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Assessment and Evaluation of Student Achievement

Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools, First Edition, Covering Grades 1 to 12, 2010 sets out the Ministry of Education’s assessment, evaluation, and reporting policy. The policy aims to maintain high standards, improve student learning, and benefit all students, parents, and teachers in elementary and secondary schools across the province. Successful implementation of this policy depends on the professional judgement of teachers at all levels as well as their high expectations of all students, and on their ability to work together with and to build trust and confidence among parents and students.

Major aspects of assessment, evaluation, and reporting policy are summarized in the main “Assessment and Evaluation” section. The key tool for assessment and evaluation in science – the achievement chart – is provided below.

Culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy (CRRP) reflects and affirms students’ racial and social identities, languages, and family structures. It involves careful acknowledgement, respect, and understanding of the similarities and differences among students, and between students and teachers, in order to respond effectively to student thinking and promote student learning.

Engaging in assessment from a CRRP stance requires that teachers gain awareness of and reflect on their own beliefs about who a science learner is and what they can achieve (see the questions for consideration provided below). In this process, teachers engage in continual self-reflection – and the critical analysis of various data – to understand and address the ways in which teacher identity and bias affect the assessment and evaluation of student learning. Assessment from a CRRP stance starts with having a deep knowledge of every student and understanding of how they learn best.

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve student learning. Assessment for learning creates opportunities for teachers to intentionally learn about each student and their sociocultural and linguistic background in order to gather a variety of evidence about their learning in a way that is reflective of and responsive to each student’s strengths, experiences, interests, and cultural ways of knowing. Ongoing descriptive feedback and responsive coaching for improvement are essential for improving student learning.

Teachers engage in assessment as learning by creating ongoing opportunities for all students to develop their capacity to be confident, independent, autonomous learners who set individual goals, monitor their own progress, determine next steps, and reflect on their thinking and learning in relation to learning goals and curriculum expectations. One way in which teachers differentiate assessment is by providing tasks that allow multiple entry points for all students to engage and that enable all students to access complex science.

Assessment of learning is used by the teacher to summarize learning at a given point in time. This summary is used to make judgements about the quality of student learning on the basis of established criteria, to assign a value to represent that quality, and to support the communication of information about achievement to each student, parents, teachers, and others.

The evidence that is collected about student learning, including observations and conversations as well as student products, should reflect and affirm the student’s lived experiences within their school, home, and community, learning strengths, and scientific knowledge. This process of triangulating evidence of student learning allows teachers to improve the accuracy of their understanding with respect to how each student is progressing in their learning.

When teachers engage in the process of examining their own biases regarding classroom assessment and evaluation practices, they might consider some of the following questions:

  • Are the tasks accessible to, and inclusive of, all learners? Do the tasks include appropriate and varied entry points for all students?
  • Do the tasks connect to students' prior learning and give them opportunities to be sense makers and to integrate their new learning? Do the selected tasks reflect students’ identities and lived experiences?
  • Do all students have equitable access to the tools they need to complete the tasks being set?
  • What opportunities can teachers build into their practice to offer students descriptive feedback to enhance learning? Are graded assessment tasks used in a way that complements the use of descriptive feedback for growth?
  • How can information be conveyed about students’ learning progress to students and parents in an ongoing and meaningful way?
  • What is the purpose of assigning and grading a specific task or activity? Are student choice and agency considered?
  • How do teacher biases influence decisions about what tasks or activities are chosen for assessment?

The achievement chart identifies four categories of knowledge and skills and four levels of achievement in Grade 9 science. (For important background, see “Content Standards and Performance Standards” in the main Assessment and Evaluation section.)

