FOSS has developed an assessment system that is used in grades K through 8, with slight modifications determined by grade level. The objectives for the FOSS assessment system fall into three categories: (1) content knowledge, (2) conducting investigations, and (3) building explanations. Content knowledge reflects the “facts” and concepts of science that students learn, appropriate to their ages and experience, and specific to the module they are studying. Conducting investigations focuses on skills needed for successfully engaging in scientific inquiry. FOSS does not expect kindergartners to design original experiments, but when they are presented with a problem to solve, or when they pose a question that can be answered through a simple investigation, they are learning the skills of inquiry. Building explanations refers to students communicating their ideas and building connections between ideas about how the world works. It includes their ability to identify evidence and use it to support their conclusions. The objectives introduced in kindergarten take years to develop fully, and it should not be expected that students master them in one module.
Assessment and teaching must be woven together to provide the greatest benefit to both the child and the teacher. Assessing young children is a process of planning what to assess, observing, questioning, and recording information about student learning for future reference. Observing children reveals their thinking and problem-solving abilities. Questioning probes for understanding. Both observing and questioning will give you information about what individual students can and can’t do, and what they know or don’t know. This information allows you to plan your instruction thoughtfully. For example, if you find students need more experience identifying the behavior of animals, you can provide more time at a center that focuses on animal behavior, or select extension activities that will continue to develop the ability to identify or compare behavior.
Developing strategies for assessing students takes time and practice. The suggested techniques that follow are just that—suggestions. As you try them, let a system that works for you and students evolve. It is not necessary to use all the suggestions, but keep in mind that the most detailed and reliable picture of students’ growth emerges from information gathered using a variety of assessment strategies.
A two-page Assessment Checklist is provided for you to record your observations about students’ progress at the science center or on student sheets and journals. Copy the two pages and attach them to a clipboard so you can keep them nearby. As you observe students working at the center, ask them questions, or review the drawings, dictation, and writing they have completed, you can record a ✓, +, or – on the appropriate Assessment Checklist.
Nos. 1-2—Assessment Sheet
On the first page are spaces for content knowledge that is developed throughout the module and space for writing anecdotal notes about each child. On the second page is a checklist for conducting investigations and building explanations. In the Getting Ready section of each investigation part, you will find a bulleted list of the objectives that are most appropriate to assess in that part. Keep in mind that you will have many opportunities to assess each objective throughout the module, so you do not need to assess every student during every part.
Content knowledge includes:
• animals have structures
• animals have needs
• animals have behaviors
Conducting investigations includes:
• shows respect for animals
• asks questions
• practices safety
• uses tools appropriately
Building explanations includes:
• incorporates new vocabulary
• communicates observations orally
• communicates observations by drawing, dictating, or writing
• compares structures and behavior of animals
Observing at the Science Center. You will find that opportunities for students to develop the concepts and skills described above abound in the science center. The Getting Ready section for each part will suggest those that are highlighted in a particular activity. We suggest that you focus on a few students at a time when using the checklist. Over the course of the module, you’ll have opportunities to observe each student several times. Each time you observe a student, mark the Assessment Checklist with a date and a ✓, +, or – to indicate progress. This system will also help you keep track of how often you have observed each student. Look for improvement over the course of the module.
Student Sheets and Journals. Making good observations and using them to develop explanations for how the natural world works is the essence of science. This process calls for critical thinking and good communication skills. Student sheets can provide you with valuable information about the progress students are making. Student journals (or individual entries made in a class journal) are suggested as a language extension and have a double life as a useful assessment tool. Use the student sheets and journal entries to provide you with evidence that students are accomplishing the learning goals of the module. Record a date and a ✓, +, or – on the Assessment Checklist in the appropriate columns.
A blackline master for individual Narrative Reports to send home to parents or pass on to first-grade teachers is provided in the Assessment Duplication Masters. Make one copy for each student, and use the records you have been keeping on the Assessment Checklist to fill them out. In the comments section, write a few observations and talk about the changes you have seen in each child’s science progress from beginning to end of the module.
Assessment and teaching go hand in hand. Assessing students on a regular basis gives you valuable information to guide instruction and to keep parents and other interested members of the educational community informed about students’ progress. Assessment should be an ongoing part of the everyday life in the classroom.