New Resource Helps Teachers Make 3-Dimensional Science Assessments

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Now that the majority of states (40, to be specific, plus the District of Columbia) have adopted either the Next Generation Science Standards or very similar science standards, there is a growing focus on how to create assessments that are aligned to the new standards.

The Next Generation Science Standards were developed based on recommendations from the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education.

“Fully meeting the vision set forth by the Framework and Framework-aligned standards requires high-quality and aligned assessments that can provide actionable information to students, teachers, and families,” according to a recent report by the nonprofit Achieve.

The vast majority of the 40 states and D.C. that have adopted new science standards are moving toward new science assessments in grades 3-8. In fact, Arkansas is the only state that will continue to use its existing assessment.

Part of the challenge facing these states will be to ensure that safeguards are in place so that data from the assessments are used effectively, the report found. “Developing new science assessments is challenging, but it is critical that states get them right.”

To help meet this challenge, Achieve launched an initiative called Task Annotation Project in Science (TAPS) to answer the questions: “What does it look like to ask students to demonstrate progress toward three-dimensional standards?” and “what are the most important features of high-quality science tasks?”

Why is TAPS helpful for educators?

This project, called TAPS, is a helpful resource for educators in the classroom as well as district leaders because it provides an in-depth look at what it means to assess in three dimensions.

For example, it describes five features that all three-dimensional assessment tasks need to have:

  • The task is focused on a phenomenon or problem.
  • The task requires students to engage in sense-making.
  • The task requires students to use both science ideas and practices.
  • The task makes sense to students.
  • The task supports the intended purpose and use.

It also breaks down the importance of using phenomena in any assessment, and why it’s important for any assessment task to engage students in sense-making.

Different kinds of assessments have different purposes.

It’s important to have a systems approach to assessment because “despite our desire to learn everything about what a student knows and can do from a single task, no single assessment can provide evidence that is useful to serve the wide range of purposes for which we use assessments,” the TAPS group found.

For example, classroom assessments are a critical component of any assessment system, and should include both formative and summative assessment opportunities, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

This is why formative assessments are an integral part of the KnowAtom curriculum. When teachers gain in-the-moment insight into the effectiveness of their teaching and students gain in-the-moment insight into effectiveness of their learning, student growth accelerates.

“The classroom is going to be the place where we can see and monitor student progress more effectively than through any other assessment,” Aneesha Badrinarayan, TAPS associate director, said on a recent episode of NGSNavigators. “So if we implement the recommendations from TAPS well in the classroom, students should be really well set up to perform on any measure,”

And to learn more about the resources developed by the TAPS group, click here.