Alternative assessments provide you opportunities to determine the true level of understanding your students have regarding science and math concepts. These tools improve the learning environment for your students, along with your assessment of their real understanding.
So how does this happen?
The use of an alternative assessment provides students the opportunity to demonstrate their breadth and depth of concept understanding. This moves beyond the traditional multiple choice tests in which many students pass with good guesses or an innate ability to eliminate options.
Although these alternatives often require more work on your part, you will not be unpleasantly surprised with many of your student’s outcome on standardized testing. Why? You have already discovered their weak areas and addressed them in advance.
Technology Based Assessments
The important point to consider when using technology is that it’s only used as a means for students to demonstrate their concept knowledge. The emphasis must not be placed on the quality of a technology based project. Weight in the alternative assessment must be on the concept application and understanding.
Student Blogs – are used in lieu of a hand written journal. Blogs provide a venue for students to reflect on their understanding of concepts, by requiring them to:
- critically analyze ideas in science or math
- respond to scenarios or problems
- provide resources (images, references, websites, etc.) to support their position regarding their understanding of a concept
- provide instructions for how to solve math problems or conduct a scientific investigation
Presentations – are used in lieu of common presentation tools, traditional posters, or works of art. Students use the following alternatives to express their understanding of concepts.
- Voice Tread – provides five tools to communicate with group members, teachers, and students in other schools. Voice Thread provides the ability to share knowledge gained during science or math project based learning activities or data collection activities. These tools are webcam, voice, documents, audio, and images.
- Glogster – provides four methods of communicating content knowledge through interactive posters using images, videos, music, and documents.
- Prezi – allows students to embed videos, vocabulary, websites, mind maps, graphic organizers, and images to provide supporting evidence regarding their knowledge and understanding of concepts.
- One approach is allowing students to create their Prezi throughout a science or math chapter/unit. Then present their Prezi presentation at the end.
- Wall Wisher – students demonstrate their understanding of math concepts through a collection of images or present a reflection of their understanding scientific concepts by showcasing their research.
- Podcasts – used to create a “how to” or instructions for solving a problem in science and math.
- word problems in math
- math problem and solution which requires proof the answer is correct or wrong
- environmental issues in science
- developing step by step procedures for completing a scientific investigation
- writing a series of questions or statements using a term in proper context
- draw pictures to explain a math of science term
Non-Technology Based Assessments
As with technology, they are only used as a means for students to demonstrate their concept knowledge. Weight of alternative assessment must be on application of concept(s)
Mental Math – students must have the opportunity to solve problems without the use of pencil, paper, or technology (computers/calculators). This ability is becoming a lost art for many students today. I have come across few students who can add, subtract, multiply, or divide without the aid of calculator or pencil and paper. Mental math activities not only apply to mathematics, they also apply to areas in science which rely heavily on math. Provide students with activities on a regular basis, for example two days a week, in which they solve problems using mental math techniques.
Problems – task students to create a problem related to a concept and then present ways to solve the problem.
Math and Science Terminology – students write a story which includes vocabulary words in the proper context. Application I do not recommend total reliance on these assessment techniques to evaluate your students. However, I do not support of using traditional methods as the only method for student evaluation. I recommend a mixture of both alternative and traditional assessments to develop a learning community in your classroom.
These are only five examples of alternative assessments you can use to accurately understand your students understanding science and math concepts. Naturally there are many more.
Your Turn. Do you have additional recommendations?