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Science Formative Assessment Tools and Resources


Here you will find a variety of tools and resources to use with the science formative assessment publications. Check back periodically as new tools and resources are added.

Correlation Guides for the Uncovering Student Ideas in Science Probes and the Next Generation Science Standards: The NGSS are based on the disciplinary core ideas from the Framework for K-12 Science Education. These correlation guides link the disciplinary core ideas from the Framework to the USI probes.  These guides will be updated as new USI books are released.



PICTORIAL CARD SORT RESOURCES- Card sorts are one of the Formative Assessment Classroom Techniques described in the "FACTs Book" that can be used as an alternative to the paper/pencil version of a justified list probe. The following sets of cards are designed for English language learners or early readers. Each word in the card sort set is accompanied by a picture. Download, print out the cards and provide a set to each small group, following instructions in the "FACTs Book". Teacher notes for each probe are provided in the USI books.

  • Is It An Animal? -(USI Vol 1- Keeley et al., 2005)
  • Is It Living? - (USI Vol 1- Keeley et al., 2005) Note: This version is adapted for K-5 by eliminating bacteria, mitochondria, molecule, and cell.
  • Can It Reflect Light? - (USI Vol. 1- Keeley et al., 2005)


SETS OF STUDENT WORK- Professional developers can use these sets of actual student responses in their workshops. While ideally it is best for teachers to bring their own student work, there are timers when it is helpful to examine a typical class set of student work. These are class sets from heterogeneous classes. The responses have  been typed using the students' own words. In some cases, the spellings have been corrected. The following sets of student responses to various science probes can be downloaded:

  • Talking About Gravity- Grade 8 responses (From Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 1)
  • Ice Cubes in a Bag- Grade 7 responses (From Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 1)
  • Floating Logs- Grade 8 responses (From Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 2)
  • What Are Clouds Made Of?- Grade 5 responses (From Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 3)
  • Where Did the Water Come From?- Grade 5 responses (From Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 3)
  • Ice Cold Lemonade-Grade 8 responses (From Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 2)
  • Ice Cold Lemonade- Grade 11 responses (Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 2)
  • Baby Mice- Grades 7 and 8 (Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 2)
  • Iron Bar- Grades 10 and 11 (Uncovering Student Ideas in Science- Volume 4)


CROSSWALKS TO SUMMATIVE ITEMS- The AAAS Project 2061 Assessment Project has banked over 600 middle and high school items that assess key ideas in science and can be used to uncover common misconceptions. These are excellent items to use summatively (as well as formatively) after using the formative assessment probes. They are an excellent resource for linking formatiuve and summative assessment (e.g. pre-assessment with a probe; post-assessment with a AAAS/P2061 item). Crosswalks have been developed between the AAAS/P2061 assessment items, the Uncovering Student Ideas Probe, and a CTS topic guide. These will be updated each time a new USI volume is published.


Teaching for Conceptual Change Excerpt- This article was the catalyst that led to the development of Keeley's probes beginning in the early 1990's. It was after reading this seminal article that Page Keeley wrote and used her first probe, The Mitten Problem, with 8th graders. This sparked a life long interest in constructivist teaching, conceptual change, and formative assessment. This is a great article for helping teachers understand the importance of starting with students' preconceptions, letting students struggle with their ideas, and guiding them toward giving up their strongly held ideas in favor of new evidence and new ideas they are ready to accept.

Instructional Planning Guide for Formative Assessment- This planning guide is designed to be used with the SAIL Cycle to help teachers be more purposeful about planning for formative assessment- see pages 18-25 in Science Formative Assessment (Keeley, 2008). The planning guide helps teachers identify the stage in instruction in which they use a formative assessment strategy, the probe or FACT (strategy) they plan to use at that stage, why that strategy is used (purpose), how it will be used (format and classroom configuration), where it will be used (which lesson and where in the lesson), and how the data will be collected and analyzed.


25 Suggestions for Leading Professional Development on Science or Mathematics Formative Assessment- This handout provides 25 suggestions for professional developers or teacher leaders interested in furthering teachers' use of formative assessment. These strategies go beyond the workshop model of professional development and include a variety of embdded PD strategies. Suggestions include PD for individuals or groups.

EVERYDAY SCIENCE MYSTERY STORIES- This award winning series of four books, authored by my good friend Dick Konicek-Moran, is a nice companion to the USI probes. The stories present a mystery about everyday phenomena that encourage students to uncover and explore their own ideas through inquiry and discover their own ending to the story. The USI probes can be used as an elicitation prior to the story and can then be followed with an Everyday mystery in the exploration and discovery part of an instructional cycle. The stories are also an excellent way to connect science with literacy. A Crosswalk linking the Everyday Mysteries, the Uncovering Student Ideas Probes, and the Curriculum Topic Study topic guides can be downloaded here.

The Kindle Question- Here is a question I used in teacher professional development to get teachers to experience a "juicy question" and promote thinking/argumentation in much the same way that students interact with the USI assessment probes. It is an interesting, novel question- beyond what we would expect students to know, and will certainly elicit much interesting discussion among teachers (and advanced students). Kindle Question- Version 1 or Kindle Question Version 2. Click here for an explanation from the NY Times article that led to the development of this probe. The explanation can be used with the Scientists' Idea Comparison formative assessment classroom technique (FACT).

Formative Assessment Probes- Promoting Learning Through Assessment: Journal Articles for K-6 PLC's- The monthly Science & Children journal articles on formative assessment probes, written by Page Keeley, can be used by K-6 Professional Learning Communities (PLC's) for discussions about students' thinking and learning in science. Each month PLC's can choose an article to discuss, expand their formative assessment literacy, and connect the article to findings the PLC's own teaching and learning context. Click here to download a chart listing current articles and the topic that can be used for discussion in the PLC.



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