5 Must Have Essentials in a High Quality NGSS 3D Assessment

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Science assessment tasks for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) can come in many different forms, but what should you look for when choosing an assessment?  Or what should you make sure to include when creating your own assessment?

Fortunately, the Task Annotation Project in Science (TAPS) gives us 5 must-have essentials to include in any high quality NGSS 3D Performance Task Assessment. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at these 5 essentials:

1. Be focused on a phenomenon or problem.

 Assessment tasks must focus on addressing a problem or making sense of a phenomenon.

If we want assessments to reflect what students have learned and what they can do, students need to be motivated to engage in tasks. With this, phenomena and problems in an assessment should be compelling and presented so that students clearly understand why what they are figuring out is important or relevant.

This is a must-have essential to assessments, because our goal for student learning is to prepare students to address problems and make sense of the world around them.  Therefore, our assessments must allow students to address problems and make sense of phenomena.

2. Require our students to engage in sense-making.

 Solving problems and making sense of phenomena allow students to demonstrate that they understand the three dimensions and how they can be used in the world around them.

With this must-have essential, assessments might have students connect what they have learned to a problem or phenomenon that involves authentic uncertainty (from the student perspective) or students might make their thinking visible through models, explanations, arguments, investigation plans, questions, and/or predictions.

3. Require students to use both science ideas and practices.

 Students must be required to use at least one science and engineering practice and core idea together as part of their sense-making process.  

The science and engineering practices (SEPs) are the “how” of science—the behaviors and processes that scientists engage in to make sense of phenomena and design solutions to problems. Assessment tasks should provide evidence of students’ ability to engage in the SEPs appropriately: this includes both understanding of what each SEP entails as well as how to use the practice to make sense of the phenomenon. 

Assessments should allow students to make thinking visible in service of sense-making. This could be in the form of modeling, explanation, argumentation, posing questions and hypotheses, designing investigations, etc. 

Crosscutting concepts (CCCs) are an integral component of the Framework and the NGSS, representing ways that scientists and engineers advance their thinking. 

The CCCs should be used by students to deepen their understanding of a scenario through a range of applications, including: 

  • Making connections across multiple science experiences, phenomena, and problems 
  • Engaging in sense-making that requires the use of CCCs
  • Using different CCCs as lenses to reveal further information about a scenario

4. Make sense to students.

One of the primary goals of A Framework for K-12 Science Education, and all standards based on it, such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), is ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn and be part of scientific endeavors. All assessment tasks need to be understandable to the students being asked to respond. 

Assessments should also be relevant, authentic, and meaningful to students, so that students can demonstrate their best thinking. 

The foundation of three-dimensional science standards is using evidence and scientific reasoning to make sense of the world, so assessments must provide all students with ways to show how their thinking is progressing. 

With this must-have essential, assessments might include tasks that connect authentically with students’ ideas and experience, tasks that provide real opportunities for students to figure out something that matters to them, or opportunities for learners across the performance spectrum to make their thinking visible through written language, drawings, verbal responses/ discourse, etc. 

5. Support the intended purpose and use.

It’s important that each task is designed to provide evidence to meet its intended purpose and that we are transparent about what is being assessed and what isn’t. 

To make sure all students are supported in achieving the ambitious goals set by The Framework for K-12 Science Education, we need to develop, select, and use assessments that will surface the right evidence at the right time. 

Recognizing the many considerations that must be weighed when deciding whether assessments are designed for three-dimensional standards and can effectively support students’ science learning, the Task Annotation Project in Science (TAPS) recommends two key steps in creating effective science assessment systems.

Step 1: Decide: What do we want to know about student learning? 

Before designing or selecting assessments, be clear about which inferences of student learning are priorities for particular assessments.  Be transparent about your focus, and plan your tasks, scoring, and feedback accordingly.

Step 2: Surface and Communicate: How do we want students to show us their learning?

Make decisions about how different trade-offs will be made to surface evidence of student learning that aligns with both the intended use of the assessment as well as the goals, values, and perspectives at the table. 

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