Science Sampler: Using graphic organizers as formative assessmentby: Janet Struble

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With the move in the last decade toward a standards-based science curriculum, assessment has become an important part of science teaching and learning. National policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act place additional emphasis on the importance of assessment. Although many teachers have a fairly solid background in assessing end-of-term learning, and they typically engage in formative assessment in an intuitive fashion, they tend to struggle with using formative assessments that allow them to examine student learning throughout the process of teaching. One option that will allow classroom teachers to achieve this goal is the graphic organizer. Graphic organizers can be used as powerful tools for probing and analyzing student thinking and learning.

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Reviews (7)
  • on Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:34 PM

As a teacher, I have found that both graphic organizers and formative assessment are two tools that I use constantly. This article combines their use. By using the student's graphic organizer as a formative, a teacher can learn a lot about how the student is thinking. I had never thought of using an organizer as a formative assessment, but I am going to do that now. This article shows four student examples of graphic organizers used as assessments. It further discusses several other types of graphic organizers to elicit particular formative assessments. I was also please to note that the author mentioned how this strategy can be used in assessing ESL and students with learning difficulties.

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia

  • on Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:14 AM

The author presents several examples of graphic organizers that she uses to help students express their understanding of a sequence of events. These organizers are a visual representation of knowledge. The author explains that there are four kinds of graphic organizers: conceptual, hierarchical, cyclical and sequential. She then states that for assessing student knowledge the a sequence of events one should use graphic organized such as Cause/Effect, Problem/Solution, T-Chart, Story Board, and Sequencing Chart. For someone unfamiliar with formative assessment and graphic organizers this is a good article.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:09 PM

Although many teachers instinctively know how to use formative assessment, they may lack a concrete method of implementing such assessment on a regular basis. This article gives numerous examples of the four types of graphic organizers, conceptual, hierarchal, cyclical, and sequential and makes the argument for their inclusion. Their ease of implementation in an ongoing manner is particularly effective for students with learning disabilities or students with limited language skills.

Patricia McGinnis  (Pottstown, PA)
Patricia McGinnis (Pottstown, PA)

  • on Mon Mar 10, 2014 10:32 PM

I found this article to be extremely helpful when examining portfolios in the classroom. Furthermore, it includes helpful tips that I plan on using for future student based assessment. Although graphic organizers may not be the best form of assessment for all scenarios, I definitely plan on using portfolios for summative assessment for a variety of projects.

Rebecca C
Rebecca C

  • on Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:55 AM

Very good resource which outlinesfour different graphic organizers for use as formative assessment tools; discusses each type in terms of application, variations, and potential application.


  • on Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:08 PM

In a time of standards-based science curriculum, assessment has become an important part of science teaching and learning. Teachers are being asked to assess their students knowledge and often do not know of any ways other than the traditional end of unit sumnative test. More and more research is pointing to the advantages of using formative assessments to assit in designing and implimenting curriculum that helps their students in their conceptual development of the topic being studied. This article provides just one of many possible ways, in the form of a graphic organizer, to use formative assessments. (In order for this article to have earned 5 stars, I would have liked to have seen more examples of graphic organizers.)

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia

  • on Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:13 PM

There are four categories of graphic organizers: conceptual, hierarchical, cyclical and sequential. This article gives examples of each and how they can be used effectively as formative assessment tools within the Science classroom. These organizers tend to be effective for students struggling with language and concept organization. I would have liked to see a few more advanced examples as organizers are of benefit to students that are not struggling as well.

Sandy Gady  (Renton, WA)
Sandy Gady (Renton, WA)

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