Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Fulcrum Institute Development Team

Annotated Formative Assessment Cycle

Example from Case of Insulation

Ms C chooses an example from her unit on heat transfer and annotates the four steps in the formative assessment cycle.

Learning Goals: Students will understand that

  • Thermal insulators slow down heat transfer
  • An insulator slows heat transfer whether heat is transferred into or away from the contents of a cup

See Ms C's annotations below:

Step 1 - Teacher Collects Evidence

For this assessment, I asked children to predict before they carried out an investigation. 

I wanted to probe their prior understanding of the role of insulators and conductors in the heat transfer process. 

Students put colored stickers on a class prediction chart to indicate which insulating wrap they think will be best, next best, worst at (a) keeping a hot drink hot and (b) keeping a cold drink cold. 

As they put their stickers up, I decided to look for evidence that students predict that the best insulator in one situation will also be the best in the other one.

Step 2 - Teacher Interprets Evidence

I thought that the students' predictions provided evidence:
  • that most students were probably not yet thinking about how the two situations are the same in terms of heat transfer - whether heat is transferred into or out of the cup of water, the best insulation in one situation will be the best in the other one. 
  • there is no general consensus about which of the three materials might be a good choice for making an insulating wrap for a drink cup. 

Step 3 - Teacher Decides Appropriate Next Steps

I decided not to do anything at this point.

Rationale: the results of the insulations investigation that will follow will very likely produce evidence that the best, next best, worst insulating wrap will be the same in each situation. Let's hope it does! If it doesn't I'll ask my reasoning question:

If the newspaper wrap is best at slowing down heat transfer out of the hot drink to the cooler air, would you be surprised to find that it was also the best material at slowing down heat transfer from the warmer air to the cold drink in the cup? Explain.

Then, we might explore reasons we didn't get these results (plenty of opportunity for experimental error during the investigation).

I made a note to remind myself to keep a eye on the groups' work in terms of making this a "fair test." and to make sure they get their cups wrapped and ready before the poured in the hot or cold water and begin measuring temperatures

Step 4 - Teacher Plans How to Help Students Take Next Steps

If they do find that good insulation in one case is also a good insulator in the other, I'll move onto the next activity, a question to think about at home.

How many examples of thermal insulation can you find out home? (Think about windows, appliances, lunch boxes.) Choose one or two examples and describe the insulating "wrap." Is the purpose to keep heat from being transferred in or out or both? What materials isn't made of? How thick is it? What do you think makes it "work?"

If there is no pattern in the class results and students are unable to make claims based on their data, then I'll suggest we repeat the investigation as a class -  we'll set it up together.