Learning Progressions in Middle School Science Instruction and Assessment (LPS)

Collaborating Institutions: 
Stanford University, SERP Institute, San Francisco Unified School District

Funded By: 
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Bear Center Participants: 

LPS is a four-year IES-funded project designed to investigate how middle school students gain an understanding of the structure of matter and how they reason scientifically.  With facilitation from SERP, the BEAR Center and Stanford University have partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District to develop assessments for measuring two learning progressions, one in physical science focusing on the Structure of Matter in middle school, and the other in students’ argumentation and scientific reasoning focused on the same topic area. Each progression is composed of smaller parts called progress variables.


The materials being developed will serve as tools to help teachers and administrators map student understanding along a developmental continuum. The progress variables being developed, tested, and refined for the content area, Structure of Matter, include: (1) Macro and Micro Properties; (2) Measurement and Data Handling; (3) Density and Mass & Volume; (4) Changes of State; (5) Particulate Explanation of Physical Changes; (6) Particulate Explanations of Chemical Changes.  The content and argumentation materials being developed for this project include:  progress maps, items and scoring guides, as well as evidence of quality for each.


We have draft assessment materials (progress maps, items, and scoring guides) for all six of the content constructs.  We have draft materials for the argumentation progression in the forms of a generally applicable construct and items situated in particular content areas as well as items that are content/data-minimized.


This project aims to answer the following research questions: 


Research Questions:


1. What is the nature of the learning progression in the content domain of Structure of Matter?

2. What is the nature of the learning progression in students’ ability to reason scientifically in the domain of Structure of Matter and also, generally?

3. What is the inter-relationship between students’ ability to reason scientifically and their domain specific knowledge? In particular to what extent do the two co-vary?

Please visit our demonstration site to sample items developed for this project.