Another feature of all CBAL science tasks is that we use simulations as opportunities to collect evidence of what students know and can do in science. By allowing students to interact with representations of phenomena, simulations provide an effective way for students to explore phenomena, or unseen mechanisms underlying phenomena, that would otherwise be impractical or difficult for students to observe in a typical assessment context. This expanded range of explorable content in turn allows assessments to measure students’ knowledge of content and science practices that are important to be tested, but which are not well assessed in traditional paper and pencil assessments. In addition, simulations allow us to create log data of students’ actions when working through a scientific investigation. Recent studies have shown that simulations can generate evidence of students’ achievement levels and measures of their science practices (Bennett, Persky, Weiss, & Jenkins, 2007; Quellmalz & Pellegrino, 2009). As Quellmalz, Timms, Silberglitt, and Buckley (2012) stated, “Because simulations are interactive, students can demonstrate their abilities to apply the active inquiry practices of science by designing investigations, conducting iterative trials, predicting, observing, and explaining findings, and critiquing the investigation of others” (p. 364).

The screenshot in Figure 6 displays an interactive simulation designed for students to manipulate and test predictions about the relationship between the number of particles and density of matter, which is part of our exemplar formative assessment prototype. Students can design multiple experimental trials and explain why they think the experiments can test the provided prediction. For each trial, students will set up variables. After the students finish setting up the variables, a log data table will automatically record their setup variable values along with the values of the total volume, mass, and density of the liquid. Thus, students will be able to review a log of their interactions with the simulation tool and the outcome of their manipulations. The logged information will also be available for students later when they are asked to analyze the data and present evidence-based reasoning about whether the experiments support or refute the prediction. The simulation provides exploration opportunities for students to generate hypotheses about the relationship between mass, volume, and density in a pure material (water) and a mixture (filtered water with salt particles). Then students can design experiments to test their hypotheses. By observing the particle interactions in the simulation, and analyzing the data patterns from the log data, students can collect evidence to support or reject their hypotheses.


OW screenshot 1.PNG
Figure 6. Screenshot of the formative assessment simulation prototype.
Back to Assessments