Assessment Strategies
and Tools

Documenting Assessment

As students are engaged in tasks, activities, and product creation, you will use various tools to document their thinking and progress toward learning goals. Set up a manageable record keeping system that works for you. You might, for instance, keep a folder for each student for notes, rubrics, and checklists.

Anecdotal Notes
These are short descriptions of meaningful incidents, events, and student comments that you observe (and hear) as students are engaged with Journey North. Many teachers try to record just what they observe or hear; at later point, they review notes and identify what they reveal about student thinking, understanding, attitudes, and abilities.

You can keep these on separate cards or sticky computer labels so they can go right into students’ individual assessment folders or individual students pages in a 3-ring binder.

Some Assessment Management Tips

  • Have students date all work so you and they can assess progress.

  • Maintain an assessment folder for each student.
  • When students make pre/post concept maps, charts, or drawings, have them use different colors before an after Journey North learning experiences.
  • Have students write down journaling questions before answering them so you and they have a record.
  • Use sticky labels or Post-It notes to note observations, student comments, and other evidence of student thinking/abilities. Transfer these to pages in students’ journals.

Assessment Checklists and Scales
Checklists note whether or not a behavior or understanding exists. A basic checklist requires you (or students) to simply check off items; you can also leave room for brief comments on each item. Scales note to what degree a behavior exists or they describe the behavior. A “Likert” scale, for instance, has a simple scoring system so you can check off a level of achievement for each item (e.g., beginning, developing, mastery).

You can use these while students are engaged in activities and discussions, apply them as you review student work, or have students use them as self- or peer-assessments. If you design a checklist or scale, be sure it reflects what you (and your standards) identify as the most important skills, attitudes, and content.

Rubrics offer you, students, and peers a chance to evaluate students’ grasp of concepts/topics by considering different levels of performance. If you hand them out before the assignment begins, students can think about the criteria on which their work will be judged. An assessment rubric contains a measurement scale (often 4-point), a set of criteria, and performance descriptions for each point on the scale. A rubric can be general so it can be used in many contexts (e.g., rubric for effective science investigations) or task-specific.

Consider taking photographs at different points during Journey North studies. These can jog your memory about what students were doing and saying during various investigations. More important, you can use them as prompts to get youngsters to explain their thinking. For instance, you might ask, How were you acting like a scientist here? or have students write about what was happening in a photo and what they learned from the experience.

Interpreting Children’s Work
By reviewing students’ drawings, writing, graphs, and other work, you can uncover what and how students understand so you can make instructional decisions to build on that understanding. Ideally, you’d have students explain and describe their thinking processes and use their responses as a window into their thinking. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Student Drawings: How do these change over time? How has the level of detail changed? Is it stereotypical or realistic?
  • Graphs and Charts: Is it labeled correctly? Is it the right type of graph to represent the data? (For instance, a pie graph can be used to show the proportion of Journey North schools participating from 5 different regions of the country. A line graph, on the other hand, can represent the relationship between latitude and winter photoperiod in the Northern Hemisphere.) Does it have appropriate scale?
  • Journals/Portfolios: How do the early and later entries compare? What evidence is there of growth or change in thinking, understanding, attitudes, or abilities? What piece of work tells me the most about the student as a scientist (or geographer)? What does it tell me? What can this tell me about how to help student(s) extend their learning/skills?