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Drawing and Writing in Digital Science Notebooks: Sources of Formative Assessment Data

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Journal of Science Education and Technology Volume 25, Number 3, ISSN 1059-0145


Formative assessment strategies are used to direct instruction by establishing where learners' understanding is, how it is developing, informing teachers and students alike as to how they might get to their next set of goals of conceptual understanding. For the science classroom, one rich source of formative assessment data about scientific thinking and practice is in notebooks used during inquiry-oriented activities. In this study, the goal was to better understand how student knowledge was distributed between student drawings and writings about magnetism in notebooks, and how these findings might inform formative assessment strategies. Here, drawing and writing samples were extracted and evaluated from our digital science notebook, with embedded content and laboratories. Three drawings and five writing samples from 309 participants were analyzed using a common ten-dimensional rubric. Descriptive and inferential statistics revealed that fourth-grade student understanding of magnetism was distributed unevenly between writing and drawing. Case studies were then presented for two exemplar students. Based on the rubric we developed, students were able to articulate more of their knowledge through the drawing activities than through written word, but the combination of the two mediums provided the richest understanding of student conceptions and how they changed over the course of their investigations.


Shelton, A., Smith, A., Wiebe, E., Behrle, C., Sirkin, R. & Lester, J. (2016). Drawing and Writing in Digital Science Notebooks: Sources of Formative Assessment Data. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25(3), 474-488. Retrieved October 16, 2019 from .

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