Formative Assessment Probes: How Far Did It Go?by: Page Keeley

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The formative assessment probe “How Far Did It Go?” in Uncovering Student Ideas in Physical Science: 45 Force and Motion Assessment Probes (Keeley and Harrington 2010) can be used to reveal whether students recognize that units of distance traveled must be measured from the starting point to the ending point. It is especially useful in determining how students measure length when there is a nonzero origin. Student responses reveal a common error pattern that children make in both science and mathematics. Common error patterns refer to the systematic use of inaccurate and inefficient procedures or strategies (Rose and Minton 2010). For example, a common error pattern that applies to this motion assessment probe is the consistent misreading of a measurement device.

  • Elementary
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  • on Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:49 PM

Assessing for learning can take place formally and informally. Done well, it causes students to think about their own learning. Keeley’s probes allow me as a teacher to discover student preconceptions as well as those they develop along the way. The key point in this article is that just knowing is not enough, I need to use the information gained to enhance teaching and learning. This probe, “How Far Did it Go?”, students are given the opportunity to show they understand that measurements are taken from beginning point to ending point. Elementary students, and even some of my middle school students do not understand that you can measure the distance of an object using a ruler or tape measure and not begin at “0”. An error that my middle school students also tend to make is even if they recognize the nonzero starting point, they don’t measure front to front or back to back when using a car. They often will use the front of the car in the beginning, and the end of the car for the end point. Keeley makes an interesting point when she says, “ … We cannot take for granted that children learn measurement merely by providing opportunities to measure. You must take the time to use carefully designed probes and watch, listen to, and determine the procedures and strategies children use to measure length or distance.”

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

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