Using Student Blogs for Authentic Science Assessments

We've come to the end of our unit on Biology in grade 6 science. In addition to learning about diversity of life, students have been discussing and debating moral ethics in science, such as why some forms of life seem to have precedence over others to live. For example, why do we abhor when a Panda bear population is pushed to the brink of extinction and we don't give second thoughts to stepping on insects? Students have debated the ethics of zoos as a tool of preservation and entrapment. Such essential questions make for fun discussions.

Our final investigation is an experiment centered around living things. Students design an investigation around a question and ultimately develop their scientific laboratory skills in preparation for their individual summative lab. Here is the outline:
Culminating Project Investigating Amphibians

I developed this rubric around the scientific method which I apply to all my end of unit summative labs. I think the language is pretty middle school friendly and hits the benchmarks well within the scientific method:

Investigating Amphibians Rubric-Diversity of Life

This is the second year that we've been 1:1 in the middle school. As our teaching staff learns how to best use student netbooks as learning tools, we are also looking for ways to incorporate them into authentic assessments that students will have in their digital portfolios. Such uses allow for keeping these artifacts rather than tossing them away after grading and sharing research with the greater world. Instead of giving a paper copy to the students, the students simply make a copy of the prompts and paste it in their blog for less paper output. See some examples below:

  1. Does being in groups affect tadpole behavior?
  2. Do tadpoles react differently to dirty or clear water?
  3. Do dark or bright environments affect tadpole behavior?
  4. How does population size affect tadpole respiration?

I think this connects "learning to life" which is in fact one of our mission statements. We cannot resign to having students produce work that is done in isolation. Scientists share their work with the world, invite peer review and know that the process of science is a collaborative one. There are so many collaborative projects that have developed online wherein students can share data from their home environment and laboratory with others on the side of the planet. If we want to develop scientists of the future, shouldn't this be a goal?

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