Summative Assessment: High Rigor - Low Stress with Katy Dornbos

text: Summative Assessment: High Rigor - Low Stress with Katy Dornbos

On February 25th, Katy Dornbos presented a ChemEd X Talk about how she has transformed the way she is assessing her students - particularly on exams. She was frustrated by how limited class time and text anxiety were restricting the depth of responses her students could provide. Her new method of assessing was born from her desire to decrease student stress, minimize her grading time and keep the questions challenging enough to encourage deep thinking (see figure 1). Both she and her students are happy with the results! 

outline of testing strategy

Figure 1: Testing Strategy


You can watch the edited recording of Katy's Talk below. You will also find a link to her Google Slide presentation and a list of questions generated by teachers that participated in the Talk!


ChemEd X Talk Recording: Edited video of Katy's ChemEd X Talk - Summative Assessment: High Rigor - Low Stress, ChemEd X Vimeo Channel (2/26/2021)


Katy offered a sample take-home question (figure 2) and asked those in attendance to offer their own possible follow up questions for the graded exam. In a matter of two minutes, participants brainstormed and generated 15+ questions! This fun collaboration clearly demonstrated how creative teachers are! 

sample take home test question

Figure 2: Sample take home test question and request for follow-up questions from Talk participants


The questions resulting from our brainstorming session are listed here: 

  1. Rank the molecules from highest to lowest IMFs & explain why you selected that ranking.
  2. Draw how molecule 1 and 2 would interact?
  3. Rank the substances in order for boiling point and explain your choice of ranking.
  4. A student correctly draws a dipole for the X-Y bond that shows the arrow pointing toward the Y atom. Which atom is more electronegative?
  5. In the 1st molecule identify a polar and a non-polar bond.
  6. Which substances are more likely to dissolve in water and explain your choices.
  7. (Another teacher suggested a modification / extension to #6:) offering water and hexane as the options for dissolving
  8. Predict the states of each.
  9. I would use methanol not methoxide...and use ethane.. then ask them to explain the boiling point and explain it.
  10. Change one element in the diagram so that all molecules would interact strongly. Explain your answer.
  11. How, if any, would the polarity of molecule 1 change if we changed the C-O bond to a double bond?
  12. Draw an example of a molecule that contains polar bonds, and yet is classified as a nonpolar molecule.
  13. How did you determine which molecules had no dipoles?
  14. If each of these molecules happened to have a color, which would come off easiest in the wash (I know these don't have a color)
  15. In the first molecule demonstrate the electron density around the C-O bond
  16. Draw two molecules that have the same molecular geometry...but one is polar and the other is nonpolar.

To offer comments or ask questions about this Talk, please log into your ChemEd X account and enter them below.


About Katy

Katy teaches at Norris High School in Nebraska (@NHS_Titans on Twitter). She has been teaching chemistry, dual-credit chemistry, and physics for 12 years in Omaha and Lincoln. She is a proud member of ACS and AACT and is a fan of POGIL, Modeling Instruction and Johnstone’s Triangle. She says she is learning that there are many good ways to teach the same content. Katy is looking forward to taking a team of high school students back to a chemistry tournament at WashU once Covid restrictions are lifted, but for now she is grateful to have safely been in person the whole 2020-2021 school year.  

To find the schedule of future ChemEd X Talks as well as more recordings of previous Talks, see the .