Using Case Study Assessments

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Guest Blog by Brenda Moore and Kent Rockwell

Kent and Brenda currently teach science at Alpha Secondary in Burnaby, BC. Kent teaches junior science and Chemistry. He is very interested in new possibilities for assessment and hands on ways to show learning. Brenda teaches junior Science, Math, and Physics. She is passionate about integrating her engineering background into activities that allow students to explore the design thinking and skill development. 

Looking for an innovative way to assess the curricular competencies in your secondary science classroom? We were inspired by the Ministry of Education’s Framework for Classroom Assessment to create our own “Case Study Assessment” (CSA) for junior science (see image above).

Following the Sample Application for Grade 9 Science, we sought out major thematic pieces within Science 9 and 10 to use as a foundation for each CSA. For Science 10, we chose acid-base chemistry, and for Science 9, we chose Earth’s spheres. Links to our final CSA’s can be found here. We’ll take this opportunity to walk you through the process behind the final product!

Taking our Science 10 CSA, for example, we were looking for ways to assess students’ development of curricular competencies through the content pieces of pH and indicators. Our vision was for a place-based narrative to frame the CSA and provide meaningful context for the assessment. Through brainstorming we came up with the idea of contaminated run-off, and quickly linked this to the historical operations at Britannia Mine. When we started researching Brittania Mine and its environmental impact on the Howe Sound, we discovered that this was an issue that had been researched for many years. We constructed the CSA by providing detailed and relevant background information, and then dived into context-specific questions aligned with the Criteria Categories above. Students were expected to work within the narrative to analyze the raw data in order to form realistic conclusions about the impact of the mining activities on the natural environment.

When we implemented this in classes, students worked collaboratively on the CSA in partners. Students were assessed using the proficiency scale (see image below) in each of the curricular competencies.Proficiency Scale

We observed that students were engaged, focused and most importantly actively communicating with one another to develop their responses. Their partner discussions were rich and lively as they sought to support their ideas with evidence and reasoning. Students seemed more relaxed than a traditional test, as they focused on their critical thinking and communication as opposed to rote facts and repetition.  After the CSA, students began posing questions related to the narrative and were eager to know ways to improve their responses.

Going forward, our vision is for each Big Idea in Science 8, 9, and 10 to be assessed using a CSA in place of a traditional unit test. The open-ended nature of this assessment shifts student focus away from content to thinking processes and reasoning, which better allows the educator to assess student development aligned with the competencies.

Other Case Study Data Resources:

National Centre for Case Study Teaching in Science

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