They decide when and how to introduce and approach a concept and determine an appropriate pace. They continually monitor levels of interest and engagement in curricular activity. They attend to the individual student, the small group, and the class as a whole. If data are collected and used to inform the teacher and student, assessment can play a significant role in all the decisions a teacher makes about what actions to take next. A focus on assessment cuts across multiple standards areas. Box 3-10 shows how teaching standards seek to extend the purview of the teacher.

The teacher is able to see whether students are struggling with an activity or concept, whether they have developed fundamental understandings, whether they need to revisit a particular idea or need more practice to develop particular skills. Teachers need to understand the principles of sound assessment and apply those principles as a matter of daily routine practice.

With the knowledge gained from assessment data, a teacher can make choices. Thus, assessment serves not only as a guide to teaching methods but also to selecting and improving curriculum to better match the interests and needs of the students. According to the Assessment Standards (NRC, 1996), planning curricula is one of the primary uses of assessment data. Teachers can use assessment data to make judgments about

  • the developmental appropriateness of the science content,

  • student interest in the content,

  • the effectiveness of activities in producing the desired learning outcome,

  • the effectiveness of the selected examples, and

  • the understanding and abilities students must have to benefit from the selected activities and examples. (p. 87)

Thus assessment data can be used immediately, as Ms. K does when she alters upcoming plans, and Ms. R does when she decides her students are ready to move on to the next stage of activity. The data also are useful when the teachers cover the material again the following year.

BOX 3-10 Assessment in the Teaching Standards

Teaching Standard C:

Teachers of science engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. In doing this, teachers

  • use multiple methods and systematically gather data about student understanding and ability;

  • analyze assessment data to guide teaching;

  • guide students in self-assessment;

  • use student data, observations of teaching, and interactions with colleagues to reflect on and improve teaching practice; and

  • use student data, observations of teaching, and interactions with colleagues to report student achievement and opportunities to learn to students, teachers, parents, policy makers, and the general public.

SOURCE: NRC(1996).

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