There has been an emerging awareness over the past decade that much of secondary science assessment has been focused on assessment for grading and reporting and very little assessment has been used to improve teaching and learning.
Research shows that students' existing naive understandings, many of which are misconceptions, have a profound influence over what meaning they make from their science activities. This means there is a need to determine common student misunderstandings at the start of a unit of work so they can be addressed during the unit. In this Energy and change unit, diagnostic assessment resources have been provided to elicit student misconceptions at the start of each module.
With the development of new curriculum frameworks and the identification of learning outcomes, there is now a greater awareness of the progressive development of students' conceptual understandings. This development ranges from understandings and explanations based on (and limited to) concrete experiences of phenomena through to understandings and explanations that are abstract and highly conceptualised principles and models of science.
Samples of students' work and classroom observations made by teachers can be used to track students' developing understandings and to structure activities that will help move them on to the next developmental stage along the learning continuum. In this Energy and change unit, a concept development progress map has been provided for each of the Light, Electricity and Energy modules to help interpret student work samples, map students' conceptual development and plan interventions to move them on to the next developmental stage, thereby supporting formative assessment. Each of the student activities in the unit has been classified in terms of three levels of conceptual challenge from one star to three stars.
Teachers can use this information to match students' levels of conceptual development to activities that challenge them to move on to the next level. This can be used to differentiate instruction within the class so that some groups may be consolidating understandings while other groups are extending understandings to more abstract levels.
With the identification of learning outcomes that contribute to scientific literacy, more emphasis is being placed on students developing deeper understandings of important broad concepts rather than merely being able to recall facts. Consequently, greater use is being made of assessment tasks that probe students' understandings and elicit their explanations about phenomena rather than simply relying on multiple-choice items for assessment.
A short quiz has been provided for each of the Light, Electricity and Energy modules including items that can be used to provide information for formative or for summative (levelling, grading and reporting) assessment purposes. In addition, a set of assessment items has been compiled from which teachers can select items for inclusion in an end-of-term (unit) test to suit their particular assessment needs and State or Territory learning outcomes.
The ways in which the assessment resources in the Energy and change unit can be used are summarised below.
Initial diagnostic assessment
On-going formative assessment
|Use the probe questions in the introductory discussions of each module and identify common misconceptions that need to be challenged during the unit.
||Analyse student work samples from classwork and map developing understandings against the conceptual development progress map. When selecting activities for the class or for different groups within the class, match the level of challenge of the activities to students' readiness for them.
||Use the end-of-module quizzes and the end-of-term (unit) test resources to collect information to confirm levels or grades for reporting purposes.