11: How You Can Evaluate Student Learning

July 14, 2020

In this episode, Erin talks to Juli Cannon about how how to evaluate student learning in an NGSS setting. Traditional assessments don’t work in an NGSS aligned classroom. In this episode, we discuss various evaluation methods.

Introduction (0:58)

Juli began working with the NGSS in her own classroom when they were released in 2013. Also, she helped other teachers with their NGSS implementation while working as an instructional coach. Additionally, Juli has also done work with the steering committee that worked on the Illinois state assessment for science.

Early NGSS Implementation (3:00)

Juli read the K-12 Science Framework (linked below) when it was released in 2012. Afterward, she started to incorporate some of the things that ideas from the framework into her own classroom.

Like most teachers, she struggled with the early implementation. She explains that she didn’t have a clear idea of what she should be doing because there were so few examples available.

How has your teaching changed with the shift to NGSS? (7:24)

Juli explains that one of the major shifts is having a phenomena-based curriculum. A phenomena-based curriculum connects course materials to real-world scenarios. This is in contrast to the old curricula which seemed to be a set of disconnected science ideas.

Also, Juli says that using the Science and Engineering Practices to discover content is another major shift that has come with NGSS. In a traditional science classroom, teachers give students the facts. In contrast, students in an NGSS classroom analyze data and plan investigations in order to learn the disciplinary core ideas.

Then, Juli explains that the NGSS has limited the content. There are fewer things that students need to know. This makes room for students to spend time learning the process of science.

Finally, Juli says that the facts that students need to know are much more age-appropriate. For example, students used to learn about the phases of the moon in upper elementary school. Now, with NGSS, this concept is addressed in middle school.

What is the major strategy difference between teaching elementary and middle school NGSS? (9:50)

Juli spent a lot of time in different classrooms at various age levels. According to Juli, there are many similarities in the strategies between grade levels. The progression of the standards allows for a significant overlap in the concepts and concept that is taught.

Juli frequently uses the NSTA Matrices for the DCI, CCCs and SEPs to look at the progression between grade levels. (Find these resources linked below.) She uses these to ensure that students are provided with grade-appropriate material.

How do you evaluate student learning in an NGSS setting? (14:56)

There is an overlap between how Juli plans units and the way she evaluates students. When she begins to evaluate student learning of the NGSS, she starts by looking for a phenomenon that will work well with the performance expectations.

However, the phenomena that are used in summative assessments are different than the phenomena presented in the unit. Student’s evaluation in an NGSS classroom is based on their ability to use what they learned and apply it to a novel scenario.

Also, NGSS style assessments have shifted away from evaluating memorization of facts. There are less multiple-choice style questions. Instead, students graph information, develop models and use other Science and Engineering Practices in their assessments.

Finally, NGSS aligned assessments have multiple components. Multiple components are necessary to make sure all three dimensions of the NGSS are addressed.

Formative Assessment Strategies

It is important that teachers are proactive in gathering information about student progress. Formative assessments include formal and informal assessments. Both types are important to include in an NGSS class.

For example, formal assessments include quizzes and exit tickets. Informal assessments include conversations with students and listening to student discussions.

Writing Quality Assessments

Once you have finished creating an assessment, Julie recommends taking the assessment as though you are a student. This strategy is useful in identifying unclear instructions and making sure that the assessment evaluates what you really wants to assess.

Then, she recommends using the sample assessment that you have taken to develop success criteria. It’s important that the success criteria is clearly communicated to students. For example, Juli includes checklists of things that must be included in student models.

It’s also important that to give students timely feedback. While formative assessments are important in developing lessons, they should also be used to let students know if they are off track.

What process do you use to create assessments that evaluate student learning of the NGSS?(22:53)

Start by reviewing the performance expectations that you would like to assess. Also, make sure that you are reviewing evidence statements to make sure that the performance expectations are clear.

Then, Juli uses the tools on to help her write her assessment. Finally, look for a phenomenon that includes all of the performance expectations.

Once she is done creating the assessment, Juli takes the assessment herself. This ensure that the instructions and criteria for are clear.

When creating assessments for the evaluation of student learning in an NGSS setting it is important to include all three dimensions. Below are all of the resources that Juli uses to create these three-dimensional assessments.

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