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PERC 2011 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Proximal Formative Assessment
Abstract: Classically, formative assessment has been considered in terms of changes made to lesson plans as a result of diagnostic testing.  Proximal formative assessment is teachers' continual, responsive attention to learners' developing understanding as it is expressed verbally moment to moment:  the process by which teachers carefully attend to specific aspects of individual learners' developing understanding, as instruction is taking place in real time (Erickson, 2007; Heritage, 2010).  This is among the most subtle and challenging of formative assessment practices, yet is the one with perhaps the most potential impact on a teacher's ongoing activities in the classroom.  This poster session will present research on proximal formative assessment being conducted for the Energy Project in the Department of Physics at Seattle Pacific University.
Abstract Type: Poster Gallery Session

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Rachel E. Scherr
Seattle Pacific University
3307 Third Avenue West
Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: 2066617501
and Co-Presenter(s)
Eleanor W. Close, Seattle Pacific University
Hunter G. Close, Texas State University - San Marcos
Brian W. Frank,  University of Maine
Benedikt W. Harrer, University of Maine
Sarah B. McKagan, McKagan Enterprises
Eleanor C. Sayre, Kansas State University
Rachel E. Scherr, Seattle Pacific University
Michael C. Wittmann, University of Maine

Poster Gallery Session Specific Information

Poster 1 Title: Energy in Action: The Construction of Physics Ideas in Multiple Modes
Poster 1 Authors: Sarah B. McKagan, Eleanor W. Close, Hunter G. Close, Rachel E. Scherr
Poster 1 Abstract: In a course organized around the development of diverse representations, no single mode of expression offers a complete picture of participants' understanding of the nature of energy.  Instead, we argue, their understanding is actively constructed through the simultaneous use of a range of quite different kinds of representational resources (Goodwin, 2000), including not only words but also gestures, symbolic objects, participants moving their bodies in concert, and whatever other communicative modes the course invites them to use.  Effective proximal formative assessment involves attention to all of these representational resources.  Examples are provided from a teacher professional development course on energy.
Poster 2 Title: Supporting Proximal Formative Assessment with Relational Discourse
Poster 2 Authors: Rachel E. Scherr, Hunter G. Close, and Sarah B. McKagan
Poster 2 Abstract: The practice of proximal formative assessment depends on students' sharing their ideas with instructors and on teachers' attending to them.  Normal classroom conditions, characterized by mutual evaluation and attention to learning targets, present threats to students' and teachers' sense of their own competence and value.  Students who feel threatened tend to conceal their ideas; teachers who feel threatened have difficulty attending to students' ideas.  This necessary self-protection on the part of learners and teachers depletes the classroom of information that could be valuable for instruction.  In contrast, discourse patterns characterized by positive anticipation and attention to learner ideas increase the potential for proximal formative assessment and promote self-directed learning.  Episodes of classroom video illustrate these effects.
Poster 3 Title: Development of Proximal Formative Assessment Skills in Video-based Teacher Professional Development
Poster 3 Authors: Eleanor W. Close, Rachel E. Scherr, Hunter G. Close, and Sarah B. McKagan
Poster 3 Abstract: Proximal formative assessment skill development is a primary goal of the academic-year professional development course offered by the Energy Project at SPU. We have adapted a video club model (Sherin & Han, 2004) in which groups of teachers watch and discuss video of classroom interactions. Video from the professional development course shows differences in the qualities of discourse between participants as they discuss episodes of video from their own classrooms. Two dominant orientations of groups of teacher-participants emerge during discussion of classroom video: orientation to details of the video data and interpretation of student discourse and actions; and orientation to the broader instructional context, including comparison to their own classroom experience and considerations of how to improve the instruction. The student-focused orientation appears to be more productive than the instruction-focused orientation for growth in proximal formative assessment skills.
Poster 4 Title: Elements of Proximal Formative Assessment in Learners' Discourse about Energy
Poster 4 Authors: Benedikt W. Harrer, Rachel E. Scherr, Michael C. Wittmann, Brian W. Frank, and Hunter G. Close
Poster 4 Abstract: Proximal formative assessment, the just-in-time elicitation of students' ideas that informs ongoing instruction, is usually associated with the instructor in a formal classroom setting. However, the elicitation, assessment, and subsequent instruction that characterize proximal formative assessment are also seen in discourse among peers. We present a case in which secondary teachers in a professional development course at SPU are discussing energy flow in refrigerators.  In this episode, a peer is invited to share her thinking (elicitation). Her idea that refrigerators move heat from a relatively cold compartment to a hotter environment is inappropriately judged as incorrect (assessment). The "instruction" (peer explanation) that follows is based on the second law of thermodynamics, and acts as corrective rather than collaborative. The episode highlights the importance for proximal formative assessment of reserving judgment on learners' ideas until their strengths and weaknesses are well understood.
Poster 5 Title: "So you're saying...": Paraphrase and interpretation in peer physics interviews
Poster 5 Authors: Eleanor C. Sayre, Rachel E. Scherr, and Hunter G. Close
Poster 5 Abstract: Clinical interviews provide a laboratory for practicing components of
proximal formative assessment in a one-on-one context.  As part of the Energy Project at Seattle Pacific University, learning assistants
(LAs) are required to conduct, video-record, share, and reflect on
individual physics interviews with a peer.  The goal of the project is
to develop the LAs' real-time attention to others' thinking (proximal
assessment).  In this context, LAs are asked to be guests at their
interviewee's thinking and to refrain from using the interview as a
teaching opportunity.  We contrast two LAs' interview experiences in
terms of the ontological commitments, (in)formal use of language, and
expectations about interviewing and listening that are evident in
their interviewing behavior.