Jun 012012

Authors: Mohamed Insani, Marie Quek Li Sze, & Katerine Bielaczyc

We have been collaborating as teachers and researchers on a new approach to teaching science in Singapore primary schools. Ideas First is a two-year science program that has been operating in sixteen Primary 3 (grade 3) and Primary 4 (grade 4) classrooms since 2006 (Bielaczyc & Ow, 2007; Ow & Bielaczyc, 2007; 2008).The program is based on the vision of a knowledge building community where students work to advance the science understanding of the classroom community through engaging in collective building of knowledge in response to problems of understanding (Scardamalia, 2002; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006). As part of Ideas First, students’ work is captured online in Knowledge Forum and offline using Idea Journals, Think Cards, large sheets of Mahjong paper, and worksheets. These online and offline artifacts allow students a means of sharing ideas, building onto each other’s contributions, and pulling together what the community has learned. The artifacts also afford teachers and students a means of formatively assessing the work of both individuals and the community as a whole. We would like to share our experiences in using a formative assessment method based on the Collaborative Assessment Conference Protocol developed by Steve Seidel and colleagues at Harvard Project Zero (http://www.nsrfharmony.org/protocol/doc/cac.pdf; see also Blythe, Allen & Powell, 1999). Our work involves using the protocol to examine student artifacts collected from our own classrooms during the first 6 months of Primary 4, as well as facilitating use of the method in a professional development session for all Ideas First teachers.