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Getting Started

Are you new to using Next Generation Science Assessment tasks in your classroom? This series of activities is designed to introduce you to how and why you might use these tasks in your classroom.

Each activity includes a conversation prompt. Click the link to share your ideas and to connect with other science educators.

What is one way that you have shifted or hope to shift your practice to use assessments formatively?

Each performance expectation in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrates three dimensions:

  • crosscutting concepts
  • science and engineering practices
  • disciplinary core ideas

The Next Generation Science Assessment (NGSA) tasks on this site are designed to assess students’ learning of all three dimensions and to give you information that can guide future instruction.

Take a look at this 3rd grade performance expectation for physical science:

3-PS2-1: Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.

The designers of these 3-D formative assessment tasks unpacked each performance expectation, breaking them apart into “doable 3-D chunks” called Learning Performances.

Click here to see the way this was done for 3-PS2-1.

Each formative assessment task is designed to assess one of these Learning Performances.

For example, the task Falling Blocks assesses the following Learning Performance:

Students ask questions based on observations of two objects coming in contact with each other to determine that the resulting unbalanced force on the stationary object being investigated causes the object to start moving.

To see what this might look like for students, preview the Falling Blocks task here.

Falling blocks

What is one success or challenge you’ve had with teaching or assessing the three dimensions of the NGSS?

Thinking About Ways to Use Tasks Formatively

Ways to think about choosing tasks to use

Choosing which tasks to use for your students is an interesting and necessary step. The available tasks are written for grades 3 to 5 and cover a wide range of contexts and content. Factors that teachers consider when choosing tasks include:

  • What do you want to learn about what your students know and can do? For example, if you want to know if they need more experience with a particular practice like modeling or argumentation, then you might look at tasks that use that practice.
  • What content are you going to be teaching? You can look for tasks that match that topic.
  • What science and engineering practices have your students had opportunities to engage in? Tasks that engage students in practices that they are familiar with might give them more opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of the content.

Adding even a single task into your instructional sequence can provide a great opportunity for formatively assessing your students’ work.

As you familiarize yourself with a task, you may find yourself wondering whether your students have had sufficient experience to be able to show what they know. Many of our teacher collaborators find it helpful to select multiple tasks – one focal task (to use for formal formative assessment) and a paired task (to use informally as part of your instruction BEFORE the focal task).

Each task has a resource page that provides helpful information to help you figure out if it is suitable for your classroom. Feel free to pick just one task and check for ‘Recommended Pairings” in the “Implementation Options” tab.

See the Resources tab for links to all task pages.

What is one way you’ve implemented an NGSA formative assessment task in your own classroom? Or, what is a new way that you’re excited to try?

Each task has a corresponding rubric designed to help you understand student responses.

This annotated rubric introduces the elements of each rubric and gives suggestions for how you might use the rubrics to assess your students’ work.

In an earlier section, we took a look at the Falling Blocks task. Click here to see the rubric for the Falling Blocks task.

Additional resources for anticipating, monitoring, and responding to student work on these tasks are currently being developed. Check back here for additional resources in the future!

What is something you look for when you assess student work on a performance task?

Formative assessment is assessment for learning. How will you take what you’ve learned about your students and use it to push their learning forward? There’s no one right way to do this, and you know your students, what they understand, and what they need. Here are some ways that teachers have used what they’ve learned:

  • Use what you learned to adjust future lessons. Perhaps you found out that many of your students have a particular misconception, or struggle with a particular skill. You can use this information to plan for, or to adjust, lesson plans in the future.
  • Plan for small-group instruction. Sometimes, you learn that a small group of students needs to reinforce a particular skill or understanding, and small-group instruction might allow you to target a group of students who need this most.
  • Plan a re-engagement discussion with the class. Re-engaging with a task is different from reteaching the material. In a re-engagement discussion, you might share one or more pieces of student work and ask questions that push students to notice, compare, or evaluate aspects of that work. After the re-engagement discussion, provide time for students to return to and improve their own work on the task. The book 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Task-Based Discussions in Science by Jennifer Cartier, Margaret Smith, Mary Kay Stein, and Danielle Ross is a useful resource for planning and implementing discussions like these.

How do you or how might you adjust your instruction based on what you learn from formative assessment?

Tasks by Grade and Discipline
Grade Discipline Topic Tasks
3 Earth & Space Science Weather & Climate
3 Life Science Life Cycles
3 Physical Science Balanced and Unbalanced Forces
4 Earth & Space Science Patterns in Geological Features
4 Life Science Structure & Function
4 Physical Science Energy & Energy Transfers
5 Earth and Space Science Water Distribution on Earth
5 Life Science Plant Growth
5 Physical Science Gravitational Forces