Assessing Progress

Evaluating Content Knowledge and Practices

The FOSS assessment system includes both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments monitor learning during the process of instruction. They measure progress, provide information about learning, and are generally diagnostic. Summative assessment looks at the learning after instruction is completed, and it measures achievement.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment in FOSS, called embedded assessment, occurs on a daily basis. You observe action during class or review notebooks after class. Embedded assessment provides continuous monitoring of students' learning and helps you make decisions about whether to review, extend, or move on to the next idea to be covered. The embedded assessments are based on authentic work, often students' science notebook entries, produced by students during the course of participating in the FOSS activities. Embedded assessment is assessment for learning, not assessment of learning.

Assessing the three dimensions envisioned in the NRC Framework and the NGSS performance expectations requires you to peek over students' shoulders while they are in the act of doing science or engineering, called performance assessment. FOSS has designated several opportunities in each module to assess all three dimensions at once: students' conceptual understanding, their science and engineering practices, and how they employ crosscutting concepts to investigate a variety of phenomena.

Summative Assessment

Benchmark assessments are short summative assessments given after each investigation. These I-Checks are actually hybrid tools: they provide summative information about students' achievement, and because they occur soon after teaching each investigation, they can be used diagnostically as well. The assessment items do not simply identify whether a student knows a piece of science content. The items identify the depth to which students understand science concepts and principles and the extent to which students can apply that understanding. Since the output from the benchmark assessments is descriptive and complex, it can be used for formative as well as summative purposes.

FOSSmap and Online Assessment

FOSSmap is an assessment management program designed for FOSS teachers in grades 3-5. The system allows teachers to open survey, I-Check, and posttest assessments to students, review those assessments, assign tutorial sessions for individual students based on assessment performance, and access detailed reporting tools.

FOSSmap was developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science in conjunction with the Berkeley Evaluation and Assessment Research Center at the University of California, as part of a 5-year research and development project funded by the National Science Foundation. It is based on the tools developed during the Assessing Science Knowledge (ASK) project.

FOSSmap automatically codes the multiple-choice, multiple-answer, and short-answer questions. Once the codes are in the FOSSmap program, you can generate and display several reports.

  • Student Assessment Summary: Indicates the level achieved by individual students on all the assessments taken up to any point in the module.
  • Student-by-Item Report: Provides information about what the student knows or needs to work on.
  • Class-Frequency Report: Indicating how many students achieved each level. The survey and posttest are shown on the same page for easy comparison.
  • Class-by-Level Report: Lists class percentages and students who achieved each level.
  • Class-by-Item Report: Lists for each item the names and percentages of students who selected each answer, what code (score) they received, and a description of what students know or need help with based on how they answered each item.
  • Code-Frequency Report: Shows how many students received each code.