Seeing Students Learn Science
Integrating Assessment and Instruction in the Classroom
Alexandra Beatty and Heidi Schweingruber
Based on the National Research Council Report
Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards
Board on Science Education
Board on Testing and Assessment
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
This activity was supported by Grant No. B9053 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Beatty, Alexandra S., author. | Schweingruber, Heidi A., author.
Title: Seeing students learn science : integrating assessment and instruction in the classroom / Alexandra Beatty and Heidi Schweingruber
Description: Washington, DC : National Academies Press,  | “Based on the National Research Council Report Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards Board on Science Education Board on Testing and Assessment Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.” | “A Report of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.” | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016056188 | ISBN 9780309444323 (pbk.) | ISBN 9780309444330 (pdf)
Subjects: LCSH: Science—Study and teaching (Elementary)—United States. | Science—Study and teaching (Secondary)—United States. | Science—Study and teaching—United States—Evaluation.
Classification: LCC LB1585.3 .B39 2017 | DDC 372.35/044—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016056188
Digital Object Identifier: 10.17226/23548
Additional copies of this publication are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.
Copyright 2017 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Seeing Students Learn Science: Integrating Assessment and Instruction in the Classroom. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23548.
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.
The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.
The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.
Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.national-academies.org.
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BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION
ADAM GAMORAN (Chair), William T. Grant Foundation
SUNITA COOKE, MiraCosta College
MELANIE COOPER, Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University
RODOLFO DIRZO, Department of Biology, Stanford University
RUSH HOLT, American Association for the Advancement of Science
MATTHEW KREHBIEL, Achieve, Inc.
MICHAEL LACH, Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago
LYNN LIBEN, Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University
CATHY MANDUCA, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College
JOHN MATHER, Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
TONYA MATTHEWS, Michigan Science Center
BRIAN REISER, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University
MARSHALL “MIKE” SMITH, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
ROBERTA TANNER, Retired Physics Teacher, Thompson School District, Loveland, Colorado
SUZANNE WILSON, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Connecticut
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Director
BOARD ON TESTING AND ASSESSMENT
DAVID J. FRANCIS (Chair), Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics, University of Houston
MARK DYNARSKI, Pemberton Research, LLC
JOAN HERMAN, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, University of California, Los Angeles
SHARON LEWIS, Council of Great City Schools, Washington, DC
BRIAN STECHER, Education Program, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
JOHN ROBERT WARREN, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
PATTY MORISON, Acting Director
Science educators in the United States are adapting to a new vision of how students learn science. Children are natural explorers, and their observations and intuitions about the world around them are the foundation for science learning. Unfortunately, the way science has been taught in the United States has not always taken advantage of those attributes. Some students who successfully complete their K–12 science classes have not really had the chance to “do” science for themselves in ways that harness their natural curiosity and understanding of the world around them.
A 2012 report, A Framework for K–12 Science Education, described a way to teach science (see Box P-1). Many educators were already familiar with the ideas in this framework, but it offered specific guidance about what the results of decades of research mean for classroom practice. Many districts and states are using the ideas in that report to make changes that will engage students in thinking and solving problems the way scientists and engineers do and will help them better see how science is relevant to their lives. This approach capitalizes on the natural curiosity all students have about the world around them and helps educators provide varied learning experiences that offer entry points for students from diverse backgrounds.
The 2012 framework served as the blueprint for the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Many states, schools, and districts are changing curriculum, instruction, and professional development to align with these standards or others that are based on the framework. Some states that have not adopted the NGSS are using the 2012 framework to adapt their own standards to these ideas about how students learn science.
No matter how states are adapting, assessments are also changing, and in exciting ways. Existing assessments—whatever their purpose—cannot be used to
measure the full range of activities and interactions that are happening in science classrooms that have adapted to these ideas because they were not designed to do so. Many teachers are using excellent assessment tools, but these will need to be adapted to measure this different kind of learning. New assessment methods will also support teachers in adapting their instruction to this vision. The change needed is not only a revision in strategies for all forms of science assessment, but also a different way of thinking about the progress of students’ science proficiency. This new thinking is as important for the work that science teachers do in the classroom every day as it is for large-scale accountability assessments.
