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Developing authentic assessments for middle school science

Avoid making all assessment paper-and-pencil. As teachers, we tend to use techniques in the classroom that are similar to what we experienced as children. However, assessments that ask students for other kinds of performances can engage more children in learning, can assess skills and knowledge in ways that more closely mirror the professional world and can provide broader insights into what children understand.

Here are some authentic assessments you could use in your middle-school science class. Discuss with your mentor or mentee what each of the strategies might tell you about children and how you might develop a performance rubric for the task.

  1. Have students design a game. For example, after teaching the basics of elements on the periodic table, have the students design a game using the periodic table as the game board. They can obtain ideas by looking at games available in any store. Then let the students play the game in class to practice their understanding of elemental properties.
  2. Have students develop a timeline for advancements in science and the pioneers responsible for those developments.
  3. Have students use the cell as the basis for designing a factory to produce genetic code.
  4. Have students develop a sales brochure extolling the virtues of various types of machines.
  5. Have students videotape a one-minute commercial attempting to sell real estate on one of the planets or moons in the solar system.

There are a multitude of possible alternative assessments available on the Internet. Don't limit your thinking to those you have been exposed to as a student.