I believe that the ultimate goal of assessment should be to improve student learning. As such, I hope to use pre-assessment, formative assessment, and summative assessment to gain a sense of the nature and degree of student learning and make changes to my instruction accordingly. I feel very strongly that classroom assessments should be accurate representations of student learning, and I try to accomplish this end through several different means.

Insect Model Project #1 (Dragonfly)

Samples of Formative and Summative Assessment

In my assessment course at William and Mary, I designed a summative assessment as part of a Test Creation Project. For this project, I identified a unit of study and wrote an assessment based on a set of Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO's). I developed these Intended Learning Outcomes by modifying ILO's found in the VA SOL Curriculum and Framework and Expanded Scope and Sequence. To ensure that my assessment met the content and level of cognitive demand specified in my ILO's, I created a table of specifications that allowed me to see the intersection of content and cognitive level. This helped me to create a more valid assessment that aligned with curriculum (i.e., my ILO's) and instruction.

Throughout the process of developing and analyzing this assessment, I came to realize the importance of aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment. If these three factors do not align, then assessment is not an effective measurement of the nature and degree of student learning. In order to make sure that my instruction aligned with assessment throughout my ecology unit, I infused activities and formative assessments regarding food webs throughout the unit. For example, during our owl pellet dissection lab, students were required to create a food web that included the barn owl as a top consumer and its prey (i.e., rodents, small
Insect Model Project #2 (Brown Recluse)
birds) as lower level consumers. Additionally, in the first few minutes of each class period, the do-now consisted of a food-web construction activity. Throughout the week, these food webs became progressively more challenging and required students to synthesize information from other parts of the unit. This type of formative assessment helped me to track progress in my students' understanding of energy transfer in an ecosystem. For this same unit, I also designed a worksheet regarding interspecies relationships that required students to identify the relationship between two organisms (e.g., clown fish and sea anemone) based on minimal background information. I placed the students in mixed-ability groups to tackle these scenarios, and circulated around the room to track progress.

The summative assessment for this unit was a test with 40 multiple choice questions (including several SOL release items), four short answer questions, and a food web construction question in which students had to draw a food web, identify various trophic levels, and describe instances of predation and competition. Out of all the tests I designed during my student teaching, I was most proud of this assessment because I felt that the questions--and in particular the food web question--were well aligned with the curricular goals and instructional activities.

Insect Model Project #3 (Honeybee)

During my student teaching experience, I tried to include a variety of types of assessment. Throughout the semester, I assigned three major projects (two in biology and one in zoology). The zoology project, an insect model project, required students to choose an insect species, create a three-dimensional model of said insect species, and do background research regarding classification, native range, related species, adaptations etc. Below, I have included pictures of several insect projects. Overall, students did an excellent job with this project and were able to make valid conclusions regarding the intersection of structure and function on the worksheet associated with the model. With such a diverse animal phylum, I felt that a project in which students focus on a single species and its adaptations to the environment would more effectively facilitate learning than a comprehensive paper-and-pencil assessment.

Demonstrated growth for a group of students over time
Prior to beginning my unit on the Chesapeake Bay, I asked students to fill out a pre-assessment to gauge their current knowledge of the bay ecosystem. Once the students had completed the two-day lab-based unit, I asked them to fill out a very similar assessment, and then I analyzed both assessments to track the progress of a group of ten students. The results of five questions from both assessments are summarized below, and growth is evident from the date of the pre-assessment to the date of the post-assessment.

Question Content
Identifying the average depth of the bay
0% correct
60% correct
Identifying the length of the bay
0% correct
70% correct
Identifying the 6 states considered part of the Chesapeake Bay watersed
2.8/6 states correct (average)
4.7/6 states correct (average)
Identifying the bay organism that provides the highest source of fishery revenue (blue crab)
50% correct
80% correct
Identifying as many bay species as possible
8.8 speces (average)
11.3 speces (average)

*Note: Neither assessment was graded for accuracy, as the students had recently had an ecology test and turned in a major project. Thus, the scores are indicative of student progress WITHOUT a concerted study effort*

A lesson or instructional activity that was developed based on student assessment results

During my mitosis/meiosis unit, I made the mistake of not providing my students with enough opportunity to manipulate chromosomes to model meiosis. While I did have them create a flipbook detailing the steps of meiosis, many students did not have a clear grasp of the processes inherent to this type of cell division. As such, they performed quite poorly on the cell division test, and I decided that I needed to make some changes to my DNA replication/transcription/translation unit.

To better facilitate student learning, I modified a Gizmo activity provided by explorelearning.com that helped students to better visualize transcription and translation. In this activity, students were able to create complementary RNA molecules by adding nucleotides to a growing chain. They were also able to use the enzyme helicase to "unzip" the two strands of the DNA double helix.

To go along with the Gizmo, students filled out a worksheet that provided directions and guiding questions. The worksheet I used was modified from a supplementary material provided by the ExploreLearning team. After students had completed the Gizmo and filled out the worksheet, we went over the more challenging critical thinking questions as a class. A sample question is provided below:

Sometimes errors occur during transcription or translation, causing an incorrect amino acid sequence. Examine the codon charts above. Each amino acid is coded for by several different codons. How might this offset transcription or translation errors?

Directly following the lesson, I asked students to provide feedback about the Gizmo. Many students replied that the Gizmo had been helpful and that the material seemed much clearer than with notes alone. Their test scores for the unit were also much improved from the cell division unit.