Examples of Adapted Tasks:
Case I: Example of a Poorly Adapted Task
Shirley, a fourth grade teacher, liked the targets from the original Containers assessment, but wanted to make a few changes to the materials and task design. Shirley was interested in having her students practice more group work so she decided to make the task more compatible for groups of students to work together. In addition, she thought the task might be more fun if each student brought in a container. Then each student would be grouped with two other students who have different containers. In their groups students would record the results of the experiment in a table and briefly discuss their results for about 10 minutes. Following the group work, students would complete the rest of the assessment questions individually.
Analysis:
Shirley had some creative ideas, but her modifications to the Containers task make learning about heat transfer and formulating conclusions based on experimental results more difficult for her students. Having students bring in a variety of containers of different materials, shapes and sizes, can produce wide variations in results.
For example, using containers made of the same materials, but different sizes and shapes can create large differences in results between groups of students. Thus, some students might draw erroneous conclusions about how different materials affect heat transfer. While a group using a metal soup can, a paper cup and a styrofoam cup would correctly conclude that styrofoam is the best insulator, a group using a metal thermos, a paper cup and a styrofoam cup, might determine that metal containers are the best for keeping hot drinks hot.
Another problem that can arise when students bring in their own materials is that there will not be enough variation in the types of materials for students to examine. For instance, if half of the class brings in ceramic coffee mugs, some groups would only have one or two materials to compare while others would have three. In this case the experiment no longer carefully "probes" every student's "understanding of the concept of insulation" because all students would not have the same opportunity to draw conclusions about the insulating capacities of different materials.
The central issue here is that assessments need to be tested by the teacher before students perform them. Because Shirley planned for students to bring in their own materials without specifying the types of containers (i.e., materials, sizes, shapes) her students should use, she set up herself and her students for a confusing and potentially frustrating experience. The teacher needs to be confident that the assessment will work properly and be sure that it will measure the appropriate targets.
Case II: Example of a WellAdapted Task
Annie is a sixth grade teacher who is trying to provide her students with more interdisciplinary tasks. In math she had recently been reviewing graphing with her students, and she thought that the Containers assessment could help her assess her students' graphing skills in a more authentic context. Prior to changing the task Annie changed the targets and added the National Science Education Standard 8 ASI 1.8 Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry. (To learn more about how to choose appropriate standards and targets, see the Standards and Targets section of the PALS Guide.) Her adaptation of the assessment was very simple. In addition to answering the questions from the original task, she asked her students to graph the change in temperature of the water over time for each container. Question 2 from the original Containers task stated, "Look at the table. Which container keeps a hot drink warm for the longest time?" Annie modified it so instead it stated, "Use the data in the table to create a graph of your data. (Use three different colors to graph the results for each container.) Based on your results from your data table and your graph, which container keeps a hot drink warm for the longest time?"
Analysis:
Annie's modification of the Container's assessment is appropriate because the task is aligned with the targets selected for the task. In addition, the graphing exercise provides another opportunity for students to represent their findings and express their knowledge about insulation and heat transfer.
