Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry | SRI International

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Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry

SRI is developing classroom assessments to help teachers diagnose student learning in chemistry.

The Chemistry Facets project is implementing a facets-of-thinking perspective to improve formative assessment in high school chemistry. Project goals are to

  1. Identify and develop clusters of facets (student ideas and understandings) related to key high school chemistry concepts
  2. Develop assessment items that diagnose facets within each cluster
  3. Enhance an existing web-based diagnostic assessment tool for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resources for interpreting and using the assessment data
  4. Develop teacher professional development and resource materials to support their use of facet-based approaches in chemistry
  5. Examine whether student learning in chemistry improves for students in chemistry classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system

The facet-based approach to chemistry instruction links standards, curricula, and research in a meaningful way for teachers and students, and as result will support teachers in understanding their students’ conceptual strengths and weaknesses. The assessments are available for free to teachers and students via a web-based assessment system, Diagnoser Tools, thus facilitating the dissemination of these important chemistry assessments and learning resources. Diagnoser auto-scores items and links student performance on items to goal understandings and problematic conceptions. Diagnoser also incorporates teacher resources with lessons to address preconceptions. As a result, teachers should be better equipped to tailor their teaching to support students’ learning in chemistry, and students can monitor their own understanding.

Findings from a quasi-experiment with six high school chemistry teachers and their students indicate that student learning gains were greater when teachers used the facet-based tools and formative assessment practices. Results also provide insight into the nature of students’ problematic thinking in these chemistry classes. The study contributes to the generalizability and instructional validity of facet-based perspectives for instruction and assessment.