middle school science

What do you want to know about your students' chemical thinking? Categorizing chemistry formative assessments

In order to teach chemistry effectively, we must ascertain what our students are thinking about chemistry and make a decision regarding what to do with what we learn. Formative assessment questions provide a useful lens into students' minds regarding what they are thinking about chemistry. Let us consider then, how categorizing formative assessment questions could help us plan out our classes more deliberately, in order to better design purposeful written formative assessments that align with our curricular goals. 

Skype with a Scientist Live

This year so many in-person events at school have not been able to happen due to COVID restrictions. One activity that the author's science honor society students have enjoyed greatly is the Skype with a Scientist Live sessions. Students register in advance and then have the opportunity to be face to face with a scientist.

Session 9 at a Glance

The session begins by asking participants to discuss teaching dilemmas and identify those that have come up for them at their school or in their instruction. Participants focus on examining and commenting on their videos, specifically with regard to eliciting and advancing moves. They then learn about the advantages and purposes for taking a dialogic or an authoritative stance when probing students’ chemical thinking. Time is set aside to support teachers with adjusting or modifying their final formative assessment and receiving feedback from their peers before they give the FA to their students. 

Session 8 at a Glance

The goal for session 8 is to focus on the formative assessment enactment model. Teachers revisit the formative assessment enactment model and reflect upon its versatility and value for classroom use. This session uses videos of student discourse to help participants grapple with the critical aspects of the Formative Assessment Enactment Model. Participants explore a spectrum of teacher decision-making in the moment with regard to questioning students. Participants examine and analyze the following:  eliciting moves;  how to narrow or open up student responses; advancing moves; and whether to use directing or responding questions. 

Session 7 at a Glance

Session 7 returns to cognitive interviewing as a formative assessment strategy and focuses on noticing and interpreting student thinking during the interview process. The session begins with participants examining their cognitive interviews with a partner. They are asked to notice the chemistry content that the students are grappling with and the connections to the chemical thinking framework. The focus is to analyze teacher questions to consider if they are eliciting ideas or advancing students' thinking toward a correct answer.  During this session participants consider three ways that students typically frame a discussion with a teacher -- as inquiry, oral examination, or expert interview. Participants practice identifying which frame a student is assuming, to consider the way asking a question could influence how a student responds. Discussion leads to revisiting the teaching dilemmas (conceptual, pedagogical, cultural, and political) that come up when employing formative assessments that aim to strengthen students’ chemical thinking. 

Session 6 at a Glance

Session 6 focuses on cognitive interviewing as a formative assessment strategy that is conducted between a teacher and one student to elicit students’ thinking. The teacher interviews one student at a time with a set of probing questions that uncovers conceptual understanding. Key elements to consider in developing and using cognitive interviewing with a formative assessment are: the questions are open ended, you are not assessing whether the student answers are right or wrong, it is not a time to correct student thinking (it is a time for noticing, not for teaching) and provides an opportunity to listen to students’ thinking to collect data. Teachers will have time during the session to practice thinking like a student.