CLEAR is a collaboration with UC Berkeley and the University of Toronto exploring students' cumulative learning about energy concepts using embedded assessments and new systems dynamics diagramming technology.
In the CLEAR project, we're investigating how science assessments can capture and contribute to cumulative, integrated learning in middle school. Using innovative tools and varying combinations of instruction and assessment, our colleagues at UC Berkeley are measuring how students gain and build understanding of energy concepts during and across science courses.
CLEAR, short for Cumulative Learning with Embedded Assessment Results, is a collaboration led by our colleagues in Dr. Marcia Linn's research group at UC Berkeley, and including Dr. Jim Slotta's research group at the University of Toronto. As part of our collaboration in the project, we're working to build innovative tools that can help elicit and track students' evolving understanding of energy concepts.
One of these tools is MySystem, an innovative "smart diagramming" tool we're developing to help scaffold young students' understanding of systems dynamics concepts in a simplified manner. MySystem helps students display and discuss their concepts of how energy is transferred, stored, and transformed within systems.
MySystem scaffolds understanding by supporting another central concept in CLEAR – that of the Energy Story. These student-generated narratives describe the ways in which energy appears in and moves through systems. These narratives make up a text representation of the graphical construction in the associated MySystem diagram. MySystem assists students in building and analyzing these narratives.
In order to inform the creation of inquiry skills that lead to cumulative understanding, CLEAR project staff are researching six promising strategies for combining instruction and assessment:
- Dynamic, interactive software
- Distributed learning experiences
- Activities requiring the generation of explanations
- Energy diagrams created via MySystem
- Repeated opportunities for assessment with and without feedback
- Opportunities for scientific argumentation
Each of these strategies has been demonstrated in numerous empirical studies, set in a variety of laboratory and classroom designs. We will explore the conditions under which each of these interventions can grow in sophistication with the science topic as instruction progresses throughout any given science course or from course to course.
The CLEAR project addresses two main research questions in investigating these strategies:
- What combinations of instruction and assessment enable students to gain cumulative understanding of science?
- How can instruction and assessment in one course have an impact on the next?
The CLEAR project makes use of embedded assessment and uses tasks that ask students to develop explanations about complex scientific phenomena. These responses are scored against knowledge integration rubrics to assess student progress in integrating science concepts.