Knowledge and Understanding – Subject-specific content acquired in the course (knowledge), and the comprehension of its meaning and significance (understanding)
Categories 50–59%
(Level 1)
60–69%
(Level 2)
70–79%
(Level 3)
80–100%
(Level 4)
  The student:
Knowledge of content (e.g., facts, terminology, definitions)  demonstrates limited knowledge of content demonstrates some knowledge of content demonstrates considerable knowledge of content demonstrates thorough knowledge of content
Understanding of content (e.g., concepts, ideas, theories, principles, procedures, processes) demonstrates
limited understanding of content
demonstrates some understanding of content demonstrates considerable understanding of content demonstrates thorough understanding of content
Thinking and Investigation The use of critical and creative thinking skills and inquiry and problem-solving skills and/or processes
Categories 50–59%
(Level 1)
60–69%
(Level 2)
70–79%
(Level 3)
80–100%
(Level 4)
  The student:
Use of initiating and planning skills and strategies (e.g., formulating questions, identifying problems, developing hypotheses, scheduling, selecting strategies and resources, developing plans) uses initiating and planning skills and strategies with limited
effectiveness
uses initiating and planning skills and strategies with some effectiveness uses initiating and planning skills and strategies with considerable
effectiveness
uses initiating and planning skills and strategies with a high degree of effectiveness
Use of processing skills and strategies (e.g., performing and recording; gathering evidence and data; examining different points of view; selecting tools, equipment, materials, and technology; observing; manipulating materials; proving) uses processing skills and strategies with limited
effectiveness
uses processing skills and strategies with some
effectiveness
uses processing skills and strategies with considerable
effectiveness
uses processing skills and strategies with a high degree of effectiveness
Use of critical/creative thinking processes, skills, and strategies (e.g., analysing, interpreting, problem solving, evaluating, forming and justifying conclusions on the basis of evidence, developing solutions, considering diverse perspectives)  uses critical/
creative thinking
processes, skills, and strategies with limited effectiveness
uses critical/
creative thinking
processes, skills, and strategies with some effectiveness
uses critical/
creative thinking
processes, skills, and strategies with considerable effectiveness
uses critical/
creative thinking
processes, skills, and strategies with a high degree of effectiveness
Communication – The conveying of meaning through various forms 
Categories 50–59%
(Level 1)
60–69%
(Level 2)
70–79%
(Level 3)
80–100%
(Level 4)
  The student:
Expression and organization of ideas and information in oral, visual, and/or written forms (e.g., diagrams, models, articles, project journals, reports)  expresses and
organizes ideas and information
with limited effectiveness
expresses and
organizes ideas
and information
with some effectiveness
expresses and
organizes ideas and information
with considerable
effectiveness
expresses and organizes ideas and information
with a high degree of effectiveness
Communication for different audiences (e.g., peers, adults, community members) and purposes (e.g., to inform, to persuade) in oral, visual, and/or written forms communicates for different audiences and purposes with limited effectiveness communicates for different audiences
and purposes with some effectiveness
communicates for different audiences and purposes with
considerable effectiveness
communicates for different audiences and purposes with a high degree of
effectiveness
Use of conventions, vocabulary, and terminology of the discipline in oral, visual, and/or written forms (e.g., symbols, formulas, SI units) uses conventions,
vocabulary, and
terminology with
limited effectiveness
uses conventions,
vocabulary, and
terminology with
some effectiveness
uses conventions,
vocabulary, and
terminology with
considerable
effectiveness
uses conventions,
vocabulary, and
terminology with a high degree of
effectiveness
Application – The use of knowledge and skills to make connections within and between various contexts
Categories 50–59%
(Level 1)
60–69%
(Level 2)
70–79%
(Level 3)
80–100%
(Level 4)
  The student:
Application of knowledge and skills (e.g., concepts and processes; procedures related to the safe use of tools, equipment, materials, and technology; investigation skills) in familiar contexts applies knowledge and skills in familiar
contexts with limited effectiveness
applies knowledge and skills in familiar contexts with some
effectiveness
applies knowledge and skills in familiar
contexts with
considerable
effectiveness
applies knowledge and skills in familiar contexts with a high degree of effectiveness
Transfer of knowledge and skills (e.g., concepts and processes, safe use of equipment and technology, investigation skills) to new contexts transfers knowledge and skills to new contexts with limited effectiveness transfers knowledge and skills to new contexts with
some effectiveness
transfers knowledge and skills to new contexts with considerable
effectiveness
transfers
knowledge and
skills to new contexts with a high degree of
effectiveness
Making connections within and between various contexts (e.g., connections between sciences; connections to everyday and real-life situations; connections among concepts within science; connections involving use of prior knowledge and experience; connections among science and other disciplines, including other STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] subjects) makes connections
within and between
various contexts with limited effectiveness
makes connections
within and between various contexts with some effectiveness
makes connections
within and between various contexts with considerable
effectiveness
makes connections
within and between various contexts with a high degree of effectiveness
Proposing courses of practical action to deal with problems relating to our changing world proposes courses of practical action of limited effectiveness proposes courses of practical action of some effectiveness proposes courses of practical action of considerable effectiveness proposes highly effective courses of practical action

Criteria and Descriptors for Grade 9 Science

To guide teachers in their assessment and evaluation of student learning, the achievement chart provides “criteria” and “descriptors” within each of the four categories of knowledge and skills.

A set of criteria is identified for each category in the achievement chart. The criteria are subsets of the knowledge and skills that define the category. The criteria identify the aspects of student performance that are assessed and/or evaluated, and they serve as a guide to what teachers look for. In the Grade 9 science course, the criteria for each category are as follows:

Knowledge and Understanding

  • knowledge of content (e.g., facts, terminology, definitions)
  • understanding of content (e.g., concepts, ideas, theories, principles, procedures, processes)

Thinking and Investigation

  • use of initiating and planning skills and strategies (e.g., formulating questions, identifying problems, developing hypotheses, scheduling, selecting strategies and resources, developing plans)
  • use of processing skills and strategies (e.g., performing and recording; gathering evidence and data; examining different points of view; selecting tools, equipment, materials, and technology; observing; manipulating materials; proving)
  • use of critical/creative thinking processes, skills, and strategies (e.g., analysing, interpreting, problem solving, evaluating, forming and justifying conclusions on the basis of evidence, developing solutions, considering diverse perspectives)

Communication

  • expression and organization of ideas and information in oral, visual, and/or written forms (e.g., diagrams, models, articles, project journals, reports)
  • communication for different audiences (e.g., peers, adults, community members) and purposes (e.g., to inform, to persuade) in oral, visual, and/or written forms
  • use of conventions, vocabulary, and terminology of the discipline in oral, visual, and written forms (e.g., symbols, formulas, International System of Units)

Application

  • application of knowledge and skills (e.g., concepts and processes; procedures related to the safe use of tools, equipment, materials, and technology; investigation skills) in familiar contexts
  • transfer of knowledge and skills (e.g., concepts and processes, safe use of equipment and technology, investigation skills) to new contexts
  • making connections within and between various contexts (e.g., connections between sciences; connections to everyday and real-life situations; connections among concepts within science; connections involving use of prior knowledge and experience; connections among science and other disciplines, including other STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] subjects)
  • proposing courses of practical action to deal with problems relating to our changing world

Descriptors indicate the characteristics of the student’s performance, with respect to a particular criterion, on which assessment or evaluation is focused. Effectiveness is the descriptor used for each criterion in the Thinking and Investigation, Communication, and Application categories. What constitutes effectiveness in any given performance task will vary with the particular criterion being considered. Assessment of effectiveness may therefore focus on a quality such as appropriateness, clarity, accuracy, precision, logic, relevance, significance, fluency, flexibility, depth, or breadth, as appropriate for the particular criterion.