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.

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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 concepts.

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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 finished.

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.

Web Sites

PDF files

For more information contact symposia@nsta.org

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Underwritten in part by NSTA Press