Uncovering Student Ideas in Science
Keeley talks about assessing students prior knowledge

The NSTA Symposium: Uncovering Student Ideas in Science took place at the Clarion Hotel Anaheim Resort in Anaheim, CA, on Saturday, April 8, 2006. Twenty-eight educators were in attendance. Presenting were the authors of the NSTA Press publication: Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, Page Keeley, Francis Eberle, and Lynn Farrin. This symposium was designed for educators grades K-12. In this symposium the presenters focused on the use of formative assessment probes that can be used to evaluate students' knowledge of different science concepts. NSTA would like to thank all the participants and the presenters for a job well done

After an introductory administrative session during which Flavio Mendez, Symposia and Web Seminars Program Manager at NSTA, familiarized participants with the contents of their folders (including the agenda, college credit forms, talent release form, and pre-assessment), Page Keeley started with an introduction to formative assessment probes. The first probe shared was one that asked a question about the phases of the Moon, in particular, it inquired about a scenario where two observers are looking at the Moon on the same night but from two different parts of the world. Just like students, the symposium participants were asked to respond to a multiple choice question and to explain their response. The responses were shared with the larger audience while maintaining anonymity of the responders. It was interesting to discover that many of the educators at the symposium had similar misconceptions as those expressed by students of upper elementary grades.

Participants look at student work

Francis Eberly and Lynn Farrin continued working with the audience sharing with them their research findings that led to their writing of the book. They talked about the research already done on how people learn and the idea that students walk into the classrooms with pre-conceived ideas about how things work, etc., that may not be necessarily accurate. As a follow-up activity, they organized the larger group in stations, (one station per table), with topics like, gravity, is it living, is it an animal, cells, heat temperature, matter, sound, light, etc., and asked the educators to visit at least three stations to look over students' work that was collected by the authors over time. After reading through students' sample work, participants were required to discuss within their stations the different misconceptions that students presented and to come up with ideas on how to eliminate these in the classroom.

Teachers share strategies for assessment

A guided discussion followed this exercise, with Keeley and Eberle sharing their research experiences and providing ideas on how to "tackle" these situations in the classroom. For example, to elicit ideas from students you can do brainstorming, use classroom clickers, open response questions, engagement activities, etc.

All participants received a copy of the book and a certificate from NSTA noting the number of seating hours at the symposium. Two web seminars will continue this discussion, the first one scheduled on April 27.

For more information contact symposia@nsta.org

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Underwritten in part by NSTA Press