Uncovering Student Ideas in Science
More Assessment Probes!
The second of two Web Seminars on Uncovering Student
Ideas in Science was held on Thursday, June 1, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Eastern time. The presenters were Francis Eberle and Lynn Farrin, co-authors of
the NSTA Press publication of the same name. Among the participants were a few teachers
who had attended the face-to-face symposium at
the NSTA National Conference in Science Education in Anaheim, CA.
The session started with a general overview of the NSTA Web Seminar tools and how
they can be used to facilitate interaction between the participants and the presenters.
Sixty-five participants were present in addition to the presenters and the NSTA
staff. Participating educators represented the states of California, Colorado, Connecticut,
Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland,
Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina,
Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Eberle started the presentation giving the participants an overview on formative
assessment probes. In summary, probes help teachers find out what students are thinking
before, during, and after instruction. They also help uncover the types of misconceptions
students bring to their learning. The first example used by Farrin was the mitten
problem about heat energy. The audience answered a poll question about the different
temperature reading of a thermometer placed inside a mitten versus one placed next
to a mitten. The participants chose the response they thought the students gave.
Before the responses were revealed, participants and presenters engaged in a discussion
on the different explanations given by students for each one of the answers. Eberle
continued with a discussion about the considerations teachers must think about when
using assessment probes. For example, in the case of the mitten problem, teachers
from Florida said their students would have trouble answering correctly because
they have little experience wearing or using mittens. To conclude this portion of
the presentation, Eberle talked about the Atlas for Science Literacy as a resource
for educators to learn about students' misconceptions and developmentally appropriate
In the second part of the presentation, the presenters invited one of the participants
Adrienne, to share her experiences using formative assessment robes with her students.
She talked about the probe she used and her students' responses. To conclude the
session, Farrin and Eberle talked about other strategies like philosophy chairs
and classroom circles and the teaching and learning process. Throughout the presentation
there were several opportunities for the participants to interact with each other
and with the presenters by answering poll questions, chatting, stamping, and marking.
The presenters also answered questions via the chat for 25 minutes after the program
Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:
"I learned some new approaches to encourage learners to become thinkers, having
to justify their ideas rather than just pick an multiple choice answer."
"I just love this format! It's so dang easy for me to get hooked!"
"I enjoyed hearing from teachers that had tried some of the probes as well as getting
a chance to listen to the author's perspectives and ideas. Great way to preview
a new resource! Also the teacher ideas that surfaced will be useful as well."
"I liked the ability for participants to respond in a number of ways (typing, talking,
stamping). I think I paid more attention and learned more than if I was just reading
a web page. If there's one thing I learned, it's the variety of strategies."
Thanks to the participants and to the presenters, Francis and Lynn, for the learning
opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!
Web Seminar II Resources
See a recorded
version of the Web Seminar.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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||Underwritten in part by NSTA Press