The Curriculum
Chapter 4: Foundations of Scientific Literacy
      • Goal of Level Three Science
Chapter 5: Unifying Concepts of Science
      • Unifying Concepts of Science
Chapter 6: Learning Outcomes
     • Strands
     • Matter
     • Energy
     • Life



Assessment should be authentic and reflect broadly-based, transferable skills and conceptual understandings.  Assessment needs to be continuous, authentic, valid, and incorporate multiple assessment tools.  The assessor can be the instructor, the learner, or the learner’s peers.  Learners should have some input into assessment.  Assessment must align with strategies and approaches to instruction as instructors move toward a transactional and transformational approach to teaching and learning. 


Assessment utilizes a variety of tools and techniques to gather information about a learner’s achievements so the instructor can guide and facilitate instruction and learning.  Assessment can be based on observation as well as measurement, using tools such as anecdotal records, checklists, and formal observations.


Assessment tools should allow for an unlimited number of learner responses, encourage creativity, and engage the Processes of Science and problem solving. Assessment tools such as journal writing, portfolios, projects, experimentation, inquiry, and research need to be integrated into the design of the course.  Ways of knowing and a variety of perspectives need to be taken into account when planning for assessment. 



There are several forms of assessment:


Diagnostic assessment determines what knowledge a learner comes with.  It can be helpful to instructors by providing important information on placement in programming and addressing individual learner needs.  It occurs at the beginning of a course or unit of study. 


Formative assessment is continuous and provides feedback to both the instructor and learner about performance, thereby providing directives for continuing learner improvement.  Formative assessment guides instructors’ professional judgements on delivery and design of the course.


Summative assessment gives evidence as to the learners’ acquisition of the General and Specific Learning Outcomes of a particular strand.  This should be the best work of the learner.


Types of Assessment


Because of the different instructional strategies provided by the instructor and the varying learning styles of the learners, it is suggested that a variety of types of assessment methodologies be used to gather evidence of learner achievement.  These methods may include but are not limited to:


Methods of Assessment



Performance Assessment

Learners are given a variety of tasks and situations where they can demonstrate understandings and apply knowledge, skills, and the Foundations of Science to a variety of contexts.

  • Design and conduct an experiment

  • Demonstrate a skill or set of skills

  • Design a classification or measurement system

Authentic Assessment

Assessments tie directly to the applications of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes in the real world.

  • Project-based instruction

  • Simulate a workplace training experience 

  • Build a tipi Make pemmican

Holistic Assessment

Incorporates a wide range of assessment pieces to provide a total picture of the learner.

  • Portfolio

  • Focus on Mind, Heart, Spirit, and Body

  • Problem or project-based learning

  • Invention


Designing Assessment Tools


It is important to remember that the assessment tool should be appropriate for the assessment of the learning outcome, that is, the tool has to “fit” the reason for learning.  Enger and Yager (2001) found that

The assessment practices used should be linked to student outcomes, and the practices should mirror the ways in which students are learning the information.  With any assessment, the underlying purpose for conducting the assessment should guide the assessment design and the use of the results.  (p. 14)


When planning assessment:


Plan assessment while planning instruction.

  • Assessment could be thought of as a guide to instructional design.  It provides the structure for what a learner should know or do so the instructor can align the instructional strategies accordingly.

Diversify assessment.

  • Incorporate a number of different types of assessment strategies and tools which reflect the purposes for assessment.

Ensure assessment strategies are culturally responsive.

  • Use concept mapping, observations, informal interviews, self evaluations, performance tasks, portfolios, creative performances, and exhibitions.  (Stephens, 2000)

When creating an assessment tool:


Know the purpose of the assessment tool.

  • Know which learning outcomes, Ways of Knowing, Generic Skills, Processes of Science, or Habits of Mind are to be assessed and why they are being assessed. Share this with learners.

Align the assessment tool to the type of instruction and learning.

  • Assess for reasoning skills, application of science in real life applications, understanding of the nature of science, and growth of cultural knowledge as well as recollection of information and facts.

Incorporate the learners into the design. 

  • When learners take part in designing the assessment tool there is more awareness of the expectations for success, a framework for beginning the task, and self-empowerment as a result of choosing the criteria themselves.

Reflect on the reliability and validity of the assessment tool.

  • Use fair practices by checking for bias and stereotypes, as well as by identifying gender and cultural sensitivities.
  • Make modifications to meet the needs of students.
  • Ask if the tool assesses what it was intended to.

When using an assessment tool:


Embed it in instruction

  • Discuss expectations, methods of assessment, due dates, instructional goals, and assessment standards.
  • Discuss assessment to generate discussion about what will be learned, why it is being learned, and how it will be learned.

Use it as a tool for reflection to improve instruction or learner performance.

  • Analyze results to identify where learners mastered an area or if an area needs to be readdressed.
  • Examine the instructional strategies to see if there are patterns where there were successes or struggles and adapt accordingly.

Involving Learners in Assessment


It is imperative to have discussions with learners about their learning and learning goals when including learners in assessment.  There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Participating in the design of an assessment tool.  Ensure learners understand the learning outcomes and the criteria used to assess them.  For example, explain how to use a rubric and provide exemplars for learners to use when creating a rubric.  In this way, learners set the criteria and know what feedback is important.

  • Interpreting the evidence from an assessment tool and using it to see how they learn as well as what they learn.   Assessment will have far more meaning when it becomes a process.  Learners and instructors seek and interpret evidence to use as feedback to make decisions about where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there.  Involving learners in assessment by having them use the evidence helps develop an awareness of how they are learning as much as what they are learning. 
  • Reflecting on progress and improvement.  When learners are assessed, the focus should be more than the given “mark” or grade.  Assessment shows progress and helps learners identify ways to improve.  A method of giving this feedback should be integrated into the assessment piece, so instructors and learners have strategies to build weaknesses into strengths.  One strategy for instructors and learners is to find three strengths and a weakness in each assessed assignment.   


Sample Assessment Tools
There are a vast number of teacher resources that include assessment tools.  The following pages present sample assessment tools that can be used “as is” or adapted to suit the needs of the learners and instructors.  Instructors should use their professional judgement in the selection and use of any assessment tool.  The following assessment tools are provided:

  • Assessment Inventory/Planner
  • Reflective Journal/Prior Learning Assessment
  • Research Paper
  • Scientific Literacy Portfolio Chart
  • Project-based Learning Checklist
  • Lab Assessmen