In any part of a next generation science lesson, formative assessments provide useful feedback to both the teacher and the students in the moment.
Formative assessments can come anywhere in a lesson, so they can be verbal, written, electronic, and take a variety of different forms. However, they all share three characteristics.
3 Features Share By All Formative Assessments
- Similar to a milestone, formative assessments occur in the moment as students are engaged in making sense of phenomena, which includes planning and carrying out investigations. This allows students to incorporate the feedback into their thinking and their work, becoming more aware of their own learning process.
- In a formative assessment, the teacher’s role is as interested skeptic, engaged in the student’s argument but pressing for evidence and reasoning. Part of this includes seeing if there's consensus among the group because lab partners should agree.
3. A formative assessment requires a shift in responsibility: instead of a student trying to guess what the teacher wants, the student is productively struggling to develop skills and content knowledge, with support/coaching from the teacher. The goal is to get students out of the mode of guessing what a teacher wants because they believe the teacher has the right answer and the student's trying to get the same answer as the teacher.
Think about the classroom as a place where students are developing the science and engineering practices, the skills.
As the teacher coaches the students, asking them questions about their reasoning, giving them feedback, and holding them to the expectations of how these skills get applied, the result is more skillful, more self-aware, more competent students who better understand what it means to learn well, and who can apply these skills in many different contexts and scenarios.
This technique of challenging students through questions, or having students challenge other students through questions, leads both teachers and students to self-reflection. Once they get that feedback and have thought about it, what do they do with it? Do they think about how they’re going to take the feedback forward in a new context?
When you think about it this way, self-reflection is essentially a throttle for progress. If you’re deeply engaged in self-reflection, then you’re going to be able to take what you’ve learned and use that throttle of self-reflection to move forward quickly.
And this is key as classrooms, schools, and districts look ahead to next generation science assessments. Students will be assessed not just on science content—the facts and trivia of science—but equally on science and engineering practice skills and critical thinking.
The best way to prepare students and teachers for this shift in science assessment is to begin incorporating formative assessments into science classrooms as soon as possible.