*The Essence of Continuous Assessment Continuous Assessment (CA)Continuous Assessment is listening closely to students, observing students as they are engaged in learning, as they are engaged with materials, and trying to understand what they understand.
The best way I can describe continuous assessment is the process of learning to be with children in such a way as to understand their thinking so that you can continually expand, challenge, and scaffold each child’s experiences.
Teachers see that they don’t have to wait until the unit is done and the test is given and graded to find out how their students are doing. They can gather the information right then and there while the students are exploring their ideas.
Naturalistic assessment – evaluation that is rooted in the natural setting of the classroom & involves observation of student performance in an informal context. Documentation, is a process of classroom observation & record keeping over time, across learning modalities, & in coordination with colleagues.
In the inquiry-based classroom, CA is crucial to student learning. Students’ understanding & skills unfold naturally as they work with materials & explore their ideas through investigations & discussions, it is important that you be present . Being there to interact with your students both as a facilitator & an assessor, you can gather important information while the students are engaged in inquiry. Keeping track of this information & analysing the data can help you to understand your students ’ thinking, & to monitor their growth in the concepts, processes, & dispositions of science. When students become “stuck” & need guidance, your intervention can help them delve deeper & move forward in their understanding.
What we value (in science learning) What you want students to know and be able to do The dispositions of science – e.g. being able to use evidence to propose explanations, being willing to revise explanations as a result of new evidence or discussion, being open-minded, being able to persevere, etc. The processes of science – identifying questions, observing systematically, measuring accurately, controlling variables. Etc. The concepts of science – properties of matter, diversity and adaptations of organisms, the earth in the solar system, etc.
Techniques for Continuous Assesment Sitting and listening Closely .Teachers watch the behaviour of the students at work and listen closely to their conversations. At times, they may ask questions during conversations to clarify details about what students are doing and what they are finding out, but otherwise do not interfere.
Purposeful Questioning. Teachers ask open-ended questions that enable students to reflect on, clarify, and explain their thinking and actions and give their point of view during investigations.Sharing New Material/Information. Teachers give students new materials or information to help them move deeper in their inquiry.
Tools for Continuous AssessmentTeacher’s observation notesVideotapeAudiotapePhotographsStudent science writingArtifacts and products of student science
Why use continuous assesment?Serves instruction while monitoring growth – immediate; or helps you decide what to do the next day.Enhances student learning - catalyse deeper thinking and understanding as students reflect on their own investigative processes and experiences.
When you work with your students in their science investigations, you can help them see that what they’re doing is considered “good science.” They begin to realise that when they make a careful observation, when they make a table to organise their data, when they communicate their findings to the group, they are doing the same things that scientists do. Pointing these things out helps students recognise what is valued so they can work toward concrete learning goals and identify their own growth.
Enables teacher’s professional growth – become more reflective about your own practices and refine your teaching strategies. Provides information to report students ’ progress – Over time the documentation of the evolution of students’ understandings, skills, and science dispositions can be accumulated and can provide a wealth of data for reporting student progress.
*The Context for Continuous Assessment: Student Inquiry Students explore their ideas through hands-on experiences, analysing and interpreting the information they collect along the way. At each step, they communicate findings and discuss their ideas with others. In synthesizing their ideas to create explanations, they connect what they already know about the phenomena with the new knowledge gained from their investigations, your explanations, and other scientific resources. Throughout the process other questions emerge, and the inquiry cycle begins again. CA, likewise, is an inquiry into student learning.
What is inquiry? Is a multifaceted activity that involves making observations; posing questions; examining books and other resources of information to see what is already known; planning investigations; reviewing what is alreay known in light of experimental evidence; using tools to gather, analyse, and interpret data; proposing answers, explanations, and predictions; and communicating the results. Inquiry requires identification of assumptions, use of critical and logical thinking, and consideration of alternative explanations.
The Foundation: Trust and Respect Teachers believe that their students come to classroom with strongly held and well-developed (though not necessarily scientific) ideas about the natural world. Practices like – uncovering students’ ideas about the natural world and using these as starting points for investigations; building on these ideas and setting up experiences, such as student- directed investigations and discussions, that guide students toward particular learning goals; work to engage students and support their learning.
The Cycle of Inquiry The initial phase – the way students come to engage in the inquiry, is described as an invitation to learn. The explore, discover, create phase – students explore the question, the materials, and their ideas about the scientific phenomena presented to them.
The Cycle of Inquiry Propose explanations and solutions phase – They work to explain new views they have constructed about a concept based on their observations, their data, their peers’ data, outside resources, and your input. The final phase – students consider how to extend their new understanding and skills, and take next steps. Thecycle is not a lock-step process .
Inquiry/ Standard-Based Science What Does It Look Like? Students view themselves as scientists in the process of learning Students accept an “invitation to learn” and really engaged in the exploration process Students plan and carry out investigations Students communicate using a variety of methods
Inquiry/ Standard-Based Science What Does It Look Like? Students propose explanations and solutions and build a deeper understanding of science concepts Students raise questions Students observe Students critique their science practices
Using Continuous Assessment Within a Cycle of Inquiry How can you assess students without uprooting them? CA allows you to capture a wide range of evidence about your students while they are conducting and making sense of their investigations. At each phase of the cycle of inquiry, you are able to use CA techniques and tools to collect, document, and analyse information about your students and put your findings to use. You are able to look for indicators of growth in your students ’ science learning without interrupting them.
Using Continuous Assessment Within a Cycle of Inquiry Science inquiry leads to actions, and new questions come up for investigation based on your students’ observations and findings; the same is true when you take action based on the findings you glean by observing your students. You can determine your next steps for teaching, and what the focus for your next round of observations of students will be. CA mirrors the inquiry process itself. In a sense, inquiry demands this type of formative assessment!
Just as gardeners, you need to be clear about the concepts, processes, and dispositions you expect students to develop throughout the inquiry cycle. Having this clarity will let you know what to plan, facilitate, and collect evidence of, and what to analyse to determine student growth.
You will find that the content standards become more internalised as you use them both as goals to plan your students ’ activities and as targets for assessment. The more you use standards, the more you will become clear about what they are and the evidense to look for to determine if students are using them and growing in their understanding of them.
If you trust that students learn science best through doing science, and if you ’re interested in promoting and honouring students’ growth in the processes and dispositions of science and conceptual understanding, you will want to assess their learning throughout their investigations. Student growth in these areas is ongoing. All of these goals of science learning are reached while students are fully engaged in their investigations and discussions. Why wait until the unit is finished before you start looking for evidence of learning?