the students on the ability to articulate their understandings and opinions in a written format or by incorporating understandings into a design. As they walk around the room, listening, observing, and interacting with students, both teachers take advantage of the data they collect.
Any single assessment is not likely to be comprehensive enough to provide high-quality information in all the important areas so that a student or teacher can make use of the data. Ms. K, for example, would not use the student conferences to obtain all the information she needs about student comprehension and involvement. She gets different information from reading student journals. In the individual reflections, Ms. R can get additional data to complement or