Formative Assessment Strategies for Earth and Space Science
CAST 2013, Nov 7–9, 2013
What are your students’ conceptions before you introduce a subject? How do you know whether your students have mastered a concept after you have completed the lesson but before test? Use these formative assessment strategies to assess student understanding.
Snowball/Commit and Toss
Used in combination with an anonymous written probe, students ball up their response and toss it to trade sheets, to reduce anxiety and encourage them to write their actual thoughts. The class then discusses the question(s) and cites what is written rather than their own personal thoughts. This can be used as an opening engagement, to assess students’ thinking before a topic is covered.
This strategy allows students to interact through written expression, and encourages them to share their thinking. The teacher can then collect the sheets and assess the students; understanding.
Used in combination with selected response questions to identify a group of students with similar responses to the question; this provides an opportunity for students to make their ideas public and discuss their thoughts with others.
Students can be invited to predict to determine their understanding; “Daylight Hours” will be used as an example.
Building a Model
Students can be invited to demonstrate their knowledge through their motions. “Paper Plate Phases” will be used as an example.
Multiple Choice Think-Pair-Shares
This activity promotes student reflection on their thinking as they defend their choices and explain their reasoning to other students. The multiple choice questions must be fairly complex. This can be used to assess how well students understood the concepts after they have been introduced.
For more information, contact
MS Science teacher, HISD
Formal Education Lead, LPI
Science Formative Assessment: 75 Practical Strategies for Linking Assessment, Instruction, and Learning, by Page Keeley (2008)
NSTA sells this book, which has many further examples beyond “Commit and Toss” and “Four Corners.”
Uncovering Student Ideas in Astronomy, by Page Keeley and Cary Sneider (NSTA 2012)
NSTA sells this book, which has more sophisticated probes for astronomy than in the other editions of Uncovering Student Ideas.
Lecture-Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy, by Edward E. Prather et al (Pearson)
While this book is intended for use with college freshmen, much of the content is appropriate for 8th grade students, whose understanding of seasons is the same or better than the average college student.
For more information, please contact
Formal Education Lead
Lunar and Planetary Institute