Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry

Jim Minstrell
Several government funded projects are developing facet-based, diagnostic formative assessments to support teachers in understanding and addressing their students’ conceptual strengths and weaknesses and to promote students’ conceptual change in science at the middle school level, high school level and beyond. These projects bring together experts in assessment, science education, science teaching, and science content from SRI International, FACET Innovations, Sonoma State University, University of Illinois Chicago, Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington. Supported by research on students' preconceptions, particularly in science, and their need to build on the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom, the projects are aimed at implementing a facets-of-thinking perspective for the improvement of formative assessment, learning, and instruction in precollege science classrooms. Goals are: (1) to identify and develop clusters of facets (students' ideas and understandings) related to key science concepts; (2) to develop assessment items that diagnose facets within each content cluster; (3) to enhance the existing web-based Diagnoser assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials for interpreting and using the assessment data; (4) to develop teacher professional development and resource materials to support their use of facet-based approaches to teaching of science; and (5) to examine whether student learning improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment and instruction system.