Example assessment question from a state standardized test:

Which of the following is found farthest from the center of an atom?

  1. nucleus
  2. proton
  3. neutron
  4. electron
d) electron
We think students deserve better science assessments than this!

Example question eliciting scientific thinking:

A famous scientist named Rutherford found that when alpha particles are shot at a thin sheet of gold foil, almost all of them went directly through it. What can you conclude about the atoms composing the gold foil?

The atoms must mostly be made of space. If they are solid, the particles wouldn't go through.
Join us in supporting students’ scientific thinking!

What is argumentation?

Scientists engage in argumentation in order to develop and refine ideas about the natural world. Argumentation is the process of constructing and critiquing arguments, which consist of claims, evidence, and reasoning.

Our Project

We have explored how well students performed on assessment tasks that test different levels of complexity of argumentation in science. Our assessments were administered over four years to 1,000+ students in the San Francisco Unified School District. All assessment items are about physical behavior of matter, and are designed for use with middle school or early high school students. The tasks assess students’ ability to both construct and critique scientific arguments.

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Sample Assessments

Chopping Onions

Mark and Kian make claims about what causes eyes to water when onions are cut.

Bubbles in Water

Brian and Joe make arguments for what the bubbles in boiling water are made of.

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