Monthly Archives: October 2014

Strengths and Limitations of Rubrics

The first unit in my Life Science class this year was titled “Ecology and the Environment”. For a final assessment, the students needed to make a diorama of a biome of their choice. I created a rubric to show my expectations for the diorama and how it would be graded.

When making the rubric used for the diorama, I looked at the assignment sheet and made sure I included all of the learning targets for the unit. I had seven major categories of assessment for the rubric on the left. They were: attractiveness, accuracy, abiotic factors, biotic factors, cycle of matter, interesting facts, and references. To the right of each of these categories, I gave points according to how well the student completed the task for each category. A perfect score for the rubric was 100 points. The rubric and a grading sheet for one of my classes is shown below.

Strengths of this rubric are that it gives a clear direction and expectation of what the students need to do and how it will be graded. It helps me to be more objective when I am grading. I look to the rubric to guide me in assessing each diorama. Lastly, I can be sure that all of my learning targets were met because I designed the rubric to include all of them.

Limitations of this rubric include that it may have inhibited creativity of some of my students. It could be that this rubric was too specific and so students were inclined to follow the rubric instead of exploring ideas and being more creative. Another limitation is that it may not assess all of what the students have learned. In one case, I think the parents helped a student quite a lot with her diorama and they might of learned about that biome but I am not sure how much my student did.


Despite limitations of rubrics, I found this one particularly helpful when assessing a diorama project for my Ecology unit. It contained the learning targets for the unit and it also helped me to be objective when grading each diorama.


Cells as the Basis of Life, Formative Assessments and Summative Assessment

Formative and summative assessments are both valuable for student learning. Summative assessments are the more traditional assessment that we may know. Examples are an end of unit test or a portfolio showing student work and activities for a unit of study. Summative assessments are normally assigned a grade which are used for student report cards or showing parents student achievement for a unit of study. Summative assessments are also state and national tests whose scores can give information to schools and parents about student levels of achievement.

Formative assessment is defined as a planned process whereby student learning is assessed for the purpose of adjusting a lesson plan or to inform the teacher that they must spend more time learning a subject because the formative assessment showed that the students did not learn it yet or still do not understand what the teacher wants them to know.

For my current unit of study in Life Science “Cells as the Basis of Life” we have done formative and summative assessments. The formative assessment began as I started the unit by asking the students if they had studied cells before and if so, what did they know about cells? We made a list on the board and I would say about half of the students had studied something about cells. For the second lesson of this unit, the goal of the lesson was to learn the different organelles of a cell and their function. There were a couple of formative assessments for this learning target. One was during a lab activity where the students were making a cell model using gelatin and other food items. On a paper, they needed to write down the name of the organelle, which food material they were using for that organelle and then what was that organelle’s function. The following week, the students were doing different stations, and one of the stations was filling out a worksheet where there was a diagram of a cell and they needed to label the cell and state the function of the specific organelles. They needed to do this first without their notes and books and then later they could use their notes.

For a summative assessment for this unit on cells, I wrote a written exam. For knowledge of all organelles’ functions, they needed to match the organelle with its’ function. The next part of the exam was to identify organelles from a picture or diagram.

Overall I was pleased with the students’ knowledge of cell organelle identification and knowing their functions. The students achieved the learning goal I had set and formative assessments helped with this process. I hope to use more formative assessments in my lessons and am eager to learn new ideas, especially for science.


“Cells and Heredity” chapter tests relating to Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives

In “Classroom Assessment in Action” by Shermis and DeVesta, it describes how to apply Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. As I look at my Life Science textbook “Cells and Heredity”, I will relate how the chapter tests compare to Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom’s taxonomy classifies information into categories like knowledge, interpretation, application, etc. And with each of these categories, it gives examples of infinitives to use when asking about that specific knowledge in assessment. For example, when assessing knowledge of specific facts, one would use infinitives like, “define” or “identify”. When assessing application, one would use infinitives like “relate” or “restructure”.

After each chapter in the “Cells and Heredity” textbook, there is a Review and Assessment in the teacher’s edition. The questions that are asking about factual knowledge don’t use words like “identify” or “define” but it is implied when it is a multiple choice question or fill in the blank and it is assessing specific factual knowledge. An example is, “___________________________ is a process that releases energy in cells without using oxygen.” The answer is “Fermentation” and is assessing the knowledge of the definition of fermentation. Other questions in the end of chapter Review and Assessment are labeled with infinitives like, “Interpret”, “Predict”, “Apply”, and “Summarize”. These questions are mostly to be answered in essay or short answer and are under a different taxonomy classification according to Bloom because it is different than factual knowledge. An example of this type of question is, “Predict. Suppose a volcano threw so much ask into the air that it blocked much of the sunlight. How might this event affect the ability of animals to obtain energy to live?”

After reflecting on Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives, I find that my Life Science text does relate to Bloom’s taxonomy and does a good job of using the different infinitives that are to be used when assessing the differing classifications of knowledge.

Shermis, M.S. & DeVesta, E.L. (2011). “Classroom Assessment in Action”, Rowan & Littlefield