A variety of assessment methods is necessary in any classroom. Properly selecting, designing, and administering assessment in the classroom requires familiarity with the array of assessment methods. Performance assessment is any assessment that measures the application of knowledge and skills to new or authentic problems. Performance assessment should require higher-order thinking skills to apply conceptual knowledge to problems students have not seen before. For example, 6th grade TEKS require students to be able to calculate density, mass, and volume. Students should be able to use their knowledge of how density, mass, and volume are related, including the formula for density, to calculate unknown information about an object or to predict what might happen to another variable when one variable has been changed. A sample question: If a block has a mass of 10 g and 5 cm3 what is its density? or If the volume of a sample expands but its mass stays the same what happens to the sample’s density?
Self-assessment is the evaluation of student work and tracking progress by both students and teachers. This allows students to identify their own gaps in content knowledge in order to make plans to improve their comprehension level. Educators naturally assess student work and observe student success patterns to help them adjust their pace. However, putting some of this responsibility into student hands gives them ownership over their learning and helps create investment in growth.
Both performance assessments and self-assessments can be categorized as either formal or informal assessments. Major differences between formal and informal assessments include that formal assessments tend to be high-stakes whereas informal assessments are typically low-stakes. Formal assessments are very data-driven and provide comprehensive information used in comparisons in order to identify students’ knowledge and competency levels. We primarily see standardized assessment and exams as examples of formal assessment. By contrast, informal assessment is much more content- and performance-driven as opposed to being data-driven. Everyday grades such as projects, quizzes, portfolios, and daily activities fall into the category of informal assessment because they are designed to give both the teacher and the student feedback as they progress through their learning. Valid and informative informal assessments draw connections between concepts and real life examples.
Lastly, there are formative and summative assessments. These categories are very similar to formal and informal assessments, with a few key differences. Formative assessments take place while learning is still forming and solidifying. The purpose of formative assessments is to monitor progression through learning concepts. Formative assessments give both students and teachers the opportunity to examine results and outcomes throughout the learning process. These are low-stakes assessments that may come in the form of activities such as Think-Pair-Share, Argument Driven Inquiry, Polling, Admit/Exit Tickets, or Bell Ringers, or visual aids like concept maps and other graphic organizers. As the word summative implies, these assessments occurs at the summation of a set period of time, often at the end of a unit, semester, or year. The goal of summative assessments is evaluation of knowledge and skills. Summative assessments include unit exams, campus and district benchmark exams, end-of-semester exams, and state exams such as the STAAR and EOC exams. Additionally, summative assessments can be long-term projects, papers, or lab reports.
While there is some overlap in the types of assessment, it is important to make sure that as an educator you are intentional about the types and frequencies of each type of assessment you use throughout the unit, semester, and year. Make sure you’re providing enough opportunity for receiving feedback and self-evaluation by students ahead of formal and summative assessments in order to give students adequate time to make an investment in their own learning process.
And that’s some very basic information about the Science Learning, Instruction, and Assessment domain.