Assessment Strategies
and Tools

Ongoing Assessment:
Opportunities During Journey North Studies

Projects, Products, Performances

Teachers often use projects and presentations to wrap up a unit; you can use them at any point during a Journey North study to teach, apply, and reinforce concepts and skills, and to assess student gains. If you expect to uncover what students really think, know, and can do, you should co-develop or share a list of fair and reasonable expectations and outcomes for each project so students know what targets they’re shooting for. (If you’re using a rubric, for instance, work together on criteria for different levels of success.)

  • Displays That “Tell a Story” - Have small groups apply what they’ve learned and create bulletin board panels or a collage depicting changes during a spring season (for example see: Follow Spring's Journey North).
  • Drawings - Ask students to do the same type of drawing before and after your Journey North investigations (for instance, a drawing of a monarch life cycle or images of what students think of when they hear the word "scientist").

  • Models - Challenge students to apply their understanding by creating a model from familiar materials that shows why we have seasons. When you assess the project, look for this evidence: 1.) the earth is tilted on an axis, 2.) different parts of earth receive direct rays from the sun at different times of the year, 3.) the relation of earth’s hemispheres in relation to the sun are what result in different seasons.

  • Mock Science Conferences or Debates - These can mirror real-world scientific events and enable students to share opinions, support ideas with evidence, and demonstrate their understanding of key issues. For instance, the class might have a conference to explore solutions to the problem of habitat loss in monarchs’ overwintering territory. You can also use the event to assess their abilities to listen carefully and respect others’ ideas, communicate clearly and persuasively, and critically evaluate ideas.

  • Teaching a Lesson - When students plan and teach something to a new audience, their own understanding is enriched and reinforced. Invite your students to teach a younger class about photoperiod after participating in the Mystery Class project.

  • Newspaper Article/Letter to the Editor - What should people in your community know about the importance of protecting wildlife habitats? Have your students share their opinions and offer evidence to support them.
  • Ads or Travel Brochures - Challenge students to create an ad or brochure to entice more butterflies to join the migration to Mexico. Students must “sell” the trip by describing the route, highlights of the trip, food resources, and what awaits them in the winter grounds. Another example: have small groups create print or video ads to persuade people to plant wildlife habitats.

  • Reports and Presentations - These can be individual or group projects that reveal what students gained throughout a unit (for instance, Spring’s Arrival in our home town). Build in assessment at every stage, from planning, to researching, to presenting the finished project. Consider assigning media presentations, such as asking students to develop a slide show, Hypercard project, or video on the unfolding of spring in their neighborhood. Also see Encouraging Inquiry-Based Research.

  • Planning Investigations/Experiments - You can assess students’ abilities to “do science” by challenging them to think and act like scientists. For instance, ask students to design and/or conduct a “fair test” to answer one of their questions about tulip growth or basic needs. You can score this type of “performance assessment” according to specific criteria. See sample Science Process Skills Scale and Rubric for Scientific Inquiry/Investigations.

  • Specific Performance Task - Challenge students to a task that requires them to apply what they’ve learned. You may want to pose an authentic or contrived scenario and describe the task and criteria for success. For instance, The parks department wants to show visitors how to protect migratory butterflies by creating habitat pockets. Your assignment is to design and create a map for a butterfly garden. It must be drawn to scale, list at least 10 plant types and colors, and depict other features that meet the insects’ basic needs.