Research Brief 34 -- Topics: Implementation Assessment

Research Brief: Designing an Assessment System that Measures Three-Dimensional Science Learning

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  • "Knowing" science entails more than students demonstrating knowledge of science facts. Students should be able to discuss and make arguments about science, develop and use models, generate and analyze data, and make connections to crosscutting concepts.
  • Current assessments use large-scale standardized tests that focus heavily on measuring student knowledge of discipline-specific ideas and concepts. These summative assessments do not consider multiple dimensions of student learning or classroom practices that facilitate student engagement.


Many districts and states need an assessment system that aligns with the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education and NGSS to determine whether students are developing proficiency in science and whether students have adequate opportunities for "three-dimensional" science learning that blends (a) science and engineering practices, (b) crosscutting concepts, and (c) disciplinary core ideas. Assessments serve different purposes, so a system must comprise many different kinds of assessments—but all of them should include tasks that integrate the three dimensions.



Things to Consider

Sample Assessments

Reflection Questions

  • What are science assessments currently like in your state? What is missing from your state's science assessment system?
  • How does your state currently determine student proficiency in science? What are the science "performance expectations" within your state and how do those expectations align with NGSS?
  • Who should be involved in designing and implementing a three-dimensional assessment system for science learning?
  • How would you design an assessment system that accounts for science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas? In this system, how would multiple and varied forms of assessment be designed both to evaluate student proficiency in science and to use assessments to improve instruction? How would this assessment system link internal classroom assessments and external monitoring systems? See Chapter 4 and 5 in Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • How can a new assessment system attend to equity in science education? See NGSS, Appendix D, "All Standards, All Students" and NRC Framework, Chapter 11.
  • What teacher professional development models would you propose to build and refine formative classroom assessments?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities your state faces in adopting an assessment system for three-dimensional science learning? See Pellegrino, 2013.



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