Connected Chemistry as Formative Assessment
Xiufeng Liu Principal Investigator
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This is an exploratory project focused on the use of computer modeling as formative assessment in order to improve high school students' chemistry learning by integrating two research-informed strategies. The first is Connected Chemistry, a Flash simulation enhanced Net Logo-based computer modeling learning environment in which students experience simultaneously three levels of representation of chemical phenomena: (a) macroscopic (visible phenomena), submacroscopic (movement of electrons, molecules, and atoms), and (c) symbolic (chemical symbols, equations). The second is formative assessment guided by research on learning progressions of big ideas in science. The project's development design phase consists of four building blocks: (1) construct map-coherent students' development of two big ideas (matter and energy) defined through student learning progressions; (2) item-design task, consisting of simultaneous multiple representations of the phenomena and how these are related; (3) outcome space, a categorization system that defines variation of students' responses and the use of a scoring rubric that correlates the status of students' learning progression scores with expected performance indicators; and (4) measurement model to guide data analysis to facilitate teachers monitoring of students' learning progressions. <br/><br/>The project research design consists of a hypothesis that guides this exploratory work: If computer modeling as formative assessment maximizes the potential for improving students' learning, then formative assessment may increase students' opportunities to assess their understandings and provide feedback for modifying both learning and teaching. Thus, the research questions are: (1) Are the developed formative assessments valid, reliable, and absent of bias? and (2) Can integration of the formative assessments improve student learning in high school chemistry? <br/><br/>The project will be conducted with teachers and students of the Buffalo City School District, characterized by its diverse student population. It will employ a quasi-experimental design with 16 chemistry teachers and 400 students taking the NY Regents' chemistry course (8 experimental groups of 25 students each with formative assessments, and 8 control groups with 25 students each without formative assessments). Main research activities consist of data gathering of the assessments' validity, reliability, and absence of bias through (a) interviewing and think-aloud strategies; (b) reviewing of assessments by a panel of a chemistry teacher, a science education researcher, a psychometrician, and a chemist; (c) pilot testing of assessments; (d) field testing of assessments; (e) determining statistical properties of assessments based on classical test theory and item-response theory (item difficulty, discrimination, and response pattern, reliability index); and (f) conducting validity, reliability, and absence of bias studies. Qualitative and quantitative data gathering and interpretation strategies will be used. <br/><br/>The most important products and dissemination activities comprise a set of 10 formative assessment systems with integrated computer modeling and established validity, reliability, and absence of bias for one-year chemistry course; a monograph on findings; a CD-ROM; and a website. The proposed evaluation includes both formative and summative components focused on assessing the impact of formative assessments on improving students' learning using existing standardized instruments. Emphasis will be placed on (a) understanding of chemistry concepts, (b) understanding of models and modeling, (c) chemistry achievement (comparing scores on the NY Regents standardized exam), and (d) attitude toward chemistry (using a modified version of the Chemistry Attitude and Experiences Questionnaire).