Next Generation Science Assessment

Group Of Pupils Using Microscopes In Science Class

A multi-institutional collaborative developed classroom-ready assessment tasks for teachers to gain insights into their students’ proficiency with the Next Generation Science Standards. 

A big challenge facing science teachers who are shifting their instruction to meet the vision of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is how to effectively support the ambitious learning required by the NGSS performance expectations. The performance expectations—the actual standards that students need to achieve— emphasize that all students should actively use and apply knowledge as they engage in real-word science practices. Importantly, each NGSS performance expectation integrates three dimensions of science proficiency by combining a science or engineering practice, disciplinary core idea, and crosscutting concept into a single statement of what is to be assessed at the end of a grade level or grade band.  

An immediate need for many teachers is how to assess their students as they build proficiency with the performance expectations. The Next Generation Science Assessment (NGSA) group is a multi-institutional collaborative that is developing classroom-ready assessment tasks for teachers to gain insights into their students’ progress on achieving the NGSS performance expectations. The group was a collaboration among experts in science education and assessment from SRI International, Michigan State University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Concord Consortium. Their work is supported through funding by the National Science Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. 

To meet the goal of developing formative assessment tasks aligned with the NGSS, the NGSA group systematically unpacked NGSS performance expectations into statements called learning performances, which guide assessment task development for classroom use. Learning performances are akin to learning goals that take on the three-dimensional structure of the performance expectations—they articulate and integrate assessable aspects of performance that build toward the more comprehensive performance expectation. A single learning performance describes an essential part of a performance expectation that students would need to achieve at some point during instruction to ensure that they are progressing toward achieving the more comprehensive performance expectation. Together, a set of learning performances provides the detail needed to create a coherent and bundled set of assessment tasks that cover the full scope of a performance expectation. 

The NGSA group used learning performances to develop assessment tasks and rubrics for formative use in middle school physical science and life science. They created accompanying instructional resources for teachers that provide guidance on how to use the tasks to support instruction. The tasks are delivered through an online portal and designed to allow for flexible use by teachers. Each task requires students to demonstrate three-dimensional performance, yet a typical task can be completed by students within 5-8 minutes. Moreover, the features of tasks are varied in ways that provide different levels of scaffolding appropriate for students having different levels of ability and for diverse classroom settings.    

To learn more about the NGSA design approach and review tasks in the NGSA online portal, please visit the NGSA website 

This research and development effort was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. 

National Science Foundation Grant #1316903. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. 

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Grant #4482. This work was made possible by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation under grant #4482.  The contents are solely of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of their respective institutions or the Moore Foundation. 

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