Designing Assessments in Physical Science to Align with Three Dimensional Learning

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are very different from the previous generation of science standards. They require learners to use scientific practices (such as asking questions and defining problems) to develop and apply core ideas (such as those concerning forces and motion) and crosscutting concepts (such as cause and effect). Successful implementation of the NGSS will require research into and the development of high-quality assessments that can capture student performance along all 3 dimensions of the new standards and that are instructionally suitable for teachers to use in classrooms.

A key challenge will be to develop new measures of learning that take into account the interdependence of content and practice. Designing assessment tasks based on scientific practices, core ideas and crosscutting concepts as articulated in NGSS performance expectations will challenge assessment development given typical item generation and validation procedures. Few existing curriculum-embedded classroom assessments or large-scale assessment items explicitly elicit students’ understanding of both content and practice. Multiple stakeholders will need examples that come from quality research and development to better understand and instantiate the intent of NGSS, examples that can support the transition to implementation and assessment of the new standards.

The goal of this project is to develop next-generation assessments that address a core idea in physical science—matter and its interactions—by integrating middle school chemistry content (of structure and properties of matter, chemical reactions and energy) with two important scientific practices, constructing explanations and developing and using models. Assessments are being iteratively designed and administered in middle school science classrooms to ensure usability. Moreover, they are being administered across grade levels to enable an examination of how students might progress over time in their ability to use scientific practices in the context of chemistry content. The work includes expert reviews of alignment with the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS to examine construct validity; cognitive analyses to examine cognitive, construct and diagnostic validity; and psychometric analyses to examine empirical validity. A unique feature of the project is the inclusion of teachers in co-developing resources for formative use of the assessments.


You can access the assessment items and learn more about the project at