Starting with the Assessment

Using NGSS performance expectations in our classrooms can be fun and challenging. One of the most challenging aspects is assessment. Yesterday while working with a group, I developed the start of an assessment. Here I will walk through our development process.

  1. We decided to find a Performance Expectation (PE) to create the assessment about. Though a unit of study would ideally cover multiple PE’s, the assessment may cover each PE independently. We chose MS-ESS2-2 – “Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.”
  2. Recognizing the PE identifies the scientific practice to include, we turned to another resource for question ideas. Stem Teaching Tool #30 provides ideas for questions for each of the scientific practices. In this case, we recognized the PE was expecting the student to use the practice of constructing explanations. Page 12 of the document provided ideas for “constructing explanations” questions.
  3. Next we brainstormed local phenomena to tie into this PE. Since we live in the BEAUTIFUL Pacific Northwest, we thought Mt. St. Helens and the Columbia River Gorge would be local enough for our students to be familiar with and able to connect to for this assessment.
  4. Here is the assessment question we wrote: Q, R, and S are arguing about processes that shape the Earth. Q believes plate tectonics have had the most dramatic impact on our landscape. R argues landslides have had more impact and S argues glacial movement is most drastic. Using your understanding of Mt. St. Helens (pre- and post-1980) and the Columbia River Gorge, construct an argument in favor of Q, R or S. Be sure to include evidence that points to the weaknesses in the arguments of the other two students.

The beauty of this process for me is that I can now see a starting point. I know I will need my students to uncover the change in the landscape of Mt. St. Helens following its eruption in 1980. I will need to provide opportunities for them to explore plate tectonics and the connection to volcano formation. I will also want to include experiences for them to explore the destructive properties of glacial and water erosion, including the Missoula floods. My mind is filling with so many ideas I could share with my students and experiences I want them to engage in to develop the understanding expected. This is exciting!

Starting with the assessment enables us to develop lessons with a specific goal in mind. In some ways, it is viewing the picture on the sewing pattern cover first, before you open the package and see all the pieces. For me, NGSS and the standards based approach have encouraged this idea of assessment-first planning and I think I like it!

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