Assessments are simply ways to collect evidence about what students have learned, and you, as a professional educator, already use them every day in your classroom. This book was written to help you improve your understanding of how your students are learning. New assessment strategies can enrich your instruction while you are adapting it, whether or not your state and district are adopting the NGSS or other new standards.
Adapting your instruction and approach to assessment is likely to be a gradual process. The ideas in this book can help you work with your colleagues to start incorporating new assessment thinking into your instructional practice right now. The material in this book is based on a report from the National Research Council, Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards. The committee of researchers and educators who wrote that report analyzed the research in detail and reviewed the innovative work of many researchers and practitioners who have developed new kinds of assessments. The report provided detailed analysis and recommendations.
This book describes the ideas from that report that classroom teachers can use right now, and that principals, district administrators, and pre- and in-service providers can use to support teachers. It’s filled with examples of innovative assessment formats, ways to embed assessments in engaging classroom activities, and ideas for interpreting and using novel kinds of assessment information. It provides ideas and questions educators can use to reflect on what they can adapt right away and what they can work toward more gradually.
The book is organized around some key questions educators have about the new types of assessments:
What’s really different? Chapter 1 gives a quick overview of how ideas about science learning and instruction have changed and why different kinds of assessments are needed.
What does this kind of assessment look like? In Chapter 2 we look at a few examples to see how these ideas and principles work in practice.
What can I learn from my students’ work? In Chapter 3 we look more deeply at the sorts of information you can get from different types of assessments—how they give you evidence of your students’ thinking.
How can I build new kinds of assessments into the flow of my instruction? Chapter 4 describes ways to adapt assessments you already use and to design different ones that will support the changes you are making in your instruction.
How can I work with others in my school, district, and state? In Chapter 5 we focus on how your efforts can interact with what is happening outside your classroom. We look at assessment systems, ways of reporting assessment results, and assessment for monitoring purposes.
A New Way to Think About Science Learning
Science Learning Is Three-Dimensional
Science Understanding Develops Gradually
Capitalizing on Students’ Natural Curiosity
Engaging Students from Diverse Backgrounds
A New Way to Think About Assessment
Building on Assessment Basics—A Quick Primer
The Purpose for Assessing Drives the Design
One Assessment Cannot Serve All Purposes
The Assessment Should Measure What You Intend It to Measure
It Is Critical to Be Sure Students Understand What They Are Being Asked to Do
The Assessment Tasks and Context Should Be Consistent If Groups of Students Are to Be Compared
The Assessment Situation Should Give Every Student a Fair Opportunity to Demonstrate What He or She Has Learned
2 What Does This Kind of Assessment Look Like?
Example 1: What Is Going on Inside Me?
This Task Measures Three-Dimensional Learning
This Task Measures Understanding That Has Developed Gradually
Comparing a Traditional Assessment with the New Approach
Example 2: Biodiversity in the Schoolyard
What Do These Examples Show Us?
3 What Can I Learn from My Students’ Work?
Using a Familiar Activity as an Assessment
Class Discussion as an Assessment
New Ways to Score and Evaluate Student Work
Example 4: Measuring Silkworms
Using Example Student Responses
What Do These Examples Show Us?
4 Building New Kinds of Assessments into the Flow of Your Instruction
Taking Advantage of Technology
What Do These Examples Show Us?
5 You and Your School, District, and State
Working Within an Assessment System
Components of an Integrated Assessment System
Reporting Results That Work Together
Addressing Diversity in the Classroom
Collaborating with Your Colleagues
Professional Development and Service Opportunities
Finding Interdisciplinary Connections
Biographical Sketches of Consulting Experts